Airship Syndicate CEO Joe Madureira has been with the Darksiders franchise since its debut in 2010. Its publisher, THQ, went into bankruptcy in 2012, and original developer Vigil Games shut down. But THQ Nordic has acquired the property and revived Darksiders. It shipped Darksiders III in 2018, working with developer Gunfire Games.
And now THQ Nordic has revealed that Airship Syndicate — which was formed by four Vigil veterans including Madureira — is working on a new game, Darksiders Genesis. It features a new character, Strife, and a lighter tone. It is not a sequel to Darksiders III.
The game will come out by the end of the year on Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Airship Syndicate previously shipped Battle Chasers: Nightwar, an excellent role-playing game for PC and consoles.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: Where is Airship Syndicate based?
Joe Madureira: We’re in Austin, Texas. We’re up to 40 people now. We have two projects in the works.
GamesBeat: How long have you been working on Darksiders?
Madureira: Darksiders all together, or this one? I was one of the creators of the very first Darksiders game, seven or eight years ago now. I honestly don’t remember what year it was. Eight years ago? But we were developing it even before that, so it seems like forever.
This game has been in development for maybe a year and a half. At the time, Gunfire was working on Darksiders III. We’re a much smaller studio, but we still love Darksiders. We pitched the idea of doing a game that was a new take, not trying to do another direct sequel, a Darksiders IV. I feel like the expectation would be really high for a Darksiders IV. Is it going to be four players, all four horsemen? We wanted to do a game that we could do really well with our studio size.
We pitched the idea of this isometric game and got a lot of excitement. It still feels like Darksiders. War has all of his move set from the first Darksiders game. Actually, the isometric camera helps in multiplayer as well, when you’re running around with two people. It’s nice to not have to worry about where the camera is looking. We’re excited to show multiplayer.
GamesBeat: It’s more bite-sized in that sense, then?
Madureira: It is. It’s mission-based. You can redo the missions. You get ranked on each one. You can level up all your abilities. We have skill trees and ability trees, combat upgrades, loot drops. All the creatures drop creature cores, which can be slotted into a skill tree. It’s definitely not an RPG, but there’s a lot of systems and upgrades to keep you interested. If you’re a completist, there’s a lot of secrets. Every mission has at least one.
GamesBeat: How did your company get started? Did you bounce around a bit from the original Darksiders up to now?
Madureira: Airship actually started with a Kickstarter project. THQ published Battle Chasers, which was the result of that project, and then this was our very next project.
GamesBeat: What do you want to accomplish with this game, the new Darksiders?
Madureira: Hopefully it’ll be a respected entry in the series, a new take that people will enjoy. We haven’t done a multiplayer game before, and I think everyone, since the beginning, has always wanted a co-op multiplayer Darksiders game. Introducing Strife is super exciting, too, because he was the last missing piece of the puzzle.
We hope hardcore Darksiders fans will embrace it and love it, even though we’re trying to do something a little different. There’s some humor in it. It feels a little different. But new players can also play the game without any prior knowledge. The story does get very complicated. It’s been told over three large games and the past 10 years. It was important to make a game that you could come into and play even if you’ve just heard that Darksiders is cool, or you’ve only played the second one. You can jump in this game and you don’t need to know who anyone is to hit the ground running.
GamesBeat: How big would you say it is? Is it measurable in terms of levels or anything like that?
Madureira: The hour count we’re shooting for is maybe 15 hours. It’s not a super long game. But again, the levels are replayable. I’m sure completists will spend more than 20 hours playing it. It also depends on how good you are. In multiplayer it’s a lot quicker to get through, when you have another player helping you.
GamesBeat: Would you say this is a particular genre, or is it more off by itself? It’s not very Diablo-like.
Madureira: No, it’s not. It’s interesting. At first glance people will assume it’s Diablo, but then when you try the combat, it feels more arcade-like, more like a Darksiders game. I’m not sure myself. I’m curious what people will think about it. There’s traversal, which isn’t in Diablo. There’s the fast combat. But then it does have systems and ability upgrades that make it more than just a brawler. Maybe we’ll come up with a cool word like “Metroidvania” for it.
GamesBeat: Where do you think new players will come from, getting into the Darksiders fantasy?
Madureira: I’m sure initially it’s going to be Darksiders fans who want more stuff. Hopefully we’ll get more casual players that are just into small bite-sized chunks, not having to know about this huge backstory that took place across the other three games.
GamesBeat: Do you have a launch window in mind?
Madureira: The end of this year. Too soon. [Laughs] Very soon. Why am I even here? I need to get back to work.
GamesBeat: What platforms are you shooting for?
Madureira: It’s coming out for pretty much everything. We’re using Unreal, which makes it easier to get to all the platforms. We’re going to be on Google Stadia. It’ll also be on Switch, PS4, Xbox, and PC.
GamesBeat: Do you have to do anything different for Stadia? Is it easily adapted?
Madureira: It is, but there may or may not be an exclusive feature for Stadia as well. It’s pretty cool. Switch is the most interesting one, though. It’s going to be really awesome on Switch. But that’s always a little more challenging.