Review – Darksiders III

Darksiders is finally back after a six year wait since the last game. Under a new iteration of THQ and a new studio made up of developers from the Darksiders II team, this is a game we’ve been waiting for but never thought we’d actually play. This time we take control over the third horse(wo)man, Fury.

Set during the one hundred year imprisonment of War and during the events of Darksiders II, Fury has been tasked by the Charred Council to re-capture the Seven Deadly Sins who have escaped to a war-torn Earth, in exchange for leadership over the other horsemen. Along the way, Fury will meet up with new and familiar characters.

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Everyone’s favourite demon merchant is back!

Storytelling isn’t the focus of Darksiders III, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Its straightforward first half leaves a lot to be desired, as not a lot happens: I found it hard to care about what was going on. The second half, however takes a sharp turn and becomes a lot more interesting, pushing the lore and plot of Darksiders to a brand new direction, even though it doesn’t stretch beyond the ending of the original.

Fury is a great addition to the series, and in my opinion, she’s easily equal to her brothers War and Death. Her character growth throughout the story was pretty solid. The majority of the sins are incredibly well designed as well. I won’t spoil anything here, but Lust was easily the highlight for me. Though there are some exceptions, pretty much all of the side characters just aren’t developed at all, not being given enough to work with, ending up being completely forgettable.

Voice acting, for the most part, is actually really good. With the exception of a few line deliveries, Fury’s performance was beautifully well done, sounding like a female Kratos at times. As time went by, she even started showing some empathy at some points, without completely butchering her namesake. Whilst Fury was great, another new character, The Lord of Hollows, absolutely stole the show, with another great performance by Darin De Paul. Even though the soundtrack doesn’t go to the same heights as Darksiders II, there’s still plenty of good tracks here.

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When Darksiders III looks good, it looks really good!

Darksiders has always drawn me in with some of the best character and world designs in recent years thanks to its stunning art style, but the graphics themselves have never been exceptional, and the same can be applied here. While some areas look stunning due to the aforementioned excellent art direction, others just look bland and boring, one of which is an unimaginative swamp that goes on for way too long. That is not to mention the host of visual bugs that I have encountered. During certain sections, the simple act of rotating the camera around resulted on the edges of some textures flashing white. I’ve noticed this in other areas but this section in particular was rampant.

Fury’s main weapon is her trusty whip, and it’s incredibly satisfying to use it due to the rhythmic nature of the game’s combat.  It’s not her only weapon as well: throughout the journey she will acquire four different hollows that not only give her a new weapon to play with, but also give her more options to explore the environment. The first that you come across is the flame hollow that gives you a charged up jump to reach higher ledges, and the Chains of  Scorn. The whip is always tied to X while the hollow power is tied to Y: chaining attacks is super satisfying and messing around with the combos is one of the best aspects of this game. Perfectly time a dodge and this will open up a counter attack opportunity that changes depending on which hollow you have equipped. This can result in setting the enemy on fire with the flame hollow in order to deal heavy damage with a giant hammer using the Force hollow, for instance.

Darksiders III is a difficult game, as even the most useless of the grunt enemies can kill Fury with a couple of hits, so the combat is a lot more methodical and tactical than ever before. It becomes a battle of reading your enemies movement and waiting for the opportune moments to strike them rather than the more frantic nature of the previous games. Very rarely does the difficulty feel too harsh, but there were a few areas where the game felt like it was stacking the odds too far against me.

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The Watcher and Fury turned out to be a surprisingly great duo.

My biggest issue in Darksiders III is with the awful camera controls that can often lead to frustration. It’s at its absolute worse when you are in enclosed spaces, and that’s the vast majority of locales you’ll visit throughout the game. You’ll be often battling both the enemies and the camera at the same time. In one section I was getting attacked by several enemies, and the game’s lock-on mechanic just wanted to lock onto an item I needed to hit in order to open a door. Suffice to say, frustrating.

Gone is the open world design of Darksiders II, and in its place a metroidvania style world is introduced, being clearly inspired by Dark Souls. Levels are interconnected with winding paths and shortcuts, sometimes even more than you’ll ever need. This includes the wealth of optional paths that will lead you to items to collect or human survivors to rescue. You will need to make use of each of the hollows since they give you new ways to interact with the environment. Sometimes you will need to walk on water or destroy an object that’s in your way, for instance. The level design ended up being quite uneven at best and truly uninspiring at its worst. There is an impressively wide variety of enemies to deal with that get introduced over time. Each area comes with its own challenges and enemies to deal with so it never becomes stale.

The Dark Souls inspirations don’t stop solely at the level design. Progression, fast traveling and some of the items are clearly taken from the Souls series, namely Dark Souls II, as well as the Estu… I mean Nephilims Respite, which recharge after death. The leveling system is as basic as it gets with only three attributes to spec into and a grand total of 6 weapons to level up. You won’t pay much attention to this leveling system: you’ll just dump your souls onto those specs and move along, with little emphasis on strategy.

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There’s a solid variety in locations, even though some of them fall flat.

Boss fights are, unfortunately, a bit of a mixed bag. Throughout most of the game, you will be journeying to fight the Seven Deadly Sins, and while some of them turned out to be insanely fun to fight, others turned out to be bland, uninspired and really disappointing overall. Avarice is the weakest of the bunch, only having a handful of predictable attacks that are too easy to dodge, whereas some of the later bosses have a much wider variety of moves that are a little harder to read, providing a bit more of a challenge.

Darksiders III took me around sixteen hours to complete on my first playthrough on a more challenging difficulty setting. Sadly, there is no New Game+ mode to go through, which would ramp up the game’s replay value significantly. It would have been fun to start again with everything already unlocked.

Darksiders III may be the weakest Darksiders game so far but that doesn’t stop it from being a good game in its own right. Its really strong combat system more than makes up for its graphical issues and occasionally disappointing level design.

 

Graphics: 6.5

Great artstyle let down by dull environments, poor textures and graphical bugs.

Gameplay: 8.0

Fast, fluid and responsive. Darksiders 3’s combat system is a joy to play, even though it has its issues.

Sound: 7.0

Despite a few cringeworthy lines, I really liked the voice acting. The soundtrack is pretty good as well.

Fun Factor: 8.0

Even though its level design is uneven and some of the boss fights are beyond unimaginative, Darksiders 3 is still fun and easy to recommend.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Darksiders 3 is available now on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.
Reviewed on PC.

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