It’s been a long time between drinks for Darksiders. Even though we’ve seen the first two games in the series released and re-released a few times, the wait for Darksiders 3 has been a long one.
Thankfully, it’s one that’s been well worth it.
Sticking to the series’ tradition of reinventing itself with each new game and Horsemen, Darksiders 3 sees players thrust into a Dark Souls cross Devil May Cry action RPG starring Fury, the would-be leader of the Horsemen.
Doing away with the first two games’ reliance on puzzles, gadgets and loot, Darksiders 3 instead focuses on combat, combos and tactics. It takes some time to get used to, but it’s not long before Fury is a weapon of mass destruction in your hands.
Darksiders 3 Review
Opening with a long, expositionary cutscene, Darksiders 3 sets the scene for new and returning players. The Horsemen War has broken the seals and brought upon the apocalypse, but he’s done so at the wrong time and is thought to be a traitor.
The Charred Council, whom the Horsemen report, task Fury with travelling to Earth in order to hunt down the Seven Deadly Sins, who managed to escape in the chaos caused by War. Fury’s story takes place in parallel with both War’s and Death’s and you’ll see some familiar faces as you play.
Chief of which is Vulgrim, who remains as the in-game store, but has also been repurposed to act as Darksiders equivalent of campfires. Whenever you find Vulgrim, the game saves and if you die, you’ll respawn at his location.
Like Dark Souls, when you die, every enemy respawns and you’ll need to slog through them all again in order to get where you’re going. However, unlike Dark Souls, when you visit Vulgrim, you won’t reset the world.
There are many of these similarities with a difference to be found in Darksiders 3 and it’s what makes the game as good as it is. Darksiders titles have always blatantly had their inspirations on display, however, Darksiders 3 may be the first in the series that alters the copied formula in a way that gives it something of its own identity.
Souls, Souls, Souls
While Darksiders 3 is largely a different experience from the two games that preceded it, it shares enough DNA to comfortably fit within the series. Collecting Souls is still your main form of levelling up, however, this time around you’re only collecting blue Souls instead of the multiple colours in the other games.
In Darksiders 3, Fury doesn’t heal by killing enemies and absorbing green Souls and instead needs to use the Nephilim’s Respite or a Health Shared to refill her health gauge. Fury can collect a huge range of different consumables that also grant certain buffs or refill her Wrath meter in addition to the health items.
Using any of these ‘shards’ results in a long animation that leaves Fury wide open to attack. Much like Dark Souls’ Estus Flask, healing needs to be done strategically.
Should you fail to heal in time and die, you’ll return to Vulgrim as previously mentioned. Your collected Souls will remain where you died as a floating wisp that you need to destroy in order to reclaim.
Unlike Dark Souls though, dying a second time before collecting your lost souls won’t see them gone forever. Darksiders 3 is a bit more forgiving than From Software’s series and wants to see you level up Fury rather than struggle along.
Levelling Fury up is essential in Darksiders 3 as the difficulty curve is really damn steep. Oftentimes I wondered if it was too steep since I died frequently, however, Darksiders 3 places a huge emphasis on maintaining a safe distance, learning the combos and juggles and levelling up.
Initially, the combination of Dark Souls exploration and levelling with frenetic Devil May Cry-lite combat felt unwieldy. I struggled to stay alive and my problems only grew as I ventured further into the game.
However, as I learned the game’s intricate combos I started to more easily be able to dispatch groups of enemies without having to frantically heal. Combat in Darksiders 3 is fast-paced, but strategic and tactical at the same time.
Enemies hit Fury really, really hard and so you’re going to want to avoid that as much as possible. Pressing R1/RB will cause Fury to dodge attacks and timing this just right will slow down time, opening enemies up for a powerful Arcane counter attack.
Most fighting takes place on the ground, but Fury does have some aerial attacks in her arsenal which expand as she recovers more weapons and skills.
Her main weapon is the magical chain-whip sword called the Barbs of Scorn. Think Ivy from Souls Calibur and you’ll know what it is. Pressing Square/X uses the Barbs of Scorn and by pressing it multiple times or by pausing in between presses you’ll unleash a variety of attacks.
These attacks can be used to focus one enemy or take on multiple with an area of effect attack. You’re going to have to master both, especially later on as you’re mobbed more frequently. As you progress through the story you’ll be granted the four Hollows. Each of these gives Fury a new weapon and abilities.
Assigned to Triangle/Y, these secondary weapons add another dimension to the combat and can be used to create some truly devastating and jaw-dropping combos. By using the Barbs of Scorn and Hollows in concert, Fury dishes out both strength and elemental damage which makes battles easier, but definitely not easy.
When it comes to boss fights, the Seven Deadly Sins pack an unbelievable wallop and most took me more than a few tries.
She’s a Maniac, Maniac
While I enjoyed Darksiders 3 immensely, it’s not without a few problems.
Due to the fast pace of combat and mobs of enemies, enemy targeting is pretty poor, as is camera control. I resorted to using Fury’s ‘Killer Queen’ AOE attack when enemies went too far toward the screen rather than rotate the camera.
It was faster to try and kill them without being able to see them than it was to try and rotate the camera. Nine times out of 10, moving the camera would result in Fury dying. It’s pretty annoying that the camera and targeting controls run so counter-intuitive to the combat, but it wasn’t a game breaker.
Visually, Darksiders 3 looks much like the previous games did. The strong comic book aesthetic is still present and the visuals are crisp and clear, but the environments are dull as dishwater. Post-apocalyptic browns and greys are the names of the game and after a while, it’s not much fun to look at.
There are a few bright spots here and there, but this is a visually dark game that would benefit from some colour.
Traversing and navigating the world is also an unintentional challenge from time to time. While I applaud the lack of mini-map and quest markers, I know that some players will struggle to find their way, especially as the world is so samey in places.
Finally, while the voice acting is great, the lines that Fury and her Watcher spout off aren’t great. When they’re not awkward or way too ‘edgy’ they’re simply inconsequential.
Darksiders 3 is an action-RPG content with letting its combat do the heavy lifting. Forget a giant list of collectables, multiple puzzles to solve, gadgets to find and quests to complete; and that’s fine by me.
Not every game needs to be an open-world collectathon and Darksiders 3 proves this. It’s content for players to simply explore its massive, interconnected dungeon, fight demons and angels and learn how to die less often.
It’s not flawless, but it’s a damn good time that only asks that you ‘Git Gud.’
Darksiders 3 was reviewed on Windows PC using a Steam code provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Darksiders 3
Brutal, challenging combat - 8.3/10
Dark Souls + Frenetic Combat - 9.1/10
Doesn't Hold Your Hand - 8.5/10
May be too hard for some - 6/10