Darksiders III is in something of an odd position. After the studio behind the first two titles was closed, it seemed as if the series was done for. Despite this, however, a new studio with many of the same staff has defied the odds and produced the third game in the series. Is it worth playing, though? Unfortunately, the answer is probably not.
It becomes pretty clear early on that if you haven’t played the previous two Darksiders games then you’re going to be in for a tough time trying to keep up with the story in this one. After the apocalypse occurs before it was supposed to, the seven deadly sins have now obtained physical forms and are roaming an Earth now overrun by angels and demons.
In keeping with Vigil/Gunfire’s rather loose adaptation of Christian theology, Fury, the surprisingly insecure third horseman of the apocalypse (Pestilence and Famine apparently not having marketable enough names to make the cut), is sent to hunt them down. Of course, this being a Darksiders game, there will inevitably be a bunch of late twists and at least one conspiracy theory thrown in to complicate matters more. But story is perhaps not why we’re here; Darksiders III has by and large embraced its role solely as an action game this time around, having ditched most of the puzzle solving from the original Darksiders and the RPG/loot elements from Darksiders II. And, if Bayonetta has shown us anything, it’s that action games can often get by with utterly incomprehensible stories so long as the gameplay is entertaining.
When you’re not fighting something, Darksiders III
’s gameplay mostly consists of traversing the landscape, solving some very basic puzzles, and searching for bosses to kill. The game has taken a few pointers from Dark Souls
in that much of the layout revolves around finding save points from where you can level up with in-game currency obtained from killing enemies. Dying means respawning at the last save point you reached, losing all of the currency you’re currently holding, and having to travel back to the point where you died to get it back. It’s a rather questionable inclusion, and I’m not sure it really benefits an action game much to encourage a slower paced, more cautious playstyle after death, but it’s not a major problem.
The actual combat of Darksiders III is relatively simplistic, operating on a two button system; one button for each of the two weapons you can have selected at any given time. It’s not particularly complicated, but it’s still fun enough, and there are a variety of interesting weapons and moves to play around with. Much of the skill revolves around reacting to enemy attacks and dodging at the right time; there’s a Bayonetta-esque system where the player is rewarded for dodging at the last possible moment before an attack lands. The game’s dodge is both fast and lacks many invincibility frames, which puts a heavy emphasis on quick reactions and timing. It’s not exactly complex, but dashing quickly in and out of enemy reach is certainly fun, and bosses are challenging enough to make the relatively shallow system feel rewarding. There's a pure, almost child-like sense of fun to be had from darting between enemies, racking up big combos and avoiding attacks perfectly.
I do feel that the game missed an opportunity to add some depth to its combat by not implementing directional attacks similar to those you can find in the Devil May Cry series. Darksiders III operates with a hard lock-on system, which would have allowed for the developers to expand the number of moves Fury had available relatively easily. Unfortunately, as it stands, the combat isn’t much more complex than a Warriors game, which does mean that once you’ve mastered Fury’s movement and dodging, there isn’t a lot left for you to get good at. The difficulty curve tapers off and you’re just left to steamroll through the rest of the game.
From a technical standpoint, this is one of the least impressive games you’ll find on current generation hardware. It looks like a late PS2 title, with some truly bad textures and low res environments. Even the previous Darksiders
games, which were by no means graphical powerhouses, were more impressive than this. There’s no kind way to say it: this game does not look good.
I’m usually not one to make much of a fuss about graphical fidelity in an action title, as performance is usually more important in a title that’s focused on fast movement and quick reflexes, but Darksiders III
barely manages to touch 30 FPS consistently, with plenty of framerate drops whenever things get hectic on screen. 60 FPS is the benchmark that games focused on quick movement and fast-paced melee combat should strive to reach, and 30 FPS is something I grudgingly accept as a bare minimum. This is completely unacceptable: there is simply no justification for an action game failing to even reach a locked 30 FPS on eighth gen hardware, let alone one which has its core mechanics focused around quick reactions and inputs on the player’s part.
This review is based on a digital copy of Darksiders III for the PS4, provided by the publisher.
Despite these problems, I keep coming back to the fact that the game is just fun to play, which is something that cannot be said for far too many recent mainstream releases. If you’re a fan of the series, or you’re just looking for the opportunity to beat people into the ground, you may be able to overlook the myriad of technical problems and the relative lack of complexity. For anyone else, it’s hard to recommend dropping $60 on this. If you don’t already like hack and slash titles, and the Darksiders
series specifically, this third installment certainly won’t make you a fan.
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