Developed By: Gunfire Games
Published By: THQ Nordiq
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 PRO
I believe that at this point in time many would’ve read on the internet and social media multiple features regarding Darksiders III. The words “when was Darksiders this hard” or “what is dark souls doing in this game” or “they ruined Darksiders” might actually pop up from time to time. On my initial playthrough of the game, my thoughts were exactly in line with those comments and I can’t blame them. Anybody that has played the previous entries is familiar with how the game plays. So when Darksiders III was released, many were in for a surprise to see how the core game mechanics has changed to a more Souls-like approach. I finished the game on my initial play through and decided to jump back in right again on a higher difficulty. So from there my initial impression of the game has changed slightly and new found appreciation were gained on the game design choices by Gunfire Games. That said the game is still being bogged down by many technical issues and under-developed design.
We’ve seen many visually stunning games this year and each with its own unique designs. Unfortunately, Darksiders III is not part of that troupe. The visuals in this game are somewhat aligned with the previous Darksiders games. It is cartoony and stylized akin to comic books especially the characters. However, the same can’t be said for the world as it all generic, bland and poorly textured. Whether this was intended or not, it does make the characters pop out.
However, no world that you will be visiting is going to encourage you to snap a photo or even wishing this game has a photo mode. Considering the game revolves around the Seven Sins and how each of them influences the world they reside, it’s hard not to notice that the design of each world not showing their corrupted influence.
There is Soul in this one
As much as the graphics are a letdown, the gameplay is where I find that it excels. Nonetheless, it has received some degree of flak by many gamers. Past Darksiders games have always been rather straightforward in its battle mechanics ala Zelda-esque. Darksiders 1 took a more simple approach. You see enemies, you one button mash till it dies. Darksiders 2 is the same but with the added loot system and a more robust battle system where you can chain moves and weapons together seamlessly. These are one of the few key elements that made Darksiders games a lot of fun to play and many fans of the series have gotten acquainted with.
Darksiders III took a lot of inspiration from the Soul series. Which means to say the feel of it is different. The one button mashing remains the same but rather this time you need to smash it a lot lesser. For instance the small fodders in both the first and second pose no threat even on Apocalyptic difficulty. In Darksiders III, these guys are no pushovers. Even on the normal difficulty settings, the small enemies could hit hard and leap further than you. Thus dodging has become part of the constant routine when entering into a battle.
In the subject of dodging, it is also one of the key mechanics that has changed. Dodging in Darksiders III has become one of the crucial elements in winning a fight. Much like before, dodging at the right time activates Arcane Dodge which enters into a slow-mo effect and allows you give in a couple of extra hits. However, what is different is that the window to dodge perfectly is very small. Hence reading enemy movements is a must in order to survive a fight. In addition to that, the dodge has no invincibility frame, you could get hit at any point in time. So that means getting hit by even during an Arcane Dodge is definite especially when you are fighting more than one enemy.
Other Souls-like similarities are the healing options. In Darksiders III, you will receive Nephilim Respite which acts as a refillable potion. They can be upgraded to store more health fills and in order to refill them, this is where another change of the mechanic comes in. In past entries, you can either heal up using consumables or through picking up Green Souls. Darksiders III on the hand uses these Green Souls to fill up the Nephilim Respite. What is more, pressing up on the D-Pad activates an animation where Fury heals herself thus making her vulnerable to enemies.
While Dark Souls uses bonfire as checkpoints, here Vulgrim has become part of the checkpoint system. Whenever you fall in battle, you will slowly load back to the last Vulgrim location you visited should you die. Furthermore, when you do die, all your collected souls will be left at where you last died so you can come back again to collect it back. Again much like Dark Souls.
Apart from the initial difficulty scaling that many players would struggle, the game itself also struggles to hold itself together. Hiccups or stuttering during gameplay happens very frequently. Frame rates are not stable even during out of fight moments. Furthermore, texture pop-ins are happening often and subsequent loadings when moving to one area to another can be super annoying and breaks the pace. My initial playthrough also had me seeing an area that did not load at all which I could fall out of and I had to reload the last checkpoint to finally progress. It can really break the mood for any player that finally starts getting a grasp of the game.
The camera also has its own problems. Starting with the camera which can add up to the frustration on top of the difficulty. Holding down the lock on button does help alleviate the camera issues but you will be attacked by off-screen enemies which can happen very often and there is no other way to immediately flip over to counter-attack. This leads to many deaths that could have been avoided.
Another issue I faced was having the lock-on button bugged out a couple of times and I couldn’t lock on to enemies to make the proper directions to attack. What’s more, Fury will keep on facing towards a certain direction due to the bugged lock-on button as if it is locked on to an enemy even when there isn’t any. I had to restart the whole game as reloading the latest save file did not fix it.
On the plus side of things
Despite all of what I have said seems like a lot of negativity, it still has good points to it that is worth mentioning. Darksiders III is a good example that some games are worth giving a second shot even if the bad points are hard to ignore.
First and foremost, I really dug the combat in Darksiders III. Chaining different moves in order to dispatch enemies fast is very exhilarating. Couple with the dodging – once you really get the hang of it, can be really fun. On top that, when you gain access to different Hollow Forms for Fury, it opens up a variety of options for the combat. Plus changing forms also affect the outlook for Fury which in my opinion looks super cool.
Last but not least, the game has more than enough to quench the thirst of Lore followers. This game much like the second happens parallel to the first game during the 100-year imprisonment of War. It adds up to what has already been a very interesting story follow in the series and I personally felt satisfied to know some things were filled and how certain things lead up to the release of War which is where Darksiders 1 started.
As stated earlier, the appreciation towards Darksiders III came on my second playthrough as I have understood and gotten used to the mechanics of the game. I changed my approach towards each fight and what I felt initially was hard becomes manageable. I took each combat with more control and I was able to come out on top the majority of the time. Thus where I truly saw the shine in the game which can be easily overlooked. This actually can be a very chilled version of Dark Souls in terms of its combat.
Anyone that has played Darksiders III can tell the game is very rough. It can be polished further with subsequent patches but only to a certain extent. I hope Gunfire Games would take notes what is needed to improve when the next Darksiders game featuring Strife comes out. Should you get this game now? Yes if you put more importance of the lore. This game, in my opinion, is best to wait for a sale as it is worth checking it out. The game’s flaws are strong but it is still a working game nonetheless. I would commend Gunfire Games for trying out a different approach to the series. Its a risk but to me it is a risk that shows that the developers are willing to put creativity over tried and true tested which can be bland over the years.
Despite the Dark Souls approach which can be a big turn off to some, the game is still enjoyable to a certain degree. A Treat this entry of the series like a new game and drop what you have accustomed from the previous ones, at least in terms of combat approach. You will soon find the game’s combat is satisfying and enjoyable and the story is good enough to keep you filled for a short while. While this is not the best come back for the series but certainly I hope It is good enough to stick around a little while more.
In the meantime, one more Horseman to go before we finally can come full circle in the Darksiders universe.