The first Darksiders is a lovely homage to The Legend of Zelda featuring demons, angels, and a fairy stand-in you can kill at the end of the game. Darksiders 2 is part Prince of Persia, part Devil May Cry, and it worked all the better for it thanks to its controls and aesthetics.
So what will the next Darksider 3 ape in terms of already-existing fads and established gameplay designs? Dark Souls, of course, because that’s what we need from a game with hyper action setpieces: enemies which can punish you hard if you opt the flashy route. And when we mean enemies, we mean hordes of them. We’re talking God of War numbers. To do that using a combat system that’s reliant on being godlike at duels, it’s a gamebreaker for many.
Some context: after War and Death did their stint in Darksiders and Darksiders 2 respectively, it’s now the third horseperson’s turn to have her adventure: the perpetually-angry Fury. While her bros like using swords and Zelda-inspired gadgets, she likes to use a sword whip called the Barb of Scorn. She even gets to unlock new secondary weapons called Hollows that extend and open up her playing style a bit.
That sounds good and all; many games like Ni-oh have emulated the Dark Souls formula and manages to add their spin on it. Darksiders 3? Not much. Everything here feels a bit uninspired and lacks the previous game’s “try hard” mentality which mostly works for the sum of their parts.
At the very least, developer Gunfire Games did away with the stamina meter so you can have Fury dodge to her heart’s content and getting a slow-motion flourish out of it (ala Breath of the Wild and Bayonetta’s Witch Time). The problem lies with the controls and design not in sync with one another.
The duel 3D targeting system in Darksiders 3 is fine and all but with the game throwing in more than two and three enemies at you, the game gets really, REALLY unwieldy. The lock-on and camera controls here are pretty bad, to the point where you can get hit really hard from an offscreen enemy or projectile.
And the enemies; most of them are HP sponges that can really hit you hard and make you lose quite a bit of progress. It’s not an issue in the late game though, but it’s worth mentioning that the grind with all of these control & camera problems can incite some, well, fury within yourself. And even if you master the frustration that is combat, tedium sets in because there’s no other highlight in level design and exploration here; we’ll get to that later.
The leveling up system here also feels a tad uninspired. You can get souls by killing enemies; you can cash them in via your old demon merchant friend Vulgrim to level up your health, strength, and arcane attributes. You can lose them mid-progress from one checkpoint to the next, but there’s no tension because you can bank whatever you amassed in a previous checkpoint. So really, go nuts and take more risks.
There is hope though: one-on-one boss fights here are pretty good. You really have to be on top of your game here when fighting the Seven Deadly Sin bosses once you’re all souled out.
Much Ado About Combat
And what of the platforming and non-combat segments of Darksiders 3? They definitely pale in comparison to the past two games, but on its own, they’re still pretty mundane and weak. If you like moving blocks (floating or grounded) and opening up secret passages with explosive bugs, you’ll love the majority of the game because that’s the majority of what you’ll be doing. The platforming even isn’t as exciting as the prequels.
Perhaps the biggest letdown here is that the apocalyptic landscape of the game isn’t even breathtaking. With such creative takes and liberties in Darksiders and Darksiders 2, you would think the third game would up the ante and add a lot more variety. Alas, you’ll be fighting and trudging along in repetitive environments and dark grimy subways. Lots of subways. And a slight case of déjà vu too. That’s also not factoring in the technical issues the game has, like framerate drops, sound glitches, and crashes.
At least Fury and the bosses she fight look pretty badass still? When you have the table scrappings of Joe Madureira to work with, you’ll bound to have something decent character design-wise.
Follow The Leader?
If the Darksiders’ schtick is following what works and making an arguably better game out of it, why didn’t Darksiders III copy Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance instead? Why settle for a design like Dark Souls and Ni-oh when you have swathes of enemies to deal with that doesn’t complement the current controls and camera functions? Why didn’t the developers sort out what makes a Dark Souls-like game work and not put in thought into this sequel?
This Darksiders game does not do its predecessors justice. With a little more time and a lot more effort, the combat system can work well and flesh out Fury’s adventure a tad more. Perhaps even make the journey a lot more colourful. As it stands, you’re better off replaying the past games and wait for a discount.
-Some nice character designs.
-Decent one-on-one fights.
-Simple-yet-decent combat controls..
-…until you fight a horde of enemies. Frustrating camera and lock-on system that doesn’t work in multi-enemy context.
-Drab art style and level design.
-A number of technical issues.
FINAL RATING: 5/10