Game Review: Darksiders III

Release date: 2018
Version played: Playstation 4 in 2018

Developed by Gunfire Games (taking over from the now defunct Vigil Games, but with many of the same personnel) and published by THQ Nordic, Darksiders III is a hack-and-slash ARPG released in 2018. Set sometime before the first game, players control Fury (voice by veteran video game voice actress Cissy Jones), the youngest and only female member of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as she is tasked with hunting down and returning the Seven Deadly Sins to captivity. Like War before her (technically after her, I guess) Fury is accompanied by a Watch (Fryda Wolff), appointed by the Charred Council to ensure she does not stray from her mission. Set in a single open world (a post-apocalyptic Earth, more or less) Fury does battle with all manner of creatures from Heaven and Hell on her quest, with the ability go gain new weaponry and traversal techniques.

+ I really enjoyed Fury’s voice acting (Jones) and personality. As the youngest and only female Horseman, Fury has had a bone to pick with her brothers from the beginning, and the surprising range of emotions from her were performed admirably
+ I also liked most other voice work, particular returning merchant demon Vulgrim (Phil LaMarr) and the new Watcher (Wolff), though Wolff was unlikely to top the over-the-top ham from Mark Hamill in the first game. The character design and voice for for the Sins themselves were also great, and I really enjoyed Sloth and Lust the most, but of the seven I’d say that only Wrath was disappointing
+ I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic Earth settings, and I got the same joy here as I do in all other games of this type. Dropping down a hole into what used to be a sewer or subway tunnel, only now infested with some manner of pulsating eggs, is a real joy for me. Other locations include (what used to be, at least) skyscraper offices and shipping yards, all with their secrets to uncover
+ though it takes a while, once Fury has access to most or all of her abilities, the game really comes into it’s own as a solid Metroidvania/Dark Souls style game. Abilities akin to double jumping or wall crawling really show just how much is hidden just out of first sight, and there is a slight twist on underwater levels that is hardly unique but certainly very welcome towards the final third of the game. Once you start unlocking secret passageways back to where you were some hours ago the game really starts to click, so it is a shame it takes so long to get there

– sometimes clunky combat controls, with issues like dodging not cancelling an attack animation, meaning Fury and her whip are still clearly second-best to the agility of Death. There is also no way to chain different types of attacks, once various secondary attacks become available. There are also no air launcher attacks, so if you ever find yourself in the air, it’s best to just let yourself fall, because the small damage you may deal on an attack to a grounded enemy is not worth the time you’ll spend unable to move afterwards
– generally, all the combat encounters boil down to “dodge, counter, dodge again”, which is frustrating when you are given secondary weapons. The four secondary weapons Fury eventually has access to are treated as unique in their description, but each plays in a very similar way. Only a heavy hammer requires a different play-style, and the remaining three are simply “mash button to win”. And it is a problem with all these sort of games that whichever you get first will often be the preference, because you’ll most likely spend time to upgrade it before you unlock the others, leaving the more recent weapons in a perpetual game of catch-up
– very last-gen graphics (though it does mean it nearly perfectly matches the other two games). Though impressive in scope, the game never quite manages to capture the draw distance details that Dark Souls might, so even if you can see where you have come from, it is clearly just a low-detail placeholder, and not the actual building you were in
– it’s a picky negative, I know, but the game ignores so much of the lore from the first two games – the first in particular, since both are at least set on Earth. I would have liked at least a simple handwave as to why Fury was not granted access to her monstrous Havoc form from the beginning, since the first game states that Horsemen sent on missions by the Council have full access to all abilities
– numerous framerate issues, and some simply unacceptable loading times when running through the world. In a situation where you might find yourself moving forward, facing a several second pause, realising you are going the wrong way, turning around and facing another loading pause really breaks up the immersion. More than once the world didn’t load properly, so I fell through the environment to my death, with no way to return to that spot to reclaim my lost souls
– my game crashed at least a dozen times, either due to me kicking too much ass (ie. particle effects, I assume?) or the game simply not knowing what to do with me – in one instance, the game implied I had died, but I in fact made it out of the trap with a sliver of health, but could no long move Fury. The audio cut out entirely at many other points, forcing me to hard-reset my game

> I was surprised at how little this game referenced the others. It is my understanding that this game takes immediately before the first game (and perhaps has a small overlap near the end?), but it felt so detached. I would have liked a few ‘Fury does something that plays into what War does later’ moments

Should you play this game: Though the layout of the “one single dungeon” overworld are similar, in some ways, to the free-to-play game Let it Die, this mostly felt like a mish-mash of other games: this was a Dark Souls game without the world building and environment design, a Zelda game without the separate dungeons or enough puzzles and a Diablo game with pre-determined loot drops and limited upgrade resources. The story is the most interesting part, but I simply can’t recommend playing through this clunky game to experience it.

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