Hell hath no Fury…
The original Darksiders was a game that I remember being absolutely enthralled with. Being a huge fan of comic artist, Joe Madureira, seeing his art style come to life was a defining moment in gaming, at least to myself. When Darksiders 2 was released, it was better in nearly every way, adding a much needed layer of depth and a massive open world to explore. It was a stellar sequel that paved the way for future installments to adapt and innovate upon. However, Darksiders 3 feels like lesser of a sequel than its predecessor, and more of a step backwards for the franchise, despite being a fairly enjoyable, but simplified, experience.
Taking place parallel to the events of the previous games, you will take control of Fury, the third horseman that is playable throughout the series. She is driven to become the group’s leader and has an insatiable lust for battle. Wielding her bladed whip, she is tasked with defeating and capturing the Seven Deadly Sins; a powerful group that have been unleashed upon what remains of the Earth following the apocalypse.
For those wanting to jump straight into Darksiders 3 without playing the first two games, be warned that you will be at loss as to who certain characters are and some of the events that are talked about during the story. While there is some context and explanation here, it simply isn’t enough to get you up to speed and frankly, completing the prior games can feel like an essential requirement. Thankfully, those games are vastly enjoyable and given they both have seen remasters on the current platforms, they are worth seeking out.
The core storyline that is played out through each of the three titles is that the horsemen are setup and betrayed by unknown conspirators. During the first outing, War is held responsible for triggering the apocalypse, thus wiping out nearly all of humanity. Meanwhile, at the same time, Death, another of the horsemen, sets out to prove his brother’s innocence, and resurrect humanity. Each story tells of how the horsemen are being used, manipulated, and held accountable for actions that they had no part in. Each game shines light on bits and pieces of a much larger story, one that no doubt will see its conclusion in the inevitable Darksiders 4, a title that will most likely see the remaining horseman, Strife, as the main protagonist.
What I enjoyed most about Darksiders 3 is in its story and characterization of Fury. While she starts out as a somewhat two-dimensional character, she has unexpected growth and emotion given to her at key moments in the story. Where Fury ends up is surprising and feels genuinely earned. The last few hours of the title really sold me on what Gunfire Games has delivered here, even if the whole package is fairly uneven. Darksiders 3 has a very slow burn to where it feels competent, but when it does, it does so fairly well.
Now, that being said, Darksiders 3 does in many ways feel like Darksiders-lite, a phrase that has been uttered by several of the gaming press, and one that I wholeheartedly agree with. Where Darksiders 2 added depth to its leveling system and its looting of various weapons and armor, Darksiders 3 removes all of that and feels like a title that is sometimes offering the bare minimum. Fury has no branching skill trees to put points into or access to any sort of variety within each weapon type. You do gain access to new weapons and abilities, but those come in the form of skills that she will have bestowed upon her after defeating several of the Sins. I’ll also make note that Fury has no change in her armor yet there is an armor tab in her inventory, a design element that seems puzzling and more than likely part of some sort of DLC paywall or upcoming content.
As you collect souls and offer them to Vulgrim, a character that has been part of each installment, you will gain attribute points that you can put into Health, Strength, or your Arcane powers. As reminder, this is not a skill tree, but rather 3 attributes you can upgrade. Alongside enchantments to place within each or your weapons, these are the only methods as to making Fury more effective in combat, at least in a permanent sense as there are consumables you can use in battle.
Consumables come in the forms of shards that you can crush during combat to heal, boost your attack, refill certain power meters, or enhance your attack speed. While these tools are effective and necessary in order to survive most encounters, they require you to stand still as you use them, leaving you highly vulnerable as you do so. This lead to several instances where Fury would take unnecessary hits as I would attempt to consume these shards, thus negating most of the healing granted by the item. Given this is the only way to heal Fury in combat, it feels added in a way to artificially increase the difficulty. While sure, there is strategy in how and when to use these items, it’s still a system that feels clunky in its execution.
