“‘Darksiders III’ is greater than the sum of its influences.”
- Engaging combat.
- Beautiful environments
- Smart puzzles
- A proper challenge
- Stuttering and loading issues
- A slow build
The Darksiders series may have taken heavy inspiration from other titles, but its creative spin on those ideas always makes its titles feel unique. The first game took clear influence from Zelda, and Darksiders II mixed in the faster, more chaotic combat of God of War with platforming more akin to Assassin’s Creed. With Darksiders III, it’s clear that Gunfire Games has been playing From Software’s library. The Souls-like elements combined with new protagonist Fury and her many exciting abilities make it feel distinct too, and without abandoning what made the previous games great.
Set during the events of the other two games, Darksiders III finds the Earth in a state of near-annihilation. A battle rages between angels and demons as the apocalypse threatens to wipe humanity away completely. With War in chains, and both Death and Strife’s exact whereabouts unknown, the powerful Charred Council turns to the female horseman Fury to search Earth for the Seven Deadly Sins. Each Sin must be defeated and captured in order to restore balance to the world. On her mission, Fury is joined by a Watcher, who ensures she does not stray from her mission and often chastises her for perceived character flaws and wrong choices.
The decision to make this entry a parallel story rather than a true sequel doesn’t really allow the story to move too far forward, but it still serves as a great setup for Fury’s adventure. Instead of placing you on a linear path, Darksiders III places you in one large, interconnected world that can be explored and tackled in various ways. Fury is free to venture into several different areas to fight enemies and search for secrets, though she can’t enter certain locations until she acquires more powers. It’s a design choice made famous in Metroidvania games, and it helps to keep Darksiders III from showing you all of its secrets before you’re supposed to.
Though you can take down the Seven Deadly Sins in any order you like, Darksiders III still provides a critical path using a talisman Fury keeps by her side at all times. It begins to glow when she is approaching one of the Sins, and a compass similar to the one in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey points her in the direction of the nearest Sin.
Gunfire Games made one large, interconnected world that can be explored and tackled in multiple ways.
This is used in place of a traditional map, and while it sounds like it could get frustrating, it moves in a way that provides you with your next turn, rather than just the final cardinal direction of the boss. We only got lost a handful of times over the course of the game, and oftentimes that little bit of extra searching led to us discovering a hidden item or enemy.
The Sins aren’t the only enemies Fury encounters during her mission. Earth is filled with grotesque monsters, including giant crabs and spiders, humanoid angels and demons, reaper-looking creatures, and fiery rock monsters, to name a few. Each of these has its own unique attack patterns and movesets, and learning these is key to surviving in Darksiders III.
Fury doesn’t possess the same health or defensive abilities of her brothers, instead relying on finesse and counter-attacks to deal out damage. Dodging at the appropriate time will result in Fury performing a more powerful move with her whip, and she also has access to special “Wrath” and “Havoc” moves to get out of sticky situations.
Death’s scythes were an absolute joy to wield in Darksiders II, but Fury’s whip might just be even more fun to use. A far cry from the lifeless weapon seen in early footage, the whip snaps and slashes through enemies with a sense of force and weight that is reminiscent of Gabriel Belmont’s weapon in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.
Its wide area of effect makes it great for taking on groups of enemies at once, but with Darksiders III choosing to focus on smaller, more tactical battles this time around, it isn’t used that way all that often. That’s a good thing, too, because the game’s camera was clearly designed for smaller fights. It can occasionally get stuck in odd angles, obstructing your view of the action when things begin to get more hectic.
Darksiders III ditches the loot-based progression system of its predecessor in favor of one more focused on enhancing Fury’s current abilities, and the Souls influence is quite clear here. Killed enemies give Fury currency that she can then spend at the merchant Vulgrim, either to buy consumable items or to upgrade her health, attack power, or counter-attack power. Along the way, she can also find bundles or clusters of this currency that can be popped and added to her total. Dying will result in dropping all of the currency where she fell and to get it back, you have to return to that area.
Yes, it’s not exactly an original system (the first Darksiders also included a similar setup) but it works seamlessly with the open environments in Darksiders III. If you’re struggling to take down a certain enemy, you can explore until you acquire enough not-souls to level Fury up a few times, and you’ll find fights easier to win.
Skill and memorizing attack patterns still play the biggest role in your success, however, and this is particularly true with the game’s bosses. There are more than just the Seven Deadly Sins, and each requires you to determine when it’s an appropriate time to play defensively and when you need to charge in and deal some damage.
Darksiders III backloads the best of its bosses. The first few are incredibly easy but once the ball starts rolling and you’ve mastered Fury’s moves, Gunfire Games throws much more dangerous targets your way that requires faster reflexes and careful positioning.
Death’s scythes were an absolute joy to wield in Darksiders II, but Fury’s whip might just be even more fun to use.
Your reward for killing a Sin is often a new “Hollow Form,” a transformation for Fury that gives her additional weapons and abilities. These not only make combat more interesting by providing her with different tools but also gives her access to previously unavailable areas. The Flame Hollow, for instance, gives Fury a speedy set of chains and firey attacks that can burn away cobwebs blocking passageways.
The Hollows play a crucial role in solving Darksiders III’s many puzzles, as well. Despite being set in an interconnected world, many areas do still take you down a more-or-less linear path, with enough locked doors and pressure pads to make Kratos’ mouth water. Using objects in the environment and combining them with the powers led to plenty of “aha!” moments during our playthrough, and if we got stuck it was due to our own ineptitude rather than something cryptic on the game’s part.
As the first Darksiders game built from the ground-up for current-generation systems, Darksiders III is certainly a better-looking game than its predecessors, with bright colors that absolutely shine with the PlayStation 4 Pro’s HDR enabled. It still retains that classic comic book aesthetic Vigil Games was known for, but it no longer feels like the game is using it as a crutch to hide low-quality character models or environmental textures.
That being said, Darksiders III is not a technical marvel. In fact, it’s far from it. We encountered numerous bugs and hiccups along the way. Some of these weren’t particularly game-breaking, while others were harder to ignore. They included visual and audio stuttering, cutscenes ending abruptly with old environments still visible, lengthy loading times when entering a new area, upgrade points not working, menu items staying on-screen when they shouldn’t be, and sound completely cutting out on the system. The latter issue required a full restart of the game and happened twice over the 13.5 hours it took us to see the credits.
Darksiders III is not a technical marvel. In fact, it’s far from it.
None of these problems prevented us from progressing or made the moment-to-moment gameplay frustrating, but they suggest that Darksiders III probably should have been pushed back a little more so it could be better optimized. It was already delayed once, so it’s likely that publisher THQ Nordic needed it to hit its November 27 date, but a little more development time could do the game wonders.
Darksiders III is a good action-adventure game that has the potential to become a great one if Gunfire Games can get it to run more smoothly. Fury is a delight to play and easily stands alongside War and Death. Some clever twists point to a very interesting fourth game, but that’s if Gunfire is given the chance. For fans of Zelda, Dark Souls, or Castlevania, there is plenty to enjoy here, and longtime Darksiders fans can be at ease knowing the series is in very capable hands.
Is there a better alternative?
The Souls games do exploration and combat better, but that’s a very high benchmark.
How long will it last?
Darksiders III took us 13.5 hours to complete on the default difficulty.
Should you buy it?
Yes, though perhaps wait for Gunfire Games to release a patch to address its technical issues.
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