One of my favorite franchises last generation was the Darksiders franchise from Vigil Games. It was an action game that was inspired by many of the great games in the genre such as God of War, The Legend of Zelda, and more and it didn’t shy away from showing it. I always felt like the first two games were criminally underrated and underplayed because of just how good they really were. The franchise was built to have more games made but when THQ went bankrupt it seemed like that would be the end of Darksiders. Fast forward to a few years ago and we find that Nordic Games purchased the Darksiders IP, renamed themselves THQ Nordic, and brought on Gunfire Games to make Darksiders III. It just so happens that Gunfire Games was made up of many of the same team members that worked on Darksiders at Vigil Games. Now Darksiders III is finally here but the question is: Was it worth bringing back?
Darksiders III is still very much a Darksiders game but this new entry has taken some inspiration from some different titles this time out. The first thing I’ll talk a bit about is the story of the game. Each of these games revolve around playing as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The first game followed War, the second followed Death, and this third entry follows Fury, sister to War and Death and the most unpredictable and impatient of the four. The Charred Council send Fury on a mission to Earth to track down and capture the seven deadly sins who have been freed. Fury agrees to do it so long as she can be named the leader of the horsemen. This isn’t really a sequel in terms of story as it is still taking place around the same time as the first and second game are. That said it still very much as intrigue and twists and turns throughout that I enjoyed. If you liked the story in the first two games you’ll probably enjoy this as well.
After that introduction cutscene, you land on Earth and this is where the gameplay begins. Now I mentioned that Darksiders III changes some things up and one of those is the level design. Where the previous games were closer to a Legend of Zelda title with dungeons and such, this game is closer to a Super Metroid. The entire world here is connected with many paths to take through it. The game doesn’t force you to go any particular way but there are areas blocked off from you until you gain new abilities later on in the game. I enjoyed exploring the world and any time I gained one of those new abilities it was fun to use it to open up new paths that would then lead me back to familiar locations. Another new change to the game is the removal of the map. That’s right there is no map in this game but instead you are given a compass at the top of the screen. This compass has icons pointing you in the direction of the closest deadly sin to track down. For the most most you are given the choice to take them down in whichever order you choose. While some players may loathe not having a map, I found it to be a bit refreshing. It instead tasked me with remembering certain paths and secrets that I needed to return to instead of just pulling up a map to tell me where an area was that I hadn’t explored yet. And again you can’t get lost from your objective as you can easily follow the compass to the next boss fight.
Now in terms of gameplay this is still a hack and slash action game but again has seen some changes from the first two entries. Upon getting into my first fights in the game it was apparent that this game has taken a little bit of a fancy to the Dark Souls franchise. Now don’t let that deter you from this game as it isn’t anywhere near as difficult as those games but there are a lot of similarities between them. Fury’s main weapon is a chain whip called the Barbs of Scorn which gives her pretty good range on her attacks. Other weapons are also gained throughout the game such as a spear, a glaive, and others. Fury has different forms she can enter once you gain the Hollow to do it. There are four of these in total and each one changes her appearance and gives her a new weapon that has benefits in and out of battle. Fire blades inflict burn damage on enemies but also allow you to walk through lava. The lightning spear gives Fury the ability to glide short distances out of battle and ride wind gusts upwards while an ice sword allows you to walk below or on top of water. Each weapon has its own moveset that is unlocked from the get go.
Square is your primary attack button and pretty much the button you’ll use to unleash all of your combos. R1 lets you dodge while X is your jump button. There is a meter that fills as you fight that allows you to unleash a Wrath Attack when full by pressing L1+R1. There is also another meter that fills up that allows you to enter Havoc form. This allows you to deal out a ton of damage quickly while the form lasts. Getting back to that Dark Souls reference you’ll be using that dodge button a lot. That’s because the enemies in this game hit a lot harder than they use to. Each enemy type has it’s own patterns and attacks that you’ll need to take note of and adjust your attack pattern to. Facing enemies one on one isn’t so bad but if you get a few enemies attacking you at once things get a whole lot harder. There are a lot of enemy types too with new ones popping up constantly throughout the game. One of the best things you can do in combat is learn to nail down dodging attacks perfectly. If you press R1 at just the right time you’ll dodge the attack and be able to unleash a counter attack for some good damage. The boss battles are great too and once again each have patterns to take note of.
Not everything in Darksiders III is great though. There are less puzzles in the game now then there used to be and for the most part they are really simple as well. They usually involve just hitting some objects to open doors or having bugs eat different colored liquid material, picking them up, and then throwing them at a wall or something to blow it up. The checkpoint system is also a little unforgiving at times. There were times I would die in a boss battle or in an area and be sent back quite a ways which lead to long tracks back to said boss fight or area. Enemies respawn when you die as well. Sure if you were in a boss fight you can just run by everyone to get back to it but some more checkpoints would’ve been appreciated to save some time.
Some other things I want to mention is that progression in this game is a lot more simpler than the others. Every enemy you defeat drops souls that you gather that are then used to trade with Vulgrim for attribute points. You use these to upgrade your health, your physical damage output, and your arcane damage. If you die at any point you lose all of the souls you are currently carrying but you can go back to where you died to gain them back. You can also use the souls to buy items from Vulgrim like consumables or new enhancements. Enhancements can be slotted into a weapon to give you bonus perks. You can also upgrade these enhancements by going to Ulthane and giving him materials that you find in the world. That is about it for customizing your playstyle really. There are no loot drops in this game nor different armor to outfit yourself with. Again this may bother some but I felt like some of that stuff was a little unnecessary in Darksiders II so I didn’t mind.
This leads me to the last area of the game that I want to talk about and it’s also one of the bigger disappointments with the game, the performance. You can very much tell that this game didn’t have a huge budget as the graphics and art style don’t really resemble what you’d expect to see from a full priced game in 2018. That’s not to say that it’s terrible but it does leave something to be desired. Many of the locations look a lot like what we saw in the first two games and can feel a little dull and drab. The character design though still remains one of my favorite parts of this franchise and that remains so in this entry. Many of the deadly sins in particular feature great designs. What is even more unfortunate though is the technical issues I encountered in the game. I played this on a PS4 Pro and while the game has been patched a couple times since it released it still has some issues.
There are frequent moments where the framerate drops which is quite jarring. Then there were the times where I was running along and would all of the sudden be brought to a halt due to loading. The game doesn’t cut to a load screen or anything but rather the picture just freezes with a loading icon popping up. Sometimes this didn’t last that long but there were at least two times where it lasted a good 30 seconds or more which made me start to wonder if my game froze or not. Then there was the time where the load ended and the path in front of me never formed leaving me to fall through the level and forced to close the game and restart it. Audio issues are here as well where you’ll get some little hiccups as characters are speaking and such. Outside of that I really enjoyed the audio in the game. Cissy Jones does a great job as Fury and the banter between her and her watcher is quite amusing. The other characters voice actors do a good job as well. Sound effects are good and the score was pleasing to listen to. It’s just a shame when you get those hiccups during any of it.
Darksiders III to me is another solid entry in the franchise and well worth playing if you were a fan of the first two games. The story expands on some things from the previous titles and the character design is still fantastic and unique. In a world of massive open world games I actually enjoyed getting to play this character driven action game that we don’t see much of anymore. The world is fun and well worth exploring and I’m very much hoping we see that fourth entry in the future. I just hope that Gunfire Games can work on and greatly improve the technical performance in future titles as it holds Darksiders III back from being truly great.
*Darksiders III is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher.