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July 2019

Darksiders III

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

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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Darksiders III'

by Andreas Salmen on Sept. 14, 2018 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

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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It's been six long years since Darksiders 2 was released for the last generation of consoles, and a lot has happened since then. Both publisher THQ and developer Vigil Games declared bankruptcy, and the fate of the franchise was uncertain at best. Thankfully, Nordic Games, now known as THQ Nordic, bought the license and brought in Gunfire Games, a new company consisting of many former Vigil Games employees, to develop a third entry in the series. We are less than three months away from Darksiders III's release date, and the title seems to be coming along nicely.

During our short time with the game at Gamescom 2018, we managed to get a look at the first 30 minutes of the experience when we took control of new protagonist, Fury, in the ruins of a postapocalyptic world. While the first two entries focus on her older brothers and fellow Horsemen of the Apocalypse, War and Death, Fury is the first female lead character of the series and aims to shake things up a bit.

According to Richard Vorodi, senior designer of the project, Darksiders III will focus more on storytelling through the personality and story arc of Fury herself. War was more of a stoic who defied the council, and Death didn't care about anything but his brother War, but Fury is different. She is the younger sister and very headstrong in the way she acts. She knows what she wants and how to get there, which eventually means selling out her brother War and doing the bidding of the council.

In terms of the timeline, Darksiders III takes place right after the prologue of the first entry, as the council sends Fury down to Earth to capture the seven deadly sins that had been unleashed on earth. Why seven deadly sins? It's a way to incorporate creative boss battles into the game that make sense within the story as an integral part of Fury's journey.

The differences don't stop there. Darksiders III looks and feels very much like its prequels, but it tries a few new things. Fury is the first character to not have a somewhat regular blade, but a bladed whip that doubles as a means of traversal to swing across gaps and reach otherwise inaccessible areas. If we're talking character classes, Fury is a mage, thus infusing attacks with magical elements. Unlike her older brothers, she doesn't necessarily prefer to take on her enemies in bulk, but rather uses her reach and picks them off one at a time. During our look at the beginning of the game, we encountered a few enemies who were considerably fewer in quantity compared to the first Darksiders but had more health. It feels more like a standoff, less focused on brute-forcing your way through an encounter but carefully circling the enemy, evading attacks to slow down time and create an opening to whip your opponent.

As we make our way through the destroyed remnants of the world, we encounter some dominant landmarks in the distance. Gunfire Games is taking advantage of the fact that the world isn't just a few maps pieced together this time around, but rather a cohesive world that can be traversed. You will be able to track your progress and get a sense of your surroundings by looking back, up or down to see where you're headed and where you just walked through, which is handy given that there'll be no minimap.

Don't mistake Darksiders III for a fully open world, though. While the first entry was very akin to Zelda in many ways, the second added more of an RPG spin to the formula. The third one should feel more like a Metroidvania title. You'll receive four hollows throughout the game that will grant you a new weapon, traversal, and passive ability that in turn unlock new paths. You may even get the choice to tackle a few of the deadly sins in any order. According to Vorodi, approximately 70% of the game is nonlinear and can be tackled in any way you please, while still retaining a more linear story and order in the grand scheme of things.

Speaking of deadly sins, you will encounter the first of them within 30 minutes of starting the game, just as we did in our demo. While we sliced and diced through hordes of smaller enemies for a while, we eventually had to face off against a crow-faced sin, Envy. While this boss fight is partially a tutorial, it shows that boss fights aren't just bigger enemies in an enclosed area but rather multi-staged endeavors that will require a decent understanding of combat and traversal skills.

Envy keeps stomping the ground to generate shockwaves that we have to avoid until the floor eventually gives way to send us further down. The result is a new stage in the boss fight that requires us to stay out of harm's way and find a window to climb back up and pluck some of Envy's feathers. Since it's the first boss fight, it's not a hugely complicated affair, but it still provides more of a challenge than the average tutorial.

Overall, the gameplay demo of Darksiders III intrigued me. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two games, and it's nice to see the development of the third entry head along a Metroidvania path. The foundation is surely there, and we'll see how well Gunfire Games and THQ Nordic manage to bring over and expand upon the series' strengths once Darksiders III releases on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on Nov. 27.

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