Darksiders original release was something of a surprise. Even if it had a lot of familiar elements, it came together in a way that was quite enjoyable. Darksiders II expanded on the core concept, more than happy to play with the formula. In so many ways it was an improvement and made for a fantastic sequel and later HD remaster. After a variety of set backs, disappointments and belief the series was over, THQ Nordic managed to release Darksiders III for fans to enjoy. With the spotlight on Fury and following the ongoing Darksiders story, is it everything fans were waiting for or is it another Duke Nukem Forever?
Continuing with the biblical theme, the third horseman, Fury, is brought before the Charred Council and told to defeat the seven deadly sins. Upon seeing War’s fall from grace and seeing the opportunity to use this for her advantage, Fury agrees to do it under the condition she becomes the leader of the four horsemen. After agreeing to her terms, Fury heads off to defeat the sins.
For the most part the sins story is fairly simple. Just moments into the game Fury defeats Envy, giving her a talisman that will lead her to the other sins. With her path set, familiar faces are introduced, followed by a series of snarky comments and weird bosses. Like previous titles, the story expands to larger concepts and bigger problems, though it’s hard to stay invested up to that point. If nothing else, it touches on why the apocalypse started and how this benefits those involved.
Outside of a hollow story, Darksiders III has an equally hollow gameplay experience. For starters, this entry feels like a more hardcore take on The Legend of Zelda. Enemies are given strategic positions, often times in places you won’t notice and are not advantageous to you, forcing players to adopt a more careful approach. This will occasionally help, though getting outnumbered is pretty much a death sentence. Not only is this frustrating, it’s also often unavoidable.
For better or worse there are a variety of locations where you’ll alert multiple enemies. Your best bet will always be divide and conquer, either by moving back or limiting the amount of enemies that want to kill you. It’s a strategy that will work for a lot of situations, though enemies with weapons or come at you from a different direction have an absurd advantage.
There are two things that make the average fight frustrating. Annoying mechanics and lackluster controls. For instance, enemies with weapons can block, have access to juggernaut mechanics and even have awful design choices. It doesn’t take long for an enemy to decide, after blocking multiple attacks, they’re going to stab you and even if you dodge, still take the hit. Likewise, you can knock an enemy down and occasionally they’ll immediately stand up and block your attack, preventing further damage.
These things get especially frustrating on the highest difficulty, apocalypse, as even normal enemies have the ability to one or two hit you. It isn’t uncommon for an enemy to clip you with a club and then immediately hit you again for a near instant defeat or have enemies that have such wide attacks that anything short of a perfect dodge will result in you taking damage. This is also where controls and mechanics start to really work against you.
While players will ideally perfectly dodge every attack, I couldn’t help but find the mechanic extremely inconsistent or at least very strict on execution. More often than not, I’d dodge, only to have an attack clip me on the side or not have enough range to avoid it. It also wasn’t uncommon for certain attacks, such as using Fury’s whip to bring enemies close to you, work against me. If someone decides to block it, they’ll be brought close to me, making it extremely difficult to dodge an attack or kite to victory.
Other weapons and items can be used to give players an advantage, either by giving elemental damage or more range, though they’re not enough to make up for bad angles, awful design choices, frustrating mechanics or performance issues. Even if you assume I’m simply bad at playing, lag and load screens will be a common and annoying occurrence.
Regardless of whether you’re in the middle of a fight, running to another run or just looking around certain rooms, it isn’t uncommon to see dropped frames. One of the oddest issues, at least for me, occurred in specific rooms. Due to how the game is set up, certain places are tasked with loading one area or another. So, during a fight against an skeleton with a sword, it wasn’t uncommon to entry this room, encounter a load screen, leave it, encounter another one and repeat the process multiple times, despite remaining in the same basic area. It’s a shame too, since this, combined with a rather poor combat system, makes for an experience that is hard to invest in.
Darksiders III might be about Fury, though it also sums up my feelings playing it. Between annoying enemies, awful mechanics and performance issues, it’s hard to enjoy your fight against the sins. Add to it a difficulty where pretty much every enemy two or three hits you, with those hits often coming in a combo, and you have an underwhelming game. Not just because it’s frustrating, it seems to do everything in its power to make things unenjoyable. So, unless you absolutely must know where the story is going, I’d wait for some performance improvements before considering this one.
[Editor’s Note: Darksiders III was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]