Fury’s additional arsenal is tied directly to gifts you’re given via the Lord of Hollows as reward for her part in capturing the Seven Deadly Sins. These gifts grant Fury more than just a fancy new weapon as they can alter her jump, special attacks, as well as how she interacts with the environment. These gifts are the Flame, Force, Storm, and the Stasis Hollow’s. You will only be able to have one of these Hollow’s equipped at once, but it is a simple few buttons used to swap between them. While your armor will remain the same under the influence of each Hollow, Fury’s hair color will change to indicate which ability you have active. It is a nice visual touch that makes sense for the character and an easy read for the player to know exactly what arsenal they have access to immediately.
From the very start, Fury will be equipped with her weapon, the Barbs of Scorn, a bladed whip that not only is used in combat, but allows Fury to swing from place to place, a jumping move that often felt like I was missing the prompt each time I took the leap of faith to swing. The Flame Hollow grants Fury the use of the Chains of Scorn that allows for a more close combat reach. The Flame Hollow also allows Fury to double jump and move around in lava. The Force Hollow brings with it a massive hammer called the Mallet of Scorn. While it is a mostly slow-paced weapon, it can knock enemies and objects around with significant force. The Force Hollow also allows Fury to form into a purple ball of energy that allows her to traverse crystallized paths around the environment. The Lance of Scorn, which is a weapon via the Storm Hollow, is a lightning-based spear that can deal some pretty decent damage with its reach and speed. The Storm Hollow also grants Fury the ability to sail over gusts of wind present in a few locations throughout the game. Finally, there is the Stasis Hollow, my personal favorite. This grants Fury the use of the Edge of Scorn, a sword that can split into fast agile smaller swords that cause enemies to slow upon hit. The Stasis Hollow is cold based, therefore allowing Fury to freeze the water below her feet, thus allowing her to walk across the water as well as ricochet jump up frozen walls.
Each Scorn weapon has a special attack that requires you to hold down the attack button. While these attacks are powerful, I never found them to be terribly responsive when engaged in a heated battle. Holding down the button in time to even perform the attack would often leave me open and take a few hits thus preventing me from attacking. This is especially bothersome with the Mallet of Scorn, an already slow weapon. The Chains of Scorn, however, are perfect for this type of attack as you have a fair size reach to time your strike appropriately. Each of these weapons can also be upgraded as you collect numerous resources during your exploring to make them far more effective in combat.
You’ll also gain access to a long range glaive weapon called Salvation that can be thrown, attack multiple targets, and be charged up with each Hollow to affect the environmental puzzles that are nearby. Up until I unlocked this weapon, I felt something was severely lacking in the combat and while it doesn’t quite own up to its name of Salvation, it certainly makes the combat significantly more enjoyable. While Salvation can be easily tossed out on a whim with some positional placement, it can also be thrown out with a lock on to make your aim a lot more precise.
Traversing the environment is fairly different than in the previous games. Fury doesn’t scale walls in the same ways as her brothers but progressing through each location is still based around typical metroidvania tactics. You will unlock new abilities and skills that allow you to access a previously locked area. The Force Hollow allows you to walk underwater and while it isn’t used to a large degree, it’s some of my favorite content in the game. You’ll also encounter small little bugs that you can throw once they have consumed a nearby resource that is used to burn away cobwebs or detonate particular obstacles blocking your path. Eventually, Fury gains access to perform these acts herself and thus allowing you to unlock these new areas on your own terms.
Apart from dishing out damage to nearby enemies, you’ll want to keep Fury out of harm’s way through a dodging system that allows her to get in a very powerful counter-attack should you dodge at just the right moment. The system works well and the slow-motion effect used in the dodge can make you feel like a true bad ass when it happens. The only issue I have with the dodge is tied to not only the lock-on system, but the awful camera used to display the action. The lock-on system is mostly ok but it can be a bit clunky as you have to face your foe to lock on instead of the game locking onto the nearest foe. This is made worse due to the fact that the camera constantly needs to be moved around as it can focus away from the action should you not be moving it around during combat. There is no camera assist to help in this and it is one of the worst aspects of the game due to how it can affect nearly every encounter. While you do have indicators of where an attack is coming from, the camera just doesn’t help whatsoever in any aspect of combat and makes the game much harder because of its ineffectiveness.
