It’s been six years since we’ve seen a new adventure in the Darksiders series, mainly due to THQ’s bankruptcy and surprising rebuilding, with the company now having more than 30 (!) games in the works. But they’ve put a fair amount of focus into Darksiders III, which serves as their big holiday hit. I mean, I’m not sure if everyone is going to get into an apocalyptic adventure for the holidays, but it’s definitely there if they need it.
I for one am happy to see the series back. Darksiders II definitely ended on a high note, and Darksiders III picks up right where it left off, with yet another Horseman stepping up to save what remains of the world, at the order of the Charred Council. This time it’s Fury, a whip-carrying badass warrior who’s just as quick with her words, sent after the Seven Deadly Sins, who have broken out and taken over their sections of the world. But there’s a deeper conspiracy here, one that involves her fellow Horsemen -- I won’t say anything more, but the ties with the rest of the series are pretty deep.
And that’s what I respect about Gunfire Games, the team taking over for the broken-apart team at Vigil (who worked on the first two). They highly respect the first two Darksiders games and keep the third very close in spirit, as you make your way through the world, tearing apart enemies, occasionally coming across a merchant to get leveled up and saving your game, and dealing with bosses the best way you know how -- violently.
But with a different team on board, you may want to settle in for a few minor changes, though not all of them will sit well with you. For instance, instead of an open-world map like we’ve gotten in the first two games, Darksiders III utilizes a system that automatically points out where the nearest Deadly Sin is. It’s workable, but I miss the old way of being able to pinpoint a target and fight your way to it by any means necessary.
Also, the Darksiders III world, while very well-designed, isn’t as wide open as you think it might be. Everything’s pretty well connected, and the puzzles that are included here definitely live up to the series lineage, but it almost seems like you run through some similar-looking areas throughout. There are some things that stand out, like the lair of a Deadly Sin laden with gold pieces and a quiet, glowing field with traps and demon children scattered throughout, but otherwise the environments are more common than I thought they’d be. Still, not bad in terms of how it’s put together.
That said, the console versions do have some minor visual inconsistencies. There were a couple of noticeable bugs, including one particular incident where the game hard-crashed on a PS4 Pro. I eventually got over them, but I’d like to think that Gunfire is working on patches to make things run a little faster.
Other than that, the animations look superb, especially on the bigger Sin enemies (Sloth is a fun force to be reckoned with), and the lighting effects definitely have some effect within the game, especially once you grab hold of Fury’s fire abilities. And the scope of some of the areas is pretty cool, even though there are times you can see danger from a few yards out, just stomping around and waiting for your return.
Aaaaand that leads us to the boss battles. These are the highlights of the game, and also something a few of you might dread. On the one hand, these bosses mean serious business. Even Envy, the first Deadly Sin you come across earlier in the game, is a handful, giving you a fight for the ages on the lightest of difficulty.
On the one hand, old-school players will appreciate this challenge. But on the other, the bosses have a nasty habit of either sending you packing back to the checkpoint or seeping up all your health items, forcing you to spend unnecessary souls on replenishment (unless you find them within the area). They should’ve been toned down a slight bit, as there were instances where I ended up getting destroyed before I even had a fair chance to refill my health.
And that leads to another problem -- checkpoint placement. Whenever you find your merchant buddy (Vulgrim, back again), he’ll auto-save the game for you, which is nice. But if a boss or enemy takes you out, you go all the way back. There’s no auto-save here, which means you’ll have to go through an area again just to get to them. It’s a headache, especially when in some cases, enemies you cleared out are long gone; but in others, they’re right back where they started, being a nuisance. Gunfire should’ve found more consistency here; or, at the very least, thrown in an auto-save system. We want to get right back in the battle, not trudge it out getting there.
Also, the camera lock-on system? It needs work. Big time. There are times I lost track of a boss because he went too high up in some places or jumped over my head; and when I went to refocus on him or her, that’s when they land five good hits on me. It could use some maintaining so you keep an enemy in your sights at all times -- that’s how the first two Darksiders games worked.
At least the combat is engaging. Fury’s abilities are very cool, especially once you pick up her fire capabilities to “scorch” enemies, as well as solve puzzles in the environment, such as using bugs to blow up webs or implementing a flaming jump to give you extra distance. On top of that, her hammer is a sweet weapon, enabling her to break through shielding so she can damage them with her fantastic whip. The combat is probably the best thing in the game, even with the minor lock-on inconsistencies (work, dangit!) getting in the way.
And again, the in-game puzzles are right in tune with the Darksiders series, and well worth solving. I did have a mind-boggler or two, but once the solution came together, it felt like second nature, with a genuine “AHA!” moment that makes you feel like you truly accomplished something. Gunfire has that portion of the game nailed down pat, and I like it.
Visual hiccups and bugs aside, Darksiders III also very much looks like an entry in the series. The characters truly stand out, especially large, hulking giants that look over the landscape just to keep things in balance; and War and Death are great to see again, even if they don’t quite sound the same. (Was Michael Wincott not available?) It does have its ties with the series, so for that, I’ll give the team a respectful nod.
That does lead us to voice acting, and it’s not bad. Granted, not all of it is up to par (again, Death’s fill-in isn’t the greatest), but Fury herself is handled very well by Cissy Jones. She gives her just the right amount of attitude without getting annoying; and her shadowy assistant is done very well too, providing a sense of balance to Fury’s chaotic ways. The rest are a mixed batch, with some bosses going a little too overboard (again, Sloth) and others not trying hard enough. Still, not too bad.
And Cris Velasco’s soundtrack delivers in nearly every accord, with well-done themes throughout each battle, as well as bits and pieces that remind you of your apocalyptic settings. I can’t wait to give the full soundtrack a listen in my iTunes, as it fits right in with the rest of the series.
To sum up, Darksiders III doesn’t quite stand as sturdily as the other entries in the saga, mainly because of the hard crashes, poor lock-on system, frustrating combat and tedious placement of checkpoints. (Again, my kingdom for an auto-save system.) But I’m glad to see it anyway, as Gunfire Games maintains the spirit of the series with this entry, even if it doesn’t entirely nail it.
The gameplay has something to offer, particularly with its boss battles; the story fits right in with the Darksiders lexicon, right down to the fun ending (that hopefully sets up a well-balanced fourth chapter); the visuals aren’t too shabby (when they’re not buggy); and the audio nails the atmospheric touches. And it has some fun moments throughout, if you can stomach the somewhat overwhelming difficulty scale, which definitely caters to the old-school kind of player.
Gunfire still has a ways to go to catch up with Vigil’s fine-tuned legacy. But they've taken a strong step in the right direction, and with a few (much-needed) fixes, Fury should have no trouble holding her own with the big boys this holiday season. As it stands, Darksiders III is worth a look -- and that’s not something you can usually say about an end-of-the-world game coming out at the same time as "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer."0comments
WWG’s Score: 3.5 out of 5.
(Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.)