With a weak story and a bland combat system, Darksiders 3 starts slow, but as the pieces join together, it forms a memorable return to the series.
The Darksiders series has been away for some time. Luckily, the good guys at THQ Nordic brought it back to life with Darksiders 3. Despite starting slow, the game becomes a satisfying action-adventure game and a graceful return to the series’ mythological world.
The series has always shifted in play style and inspiration, with the original going for a Zelda vibe, and Darksiders 2 moving towards Diablo territory. This time, Darksiders 3 takes a lot from the Dark Souls series.
Seven Dead Sins
Just like the first two games, Darksiders 3 tells us the story of the premature apocalypse and the Four Horsemen. After we’ve seen War’s and Death’s points of view, Darksiders 3 shows us the events through the eyes of Fury.
The Charred Council tasks Fury with finding and catching the Seven Deadly Sins, who have escaped their prison and now roam the ravaged earth freely. As you explore the human plain, you meet every one of them and get a short cutscene in which you see just how terrible they are. Then you battle and finally, kill them. Unfortunately, there’s almost no room to give any depth to the Seven Deadly Sins or their dynamic with Fury.
But the Sins are not the only occupants of the post-apocalyptic earth. You also meet a variety of characters, including returning ones such as Ulthane and the ever-lovely Vulgrim. Seeing them again is a nice throwback to the previous games.
Darksiders 3 introduces some new characters too. However, they all seem to have very vague motives, and it’s tough to understand just what they want and why they are a part of the story. I found it difficult to make out anything beyond whether they are good guys or bad guys.
Even the main characters fail to leave an impression. While I enjoyed the dynamic between Fury and The Watcher back when I played the demo at Gamescom, it did not reflect the final game. Fury and Watcher only talk to each other during key moments in the story, and these conversations are short and superficial. Even then, Fury slows down from her usual jog into a leisurely stroll, something that slows down the game even further.
There are a few other things that bug me about the story. There are a few choices you can make throughout the game, but they only appear in a single, optional side-quest. So, they little effect on the story, making them unrewarding and unnecessary. Also, Fury has a moral change of heart at some point (as these stories often do), but it fails to resonate with her character and worse – the player.
Whips and Swords to Break Some Bones
When you start playing Darksiders 3, you only have access to Fury’s whip. While powerful, it’s very slow and not very satisfying to use, so the gameplay becomes repetitive very fast. Luckily, you’ll quickly gain access to the Fire Hollow, and that is when things start to get interesting.
Throughout the apocalypse, Fury gains access to four different hollows, which in turn give her a new weapon and mobility powers. Each of these can be combined with Fury’s whip to smoothly chain combos and create a much more diverse and exciting combat experience.
In addition to her arsenal, Fury can perform arcane counters, which are immensely satisfying to execute. When dodging at the right moment, Time goes into slow motion, allowing you to land a powerful counter-attack. Dodging and countering was my favorite part of Darksiders 3’s combat experience.
Fury also has a Havoc form, which she can transform into after charging a meter. Fighting in Havoc form is nothing more than mashing the attack button while invincible and feels utterly unnecessary and unfulfilling. Executions, on the other hand, are sorely missed. These brutal little animations were fun additions to the previous games and would have added a nice variety here.
Similar to the Dark Souls franchise which Darksiders 3 adopts from, enemies you defeat leave behind souls and artifacts you can use to level up Fury and her weapons. Unlike Dark Souls, progression isn’t too deep. There are very few options to customize Fury, and role-playing fans should expect very little from this title in that sense.
Turn Left at the End of the World
The Darksiders franchise always had exploration and environmental puzzles as a part of its core gameplay. In Darksiders 3 you have one huge map to explore, filled with puzzles and enemies. In theory, you should be able to cross the map in one continuous run with no loading screen. In practice, this is not the case. I was frequently interrupted by unexpected freezes while I was exploring as the game loaded the rest of the map.
Every room or turn has enjoyable environmental puzzles to solve. They often require you to use different powers Fury unlocks further in the game, so it’s always exciting to return to an older area after gaining a new Hollow form and open new nooks to explore.
However, there’s no actual in-game map you can use to track your location or the areas you already opened, which makes hunting for secrets very annoying. I was never able to know if I thoroughly explored a section of the world, and exploring was often about just finding a secret instead of figuring out how to get to it.
Some of the puzzles were surprisingly challenging, but not to the point where I was frustrated by them, but in a way that was always very satisfying to beat. A few of them are so clever that they made me feel very proud of myself for figuring them out.
A Colorful A
Unlike what you’d expect from a post or midst-apocalyptic game, Darksiders 3 is full of bright colors and imaginative designs. While most textures and models look a bit dated, the game does stay true to the series’ iconic art direction and brings new characters to life in a way that makes them feel like they were there from the very beginning.
None of the Seven Sins resemble their conventional design in any other media and have a completely original look while maintaining their sinful identity. The only exception here is Envy, who doesn’t appear to be envious or provoke any sense of envy at all.
The environments themselves don’t always look their best, and it’s especially noticeable in urban areas, where the debris doesn’t seem very realistic. Still, the level design itself is always great and comes together to create pathways that are fun and exciting to explore.
More than the Sum of Its Sins
Darksiders 3 doesn’t have a particularly coherent plot, the gameplay can be intense but not as with other modern melee action games, and exploration can be a bit confusing since you don’t have a map. But despite its flaws, the game is a fun one.
All its core mechanics come together to create an engaging experience that had me hooked through to the very ending of the story. I’m even likely to return to try playing using different weapons and on a harder difficulty.
Whether you’re a longtime fan of the series or a newcomer, your journey with Fury might begin as a slow trudge, but by the end, you’ll be glad to be a part of the apocalypse.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.