Fury also has the ability to change into her Havoc Form, a skill that is pretty much glossed over and is never given the importance it requires, nor is the form terribly powerful. While you are pretty much invulnerable when attacking in this form, I found some of my weapon abilities to out-pass it greatly in power and this is a feature I only ever used when I was low on health and the boss was almost dead. You will be able to use this form once you have filled your havoc meter, but there is another meter that is far more useful given it is different with each Hollow you have equipped; Wrath. This meter not only fills up quicker than the Havoc ability, but it also feels more worthwhile to use. The Stasis Hollow, for example, bestows an ice shield around Fury that causes enemies to slowly freeze as she takes damage, which is also reduced due to said shield.
The Seven Deadly Sins themselves are almost the star of the show given that the normal enemy encounters are fairly disappointing. That’s not to say that some of the battles are bad, they just lack any sense of creativity. Now, I say “almost” the star of the show as there are only a few of the Sin’s that either look really impressive, or have any sort of in-depth mechanics to their battle. Avarice, Sloth, and Gluttony are easily the best encounters in the game as they are more than just a dodge and hit battle. Wrath, Lust, Pride, and Envy, are very easy battles that more or less are treated like every other encounter in the game. Gluttony is hands down the most enjoyable boss as they at least tried to work in several mechanics to keep the fight interesting.
While Darksiders 2 originally released back in 2012, there isn’t much to Darksiders 3 that benefits from those six years. While much of that time was in restructuring the original team into Gunfire Games, not to mention dealing with the bankruptcy of its original publisher, Darksiders 3 feels visually like it released years ago, which is a good or bad thing depending on what you were expecting from the game. While its environments feel largely dated, it is in the characters where the title has seen the biggest improvements. While we are treated to slightly better texture work than what was present in the series before, the character’s themselves are visually fun and offer what you have come to expect with the series, even if lead artist, Joe Madureira, isn’t present this time around. Darksiders 3 is a visually fun game, it just can come across as a bit simplistic in its world.
Darksiders 3, for the most part, is fairly challenging, especially on the harder settings. While I understand that many people will dive directly into the most challenging option, that’s not really my style and that said, I’m not docking the game in anyway due to how difficult it truly can get. What I find most frustrating about the difficulty is the mechanical aspects of the game often clashing with how we are meant to play it. The camera, as I’ve mentioned, is often your greatest foe as it requires you to move it around during combat. The problem with this method of camera control is that during intense battles, you are usually more focused on surviving the mobs of enemies that surround you than moving the other analog stick around to get a better view of what is around you. Again, Darksiders 3 can be a very challenging game, even on its easier settings, it’s just a shame that many of the mechanical aspects of its design tend to contribute to that challenge.
While the first two titles borrowed heavily from the Legend of Zelda series, Darksiders 3 seems more at home as a Dark Souls comparison, and not just due to the fact that the game can be downright challenging. Whether it is in the health system, the lock-on combat of dodging and parrying, or that both games have a Lord of Hollows character, it is in the bonfire style checkpoint system where I feel that the game makes its biggest blunder. While I fully expect to die throughout several of the boss encounters or from the rare pack of mobs that lead up to one, having to replay extremely large chunks of the game again just feels like it is padding the length I am spending with the title than anything else. Some encounters will set you back upwards to ten minutes, and while sure, that doesn’t sound awful, it can be should you die three or four times at the same area due to a bad angle via the camera or your health item not healing you in time. While this issue is subjective depending on the gamer and their level of skill, it is one I wanted to talk about as I’ve seen several people complain about it as well.
Darksiders 3 feels like a game out of time, a phrase that is often used to describe games that feel dated, and this title feels very much like an older release. Now, that’s not entirely a bad thing, given the expectations you have with the series. It still very much plays like a Darksiders game, but given the gap in time since Darksiders 2, it feels disappointing not to see the series advance a bit more on the technical side of modern gaming development. While there are aspects to the combat that eventually start to make the game vastly more enjoyable, the awful checkpoint system, the lazy camera, and the inconsistent difficulty just look to make the overall experience a somewhat unpleasant one. There were several times where I was having a good time with the game to just have certain mechanics sour much of my experience overall. Darksiders 3 doesn’t quite live up to the wait many of us have had since its predecessor, but it can be a good time, regardless of its many flaws.
Darksiders 3 was purchased by the reviewer.
All Screenshots were taken on an Xbox One X.