One of my favorite franchises over the last decade is Darksiders from THQ Nordic and Gunfire Games. These games are criminally overlooked in my opinion and for a long time I thought the franchise was dead. That is until it was handed to a new team and we got Darksiders III and Darksiders: Genesis. I reviewed Darksiders III on the PlayStation 4 back when it first released back towards the end of 2018 and now, I’m revisiting it again. That’s because the team has finally delivered the third entry onto the Nintendo Switch making it now possible to play the entire franchise on Nintendo’s portable console. However, one of my issues with the game years ago was that it had technical issues and sadly those are made even worse in the Switch version.
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 part 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. 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.
Y is your primary attack button and pretty much the button you’ll use to unleash all of your combos. R lets you dodge while B 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 L+R. 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 used to. Each enemy type has its 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 R 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 simpler than it was in the other games. 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 players 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 and visuals. Darksiders III already wasn’t visually impressive back in 2018 but the Switch version looks even worse than it did then. Many of the locations already looked a little too dull and drab but the lower resolution on this version makes these areas look even worse. The Switch version also suffers from framerate drops, stutters during gameplay, and long load times when you end up having to reload after dying. I also grew annoyed when my advancement through areas would be halted by the game suddenly freezing because it had to load part of the next area. The audio is really good though with a great score and solid sound effects. Cissy Jones does a great job voicing Fury and the banter between her and her watcher is quite amusing.
Darksiders III is a solid game that fans of the franchise won’t be disappointed with, unless you’re playing it on the Switch. I enjoyed how the story expanded on some things from the previous titles and the game still has great and unique character design. I also enjoyed exploring and seeking out everything this interconnected world had to offer. I like that the entire franchise is now playable on the Switch but due to the technical performance I really have to advise anyone interested in this game to play it on other platforms as the experience here is significantly downgraded.
*Darksiders III is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. Reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Review copy provided by the publisher.
- Great Interconnected World that is Worth Exploring
- Fun and Enjoyable Combat that Keeps You on Your Toes
- Great Voice Acting and Soundtrack
- Switch versions includes all post-launch content
- Technical issues really plague the Switch version
- Art Style Looks a Little Dated
- Annoying long load times