I’d imagine the hardcore Darksiders fan is feeling incredibly grateful right now. Following the ballooning budget of Darksiders II and subsequent bankruptcy of its publisher, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the brand was dead and buried. Now, six years after the original release of Darksiders II, the franchise has been revived (miraculously) with Darksiders III. And much like the games before it, it borrows liberally from other great games to offer an experience that’s great but admittedly spotty at times.
Taking place yet again in parallel to the previous games, Darksiders III follows Fury this time around. Sister to the other horsemen, Fury is an unpredictable mage who wields her unique hilt called Scorn, which primarily acts as a whip, but can also change into other weapons as she masters her abilities. The main plot of Darksiders III follows Fury in her mission to destroy the Seven Deadly Sins, who have inhabited apocalyptic Earth after having broken out of the prison the Horsemen built for them.The story of Darksiders III is pretty good at elaborating even more of the events that were going on in the background of Darksiders and Darksiders II, though I personally wish they’d move the story forward already and several threads are left hanging. Still, it’s a great little story that has a nice little twist towards the end that I thoroughly enjoyed. Perhaps more importantly is that Fury is a fantastic lead here – a veritable bad-ass with a great development arc – and a joy to follow. Cissy Jones brings the character a gravitas that’s unmatched with her voice performance, and she’s easily my favourite Horseman.
Darksiders games have had a weird habit of borrowing liberally from conventions that are en vogue. The first game felt like a well-executed, macabre take on a classic Zelda game. The second kept the same structure but shifted things to a more loot-based equipment system. Darksiders III borrows more from action adventure games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne more than anything else, while still retaining the best bits from the first two games. The result is something that’s admittedly derivative, though that’s not necessarily a terrible fact.It’s an unforgivable faux pas to compare anything to Dark Souls these days, but the influence on Darksiders III is undeniable. Rather than push you from dungeon to dungeon, connected only by an overworld or a hub, Darksiders III instead throws Fury into a huge interconnected world without a map to explore as you see fit. Enemy encounters are much less numerous than in the previous games, but every encounter in Darksiders III feels challenging and slightly more meaningful as a result.
This is never truer than when battling any of the games numerous bosses, which are both the highlight and the lowlight of the game. A mix of gargantuan creatures and standard sized bosses will challenge Fury on her journey, but unfortunately, they’re rather inconsistent. Some will absolutely decimate you if you mess up a dodge or an evasive maneuver while others hardly react while you just hack away at their health bar. Disappointingly, none of these boss battles make good use of your abilities and weapons that you gain throughout your journey, which makes them very one-note encounters.It’s a shame too, as there’s quite a few abilities and weapons that Fury will come to possess on her journey that are solely used for exploration and puzzle-solving. Called “Hollows”, equipping one gives Fury access to a new weapon type as well as a new buff or ability that aids in her traversal or exploration. The Stasis Hollow, as an example, gives Fury a pair of swords to battle with while also allowing her to walk on the surface of water to gain access to new areas or slow the movement of certain objects in the environment.
Each of these Hollows are a great joy to earn after major story milestones and it’s especially fun to see how Fury can interact with her environment after gaining access to a new one. Exploration and puzzles are influenced and built around these abilities much like a Zelda or even Metroid game, though backtracking is particularly difficult considering there’s no map to refer to and it’s hard to remember which areas lead to which and so on.I think this is the biggest issue that keeps Darksiders III from being truly great – that it’s trying to channel all these different kinds of experiences but never truly masters any of them. One one hand, the game is trying on the Dark Souls schtick with a huge world that you explore organically; but it’s also trying to do what the series has done best previously in delivering an experience akin to games like Zelda.
That’s not to say that Darksiders III is a bad game. It’s anything but. When I was away from it, all I wanted to do was return to it. Whether it was to see out the story, discover a new location or see what ridiculous boss will be thrown at me next, Darksiders III is a compelling game. But despite what it does well, there’s still something about it that just feels so blasé.From a presentation standpoint, Darksiders III is probably the best looking in the series with a nice variety of locations to explore, though the art does feel slightly generic. Fury herself look fantastic, and is easily the most visually interesting of the Horsemen thus far, and the creature designs (especially the bosses) are a visual feast to take in. The art directon is an acquired taste – some will love it, some will hate it – but despite a long wait between games and a slight change of team this still looks and feels like a Darksiders game.
THE PLAYSTATION 4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED ON A PLAYSTATION 4 PRO FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Darksiders III is the follow-up that fans have been waiting for, no doubt, but this is both its greatest strength and weakness. On one hand, it feels just like the previous two games albeit with a much better combat system and some fantastic encounters. On the other, much like Darksiders II, it’s trying too many things at once and comes off as having an identity crisis. Without a doubt, though, Darksiders III is easily better than Darksiders II, and that’s worth celebrating.