Darksiders III

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Gunfire Games
Release Date: Nov. 27, 2018


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PC Review - 'Darksiders III'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 26, 2018 @ 3:00 a.m. PST

Return to an apocalyptic Earth in Darksiders III, a hack-and-slash action-adventure where players assume the role of Fury in her quest to hunt down and dispose of the Seven Deadly Sins.

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The Darksiders franchise has had a rocky journey leading up to the arrival of the third game in the franchise. In 2010, the first title in the series mixed up some classic God of War-style gameplay with puzzles that fit in with the Legend of Zelda franchise. The second game came out a few years later, and the formula was mixed up to lessen the reliance on puzzles but added a loot system similar to the Diablo series. However, THQ ran into bankruptcy issues, Vigil Games was subsequently swallowed up by Crytek, and the series rights went to Nordic Games. The middle of the current console generation saw both games get the remaster treatment thanks to the newly named THQ Nordic and Gunfire Games, a studio comprised of some of the original Vigil staff. We've finally arrived at Darksiders III, a game that reinvents itself once more but with a few unfortunate issues.

Much like Darksiders II, this is less of a direct sequel and is set at the same time as the first game. Fury is the third of the Four Horsemen, and based on what you see in the opening cut scene depicting their ascension, she is the least favored of them all. Dying of boredom, she hears the same call that War did but isn't quick enough to reach the ensuing battle. Instead, she is summoned by the Charred Council, where she learns that War is being held prisoner for starting the Apocalypse without following proper protocol. She is also tasked with capturing or killing the Seven Deadly Sins that currently roam the Earth as humanity's numbers dwindle. She accepts the mission, but only after an agreement that would see her as the leader of the Horsemen once the task has been completed.

If you're familiar with the earlier games, then you know exactly how the story is going to end. After all, everything mentioned here was already done before, so all you're experiencing is the stuff happening between the initial call to the re-formation of the Horsemen to take revenge on those who had conspired against them. With that said, the story is still enjoyable due to the characters. Everyone from the demon merchant Vulgrim to the Sins come across as memorable beings and are even more nuanced than expected. Fury is the real star, though, as her boastful and gruff demeanor makes her a more amplified version of Death's personality. She's a more likeable character, but you should only expect that personality to come out during cut scenes and in-game conversation pieces, since she barely spouts quips during battle.

The series has already shown that it's willing to alter some gameplay elements to better fit the protagonist for that entry. In this iteration, however, veteran players will find that the gameplay changes are bigger than expected. The most obvious one is the fact that Fury's primary weapon is a barbed whip. While you'll be getting other secondary weapons along the way, like a hammer and a flail, your primary weapon will always be your trusty whip. That gives you a very wide attack range and the chance to hit a few enemies from afar or pull them in for a few more hits. As in the prior entries, all of the combos are executed with one button, and while you can simply button-mash to get by with weaker adversaries in a mob or slightly stronger ones when facing them solo, being more thoughtful about it will give you more attack variations to work with once you reach the stronger Sins and other mid-bosses.

The whip also gives you the ability to swing over chasms via horizontal overhangs, a move you'll come to appreciate since you aren't going to be as nimble as in previous games. You won't be able to climb on special sections of vertical surfaces, walk on walls, or scamper along narrow ledges. In fact, it takes a long while before you can perform things like a boosted jump or jumping between walls that are close to one another. Even with a fully powered-up Fury, you'll notice that your dodge ability isn't as powerful as your brethren. You'll do cartwheels and flip and dash, but you won't dash as far as you'd like, and you'll flip into a mob of enemies if you aren't careful.

It's important to note the reduced dodge abilities since the major gameplay change is due to the combat system being inspired by Dark Souls — but with a combo system from the old God of War games or the more recent 3D Castlevania offerings. You'll hit wide, but you'll need to expect your hits to not be deadly enough for low-hit kills until you significantly power up your attacks . Dodging is very important, since you're weak enough to get killed with only a few hits. As such, you'll constantly try to single out enemies or utilize safer attacks to ensure you don't die quickly. This also means you'll be tempted to abandon a tough boss fight and grind to get powered up.

Speaking of leveling, expect to see a different system in Darksiders III. The only way to level up is to get the souls gathered from broken items, clusters, and defeated enemies and then turn them in to Vulgrim to get an attribute point. That point can then be used to power up your regular attack strength, your attack strength when using your special form, or your overall health. Weapons can be strengthened by finding special shards, so the Maker can level it up. It can also be strengthened by attaching special gems which, in turn, can be powered up by finding more special shards specifically for the gems. The gems only have two different branches, so all of this ends up being pretty simple and linear as opposed to the more robust skill trees from the last game.

The big tonal shift from being an adept wrecking machine to being a more cautious and somewhat timid fighter isn't a complete one, so you're afforded some leniency. You can only be resurrected at Vulgrim's spawn spots, but you have level progression saved, even if some enemies will still respawn and give you a hard time. Death means losing all of the souls that you haven't turned in yet, but they can all be recovered when you reach your previous death spot. Also, the weapons aren't blocked by walls, so you can swing away freely without your whip suddenly stopping short due to nearby stone.

Provided you can come to grips with these pretty stark changes, you'll find the adventure to be more than enjoyable. It isn't a completely open world, but stages connect to one another via the merchant spots. Taking a page from Metroid, Darksiders III encourages you to go back and forth between the multiple areas thanks to a bevy of hidden secret areas that you can't immediately access due to the elemental restrictions in place. The game happens to be a little shorter than the older entries but not by much, so it still feels lengthy but isn't long enough that you'll have a chance to get bored. When it clicks, the combat is satisfying, making some of the eventual grinding you'll want to do less bothersome as a result, and the boss fights provide enough variety that fighting them is a real highlight.

If you're already familiar with the presentation of the previous remastered games, then you're looking at a game that visually matches them instead of surpassing them. The game mostly takes place in underground and dilapidated areas, so you'll think of how most last-gen games ran with this aesthetic a bit too much, but the texture work is good, and it makes the bright areas and the few open ones stand out more. The lighting is fine in spots, and while the particle effect bump is slightly increased, it still looks good when the enemy corpses disintegrate. The animations are also well done, especially when it comes to Envy's hair flow, which is constant but not to the point that it looks ridiculous. Where the game falters is in its cut scenes, which either have a tough time keeping a stable frame rate or are performing a constant switch between in-game and pre-rendered without an abrupt cut to signify the change. It is mostly harmless, since this never happens during actual gameplay, but it's noticeable if you're expecting a seamless experience.

While the graphics end up disappointing those who were hoping for something vastly improved, the maintenance of the status quo for the audio is welcome, since the series was already strong in this area. While sparse, the music does a good job of conveying the epic nature of the apocalyptic aftermath, and the arrival at some of the more fantastic places comes with just the right amount of grandeur to emphasize its importance. The effects are well done and, as mentioned earlier, the voice work is excellent for just about every character.

There is no doubt that Darksiders III is a flawed product, but series fans who are accepting of the changes will find it to be a good entry in the series. The camera is a source of constant frustration since it causes a number of issues where you get sucker-punched in combat while you're still relatively weak. With that said, the combat becomes enjoyable once you come to grips with the Dark Souls-style system and the more open level design takes the sting out of having to fight through closed spaces for most of the game. One has to wonder how different the possible fourth game could be.

Score: 7.0/10

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