It’s the end of the world and we feel fine. After more than 6 years in the hopper, Darksiders 3 is finally with us. This time, we step into the shoes of a brand new horseman to take on the minions of heaven and hell. Many of us thought Darksiders 3 would never come but now that it’s here, does it live up to the extra-long wait? Join us as we begin to answer that question and come back next week for our full review!
If there was ever a game I thought was doomed, Darksiders 3 was it. After the closure of THQ, all signs pointed to the death of the franchise. As a massive Darksiders 1 fan, that closure hit close to home. Yet, here we are, six years after the launch of the divisive Darksiders 2 with what, so far, feels like a return to form.
That said, we received our PC review copy mid-last week and the holiday made sure I could only get a few hours in. Take everything in this impressions piece for what they are until the review next week.
You play as Fury, the third horseman (horse-woman?) of the apocalypse in a parallel story to Darksiders 2. If you haven’t played the originals, don’t worry. The introduction runs you through exactly what’s happened so far - at least to the point of Darksiders 1. War, the horseman from the first game, is chained before the Charred Council, framed for beginning the apocalypse. The world is a battleground between the forces of Heaven and Hell. Fury is tasked with hunting down the seven deadly sins who’ve taken physical form on the earth.
In some ways, the game feels like a do-over of Darksiders 2, which would sense given the mixed reception the sequel received. It wasn’t a bad game but leaned too far away from the Zelda inspirations which so resonated with fans. Darksiders 3 dials all of that loot hunting back and gets back to basics.
At its core, Darksiders 3 is an action game that wants you to learn all kinds of moves and attack combinations. You start the game with a chain whip that also allows you to swing across gaps like a flame-haired Indiana Jones. Pretty cool. It doesn’t take long before you come across locked passageways you unlock with other weapons you’ll discover as you go. It’s a bit like Metroid’s colored doorways.
Exploring the world is nothing short of a joy. I have always adored the comic book stylings of the Darksiders franchise because it allows for a ton of creativity in environments and enemies. In one early instance, you’ll come across a world tree sprouted from the ground in the middle of the city and you’ll use its roots as bridges between building tops. Later, you’ll find the city underground turned into an insect hive and fight spider-like demons cooking god knows what over open fires. Throughout it all, there’s just a beautiful use of color and stylization that’s just a feast for the eyes.
If there’s one thing Gunfire Games has nailed, it’s enemy design. Bosses especially are a ton of fun to hunt down just to see what form they’ll take. Envy, for example, is some kind of humanoid bird shaman with glowing eyes and a deadly beak. Sloth is a massive, fat insect carried about on his own litter. Even smaller enemies are evocative and interesting.
Playing through the game has been a lot of fun so far. There’s a definite Dark Souls quality about it with Fury being more fragile than either Death or War. She’s nimble, nimble with her dodges and if you time it well enough, time slows down opening the enemy up to a powerful counterattack. In the beginning, it’s delightfully button-mashy (you’ll want a controller for this one, folks) but opens up over the early few hours with multi-button combinations.
You’re also able to upgrade your gear with runes and fortifications you can find in the world or buy from Vulgrim, the coolest vendor in video games. This system is a far cry from Darksiders 2 and adds a good bit of focus to the entire gear system.
The biggest downside is that the camera can sometimes get in the way. More than once, I got hung up on a piece of terrain or trapped by a group of enemies because the camera wasn’t smart enough to see that my view was blocked. This could be a major problem but so far has only been a rare annoyance.
I also think it’s a mistake not to give Fury a ranged “pull” early in the game. There’s a weird marriage between Dark Souls and Devil May Cry going on here and I wish there was a way to be more strategic about my pulls. Maybe it will come later?
Those issues aside, I’ve been having a great time with Darksiders 3 so far. This is a “Chris Game” if ever there was one. It’s a dark fantasy that’s knows it’s for grown-ups without using that as an excuse for needless gore. It’s rich in eye candy and leaves you wondering what’s around the next corner if you play for just a few minutes more. It’s also skill based without turning into a fighting game in its combo system.
Stay tuned next week for the full review. Until then, I’m heading back to hunt down more of the Deadly Sins.