At first, there was War. Secondly, came Death. Now, we must face Fury. Darksiders III is the first of THQ Nordic’s attempts to continue on with a popular THQ franchise, following the dissolution of THQ back in 2013.
After both War and Death have their stories played out and intertwined, Darksiders III is set during the period when War was imprisoned by the Charred Council. Fury is tasked with hunting down and disposing of the Seven Deadly Sins. She is a willing participant at first, but over the course of the game, she becomes privy to certain information that makes her question her role as a Horseman of the Charred Council.
The narrative of Darksiders III is, unfortunately, the weakest aspect of the game. Fury has a mission, and while there are a few twists in the plot, most of the story is predictable, especially if you’re up to date on the previous two games. In the long run, it makes sense that Fury’s tale does not stray from the narrative, as it may confuse the timeline of the series. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t recommend Darksiders III based on its story alone.
Thankfully, the rest of the game is very strong. The series continually impresses by reinventing itself based on the mood and feel of the main protagonist. The first Darksiders had War at the helm, and as a result, the game had an apocalyptic feel to it — lots of lava and cracked earth, as well as cities in ruins. Death’s world was filled with a cold, icy darkness, and almost solemn feel to it. Fury likewise is surrounded by environments and creatures that fill the player with a sense of anger.
This sense of anger can be best explained by how I felt (emotionally) throughout playing the game. I am not speaking of something akin to “gamer rage” or frustration out of poor game design. I speak of both visual aspects of the game, as well as the combat system. Let me elaborate:
Avarice is one of the Seven Deadly Sins that Fury must defeat throughout the course of the game. True to its name, Avarice is covered head to toe in treasure, and grins like The Cheshire Cat. Needless to say, I hated Avarice the minute I laid eyes upon him, I wanted him to die. Upon beginning battle, it spent most of the time just barely within reach of my whip, meaning that I needed to stay on top of it and keep up at all times. It felt like the game was going out of its way to annoy me as much as possible, all the while ensuring that it was never unfair towards me.
A lot of the combat in Darksiders III feels just as deliberate in its design. Common enemies require precise combat skills. It’s not as deep as the combat in something like Dark Souls, but the same feeling of accomplishment comes every single time you wipe out a horde of enemies and trigger the always-welcome autosave icon. There were plenty of combat sequences in Darksiders III that I had to replay over ten to twenty times before I was able to memorize the location and fighting patterns of enemies, even on the easiest difficulty setting.
The biggest design feat in a game with such involved combat is always ensuring that it’s never unfair to the player. Some games may increase health or damage to make the experience feel more difficult than usual. This often comes across as a cheap way of dealing with difficulty. In Darksiders III, if you die, it will be because your reflexes weren’t quick enough, or that you weren’t keeping a close eye on an enemy approaching from behind. When a game makes you think about how you’ll approach each and every encounter, you know the developers have done right by their combat system.
The combat options open up as the game progresses, too. The Lord of the Hollows summons Fury to his domain throughout the game. offering her enhanced powers and bestowing upon her additional weapons. As Fury’s combat abilities expand, combat becomes more complex and deliberate.
Fury’s combat skills can be upgraded as well. By offering souls to Vulgrim, she is able to level up her health, strength and arcane magic. Fury is also able to offer ingredients to Ulthane the Maker to upgrade her weapons and static abilities. These upgrades mostly just enhance the abilities and weapons Fury gains from The Lord of the Hollows, giving her a fighting chance at survival, seeing as how enemies become stronger over time.
While there’s a degree of freedom when it comes to how you approach combat, it’s worth noting that the majority of Darksiders III is a linear experience — the whole game feels like one very long level. Similar to past entries in the series, the world is split up into distinct areas, and you’ll be able to warp between locales. Each area is connected to each other in a way that makes sense, and in some cases, Fury will spot a place that’s just out of reach — usually, figuring out how to get there necessitates a two-hour-long detour. Fortunately, there’s never a dull moment the entire time.
That being said, Darksiders III is not without issue. One odd design decision that stood out is Fury’s role as one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. For one reason or another, the decision was made not to allow Fury to ride her horse, whatsoever. Whether it was done based on level design, or whether the absence of her horse was a narrative choice, I’m not sure. But after War and Death were able to ride their horses, it’s a tad disappointing that Fury doesn’t get the same treatment.
Darksiders III is a solid attempt by THQ Nordic to continue a much-loved series. The fact that Darksiders III got to see a release after the original THQ faced bankruptcy and liquidation is a miracle in of itself. Thanks to excellent combat mechanics and meticulous level design, Darksiders III is definitely worth playing, and it manages to set itself apart from the first two games, giving itself its own unique identity. With any luck, the series will get a proper ending with a fourth journey centered on Strife.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided by THQ Nordic.
It may have taken over six years, but the Darksiders series has finally received a proper sequel. Thankfully, with its improved combat and level design, Darksiders III more than delivers.