One of the casualties in the fall of THQ, it looked like we wouldn’t get anything further from the Darksiders series. But out of the ashes rose THQ Nordic, on a mission to rectify any wrongs and put as many dormant franchises back on the map as possible! Gunfire Games, which feature members of the first two games’ development team, have been given another shot at the series. Much like Darksiders 2, here the story runs in parallel to the first, casting you as Fury, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The Seven Deadly Sins have escaped, and by order of the Charred Council, you are to hunt them down and return them to their prison.
While generic at times, the story is well written and acted enough to keep you entertained. The Sins themselves all play into their stereotypes, and the acting helps sell the over the top nature of the game. Combat plays out fairly similar to previous entries, with fast, responsive combat that is simple enough to play, but has a hidden depth that will help you out greatly should you get the hang of it. Mashing X will see fury use her whip sword in a flurry of attacks, but pace out the button presses and more powerful combos will see you launching enemies into the air for juggling, or yank them in closer to be finished off.
A dodge on RB helps keep you out of harms way, though mistime and you may end up jumping into danger. Time it right however, and time slows allowing you to pull of a more powerful Arcane attack. When fighting small groups of enemies, it can be immensely satisfying to combine all this to have you feeling like a truly unstoppable force. The visual flairs and sense of impact make it look like you really are dishing out the punishment to the enemies, with flashes of color and light accentuating the bodies flying.
Then, from seemingly out of nowhere, an enemy will attack from behind, knock off half your health and leave you vulnerable to more attacks for a moment, which is normally enough for the others to finish you off. On screen indicators flash up to try to help with this, but they are too faint in the thick of the action. Even if you do manage to dodge it, chances are you end up right in the path of another foe that you can’t avoid because you are in the middle of a dodge already, leading to you being ping-ponged about. When even the lowest of foes can deal huge damage to you, it can become frustrating, leading to death after death.
Sometimes, with multiple foes on screen, things can get just too hectic, and you’ll fall without even realizing you’ve taken damage. Reloads can take a long time too, just adding to the pain. Then when it does reload, you’ll find yourself several minutes back, often with some punishing sections fully replenished of their enemies (but any items you may have used before dying stay gone, just to add to the challenge). One section had me ready to put the pad down permanently – a dozen or so high-level enemies, all in a small area, with only one way through.
After battling for near 30 minutes to get past the bunch, I finally reached the room I was aiming for. A brief puzzle to unlock a hidden area, then I was ready to move on to the nex- SURPRISE ATTACK BY 3 POWERFUL ENEMIES IN A TINY ROOM – dead. ‘It’s okay’, I thought, ‘I passed a checkpoint when I entered the room. Didn’t I?’. Nope. Cue another 20 minutes attempting to get back past the initial wave. There were other, equally heart-breaking examples, but this one will stay with me for a while. The fights with the Sins fall foul of this too. Falling to Sloth, for example, will see you placed at least a 45 second sprint away, with many very powerful foes to dodge or fight along the way.
I should mention I played on the default difficulty, and while I usually play on harder settings, I’m glad I decided against it this time! At least there are various upgrades to help you along the way. Leveling up by feeding souls to the merchant will grant you points towards health, strength and arcane, evening the playing field a little. Weapons can be enhanced, one-use items grant temporary buffs and at points throughout, Fury is granted a new elemental form, along with their own specific weapon to be upgraded. It’s here that combat steps up a level, with you able to switch between forms and weapons at anytime, even mid combo.
Fights are still tough, but making use of their abilities is fun and rewarding, especially when surrounded. Two super meters fill as you fight, one offering an elemental special such as a lightning storm, while the other sees Fury grow in size, burst into bright pink flames and deal massive damage for a short while. Using these can be cathartic, seeing enemies melt away like butter for a moment, feeling like a true badass. But it all passes too soon, and for as much damage as you may have done, all it takes is that one enemy to catch you with a wallop and you may just have to repeat the process. Technically the game is a bit of a mixed bag.
Visually the game looks great, with bright colors, unique character designs and nicely designed levels. The metroidvania elements of previous games feel a little toned down here, with few areas clearly off limits, waiting for you to gain new powers. Lighting, especially around Fury in her elemental forms, is good, illuminating surroundings and giving extra visual flourish to combat. But the whole thing has a distinct early gen look to it, with a lack of the finer details we’ve come to expect. Mid-level loads pop-up frequently too, despite most being fairly linear corridors. One section I ran through saw three within less than a minute, though a repeat run through only loaded twice. Despite the criticisms above, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy my time with Darksiders 3.
Combat is hard, often unfairly so, but get into the groove and it’s also very satisfying. Exploring the environments can yield extra challenges, with powerful rewards for success, but a few more tantalizing glimpses of areas beyond your abilities wouldn’t have gone amiss. If you enjoyed the previous entries and have been waiting to see what Fury can do, you’ll find the wait has mostly been worth it. Just be prepared for a challenge.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.