Here’s a surprise, huh? After the demise of THQ, many people – myself included – didn’t think we’d ever see another Darksiders game. We live in an age of surprises, though, and that means we’ve got Darksiders III released in 2018. What’s more, it’s really not that bad, especially if you fall into two distinct – but often overlapping groups: those who enjoy the dour, punishing difficulty of the Dark Souls games…and Darksiders fans. Not exactly the largest demographic out there, but large enough we’ve got a second-sequel many never thought would happen. Now we just have to wait and see if the industry will bring back other “dead” franchises; how about another Secret of Mana game, huh?
We’ve seen two sides of this story already, each with their own Horseman of the Apocalypse leading the way. The original Darksiders followed War as he worked to clear his name after the apocalypse is called a little early. Meanwhile, in Darksiders II, Death worked to determine the fate of humanity after the premature end of the world. Now we’ve got another take on these events – new heroine Fury is charged with finding and taking out the Seven Deadly Sins, who were released by the opening of the Seventh Seal in the first game. It’s a solid setup that works surprisingly well.
Likewise, each Darksiders title has essentially been its own spin on various other franchises. Where the first owed a lot to the Zelda games and the second brought to mind loot-focused titles like Diablo and Borderlands, Darksiders III would very much like to be Dark Souls. It’s a new and unusual experience, though I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve got a soft spot for Soulslikes.
Fury is significantly less durable than War and Death and her weapons, with their bent toward area damage, are a little less capable of stunlocking enemies into oblivion. That means that success, as in Souls, revolves around learning enemy patterns and adjusting to them. Dodging and countering are key to victory. You’ve got several offensive options, including Fury’s signature bladed whip and a mean set of flaming nunchaku, but your mind is mostly going to be on avoiding the nastiness coming your way. Properly timed dodges allow you to follow up with powerful Arcane attacks, dealing bonus damage against certain enemies and providing just a little more much-needed invincibility, and you can also unleash magical Wrath attacks and shift to a more powerful Havoc mode. While combat feels snappy and responsive, I did find myself wishing that Fury had more weaponry or other offensive options available.
Regardless, It’s a pretty enjoyable affair all around, though players who aren’t used to this sort of gameplay are probably going to find themselves frustrated. Fury can be killed in only two or three solid hits, and some enemies will string those hits together into combos so you can really only make one mistake before biting it. Death results in leaving a “puddle” of your currency behind, much as in Souls, and you’ll have to return where you were and conquer whatever originally beat you to get it back. Irritatingly, Darksiders III managed to crash for me a few times, and when that happened the game considered it a “death” so my cash ended up vanishing. Unforgiving mechanics are one thing, but that just seems a little unfair…and “unfair” is the last descriptor you want to apply to a Souls-like game.
As for presentation, well, how do you feel about Todd McFarlane and Spawn? Darksiders III continues the series’ long-running love affair with 90s-era comic book styling, so despite being a 2018 title it ends up feeling a little nostalgic for that era. I’ve always thought these games looked fantastic – even the original Darksiders still holds up really well – and Darksiders III isn’t changing my mind. Fury’s blend of arrogance and anger makes her an appealing action heroine in an era that trends toward more cerebral experiences, as well, and her voice acting really nails those aspects of her character, meaning that’s another highlight.
Glitches aside, I found myself enjoying my time with Darksiders III. With its focus on precision and skill, it’s a different beast than previous Darksiders games, so you’ll want to know what you’re getting into before giving this one a shot. If you enjoy Dark Souls-style experiences or just want to get back into the grim, post-apocalyptic world of Darksiders, chances are you’re going to have a good time here.