This title was reviewed on PS4, but is also available on Xbox One and PC.
I feel like I start off every review like this, but I always really enjoyed Darksiders. The first game was phenomenal, and the second game was even better to me. I loved the idea of running around a post-holy-apocalyptic earth and other strange realms, slicing my way through enemies and picking up new abilities along the way. In a sense, it has a similar feel to Zelda, or at least the first one did. The second was a more fleshed out, deeper RPG, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it. That’s probably why Darksiders 3 disappointed me so much. Despite it’s legacy, it couldn’t save it from budget cuts, and budget cuts that really show at that. The voice acting is abysmal, the graphics have hardly improved at all, the story suffers from a pretty old “killing the physical embodiment of X principles” trope, and a badly done one at that, and while the combat feels pretty nice, it’s certainly a step down from what it was. I feel really hurt by it honestly, as I was really excited for Fury’s part of the story. Sadly, it just wasn’t worth it.
So, for a little background, Darksiders started out in 2010, and was made by Vigil Games and Gunfire Games. It saw you playing as War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. After a War breaks out between heaven and hell on earth, War is blamed for causing it, and sets out to find the actual perpetrator and clear his name. The second installment in 2012 had you playing as his brother, Death, in a quest to clear his brother’s name and resurrect humanity. The games mostly focused on classic hack-and-slash gameplay, and while simple in formula, managed to bring a lot of depth and fun to combat with different combos and weapons, as well as doing the classic puzzle solving sequences incredibly well. Overall, the first two titles were very well received, hence the massive hype buildup for the third installment.
So, to jump right in, let’s talk gameplay and story; gameplay is essentially the same as before, but with new little quirks as a result of Fury’s main weapon being a whip. I should mention that Darksiders 3 takes out the role playing aspect that D2 had, opting instead to be pretty much strictly Action-Adventure. While there’s still a leveling system to unlock new forms and skills, you aren’t customizing armor, weapons, enchantments, etc. I personally preferred the old way, but I can see how this might be a welcome return to form… if it was done well. Combat feels pretty samey despite the new weapons and horseman, and honestly, I was shocked by that. Nothing really feels super impactful, and combat is honestly pretty easy for the most part, despite the claims that as you kill more enemies and grow in power, your enemies will too. As you progress, you unlock more magic and forms to take on, granting you new powers and weapons, and this helps flesh it out a bit, but it can take quite a while to do. Overall, the gameplay really isn’t bad, it’s just that for being a new horseman, it doesn’t feel fresh. The whip ends up feeling like a gimmick. The story revolves around Fury’s quest to kill the Seven Deadly Sins, and it’s really not very interesting, because it’s a bland trope to use.
I found myself skipping cutscenes after a solid 4 or 5 hours because I really just didn’t feel any connection or compulsion to the story, unlike D2, which had me interested in the characters, and had good dialogue and voice acting. Voice acting and dialogue in D3 are severely lacking, and I laughed quite a few times at some of the things that were said, and how they were said. It honestly broke my heart to see such a fall from grace. I can say, however, map design is pretty damn good. You have a variety of large, open spaces to roam around, and you travel through a lot of different places to find the Sins, with each territory looking about like what you’d expect, and staying unique to each Sin. I found that pretty cool, but in total honesty, it really isn’t enough to save the game’s other issues.
I will say the game is at least finished; I encountered no glitches or errors in my time playing it. I can also say the design on the characters is honestly really nice. Fury looks cool as hell, the Watcher looks cool as hell, everything character wise honestly looks really cool. The music is nice as too, switching it up from interesting guitar and drum riffs to some heavier stuff for the combat. It’s nothing special, but it isn’t hard to appreciate that there was obviously effort put into it, and so it’s certainly passable. So while the game may lack in story and gameplay, it does do well in design and music. The graphics do look outdated nonetheless however; I don’t think the next-gen hardware was really used to it’s fullest potential here. A lot of textures looked really low-res, foliage and whatnot moved like an early 2014 RPG, and even the lip syncing on characters was way off. Overall, the game has it’s ups and downs with art design and tech, but it gets the job done.
I can’t really think of what else to say, honestly. I came into this expecting a wonderful experience with an old favorite of a series, and I got a lot of disappointment and problems, very similar to my first semester in college. I don’t play games to emulate my academic failures, I play games to escape them. Darksiders III takes the name and just kinda.. Has it. It isn’t bad, and it’s clearly Darksiders, but where it should only improve, it has gotten weaker. Now, this is obviously a result of THQ filing bankruptcy and killing the original studio behind Darksiders only to hand it off to the collaborative studio, Gunfire. Nonetheless, it does hurt, and seeing such a fantastic chance to revive the genre fall so flat sends me into a burning, white-hot Fury. I can only hope the next installment gets back on track.