Darksiders 3 review: Hell hath fury

The third installment to the Darksiders series aims to strike a balance between the core features of its predecessors and its own ambitions.

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Gunfire Games, a team composed mainly of ex-Vigil Games developers who worked on the first two Darksiders games, have resurrected the franchise to bring us the long-awaited third installment in the series, Darksiders 3. It’s been nearly six years since Darksiders 2, and now that the third entry in the trilogy is here, many are eager to find out if it lives up to the high expectations set by fans of the puzzle-laden, post-apocalyptic hack-and-slash adventure.

In Darksiders 3, players don the high heels of Fury, a horseman of the apocalypse who is known for her sassy, brazen attitude and sheer confidence in her own capabilities. The game takes place after the forces of heaven and hell clashed on Earth in a world-ending battle for dominance. Fury’s brother, War, is charged with prematurely initiating the apocalypse, and is still serving his century-long prison sentence at the start of the third game.

Fury is tasked with eliminating each of the Seven Deadly Sins, who have taken on physical forms and settled down in various regions on Earth. From the very start of her journey, Fury is warned of the possibility that forces are conspiring against her and her brothers. Not to be deterred from her objective, Fury sets out to complete the task set forth by the Charred Council, subtly hoping to earn the role of leader of the four horsemen.

Weaving its path

The Darksiders games have been known to feature various gameplay mechanics and design elements that were inspired by other games, such as Zelda or God of War. In the case of Darksiders 3, there seems to be some clear inspiration drawn from the Dark Souls series, particularly in terms of its world design and exploration.

Darksiders 3 features a dense map where distinct regions are woven and intertwined with one another, with cubbyholes and passageways connecting one area with the next. Each region is distinguished by certain features that typically reflect the type of Sin who is lurking in the area. For example, Sloth’s domain is littered with egg casings and hostile, bug-like creatures that reflect Sloth’s insectoid appearance.

The developers have opted for a more Metroidvania-inspired world layout this time around, as opposed to the hub-and-spoke model used in the first game or the expansive open world of the second. The interwoven world design of Darksiders 3 is heavily reminiscent of the first Dark Souls, and it would be difficult to believe that the developers didn’t draw some inspiration from the Souls series in this regard.

While you are given the freedom to roam about and forge your own path for the most part, the pacing of your exploration is controlled by various barriers that can only be cleared once you have obtained certain abilities, encouraging you to return to previously explored areas to open new paths.

The distinct features and color schemes of different regions can help you keep track of where you are, though sometimes you may find yourself a bit turned around, especially given the verticality of the world. There’s no map to follow; the only thing guiding your path is a compass at the top that steers you in the general direction of the next available Sin, though this does little in terms of helping you find obscure openings and passages to new regions when all other avenues are inaccessible.

Escaping the dungeon

Environmental puzzles have historically been part of the core Darksiders formula. In Darksiders 3, the puzzles have been integrated more naturally into the world than in the previous games, which can be seen as a good or bad thing depending on what draws you to the franchise in the first place. Rather than having to complete a series of self-contained dungeons that have bosses waiting at the end, Darksiders 3 breaks from this formula a bit by offering smaller puzzle elements sprinkled throughout the world as you search to find each Sin. Think of it more like Breath of the Wild than Ocarina of Time.

The puzzles are few and far between and aren’t overly complex. There are a few sections here and there that require more extensive puzzle solving, but they aren’t the kind of puzzles that will occupy your time for too long. If you’re one of the players who enjoys the Darksiders games for their tough, challenging puzzles, then you should probably temper your expectations a bit when going into the third game.

Soul sister

Vulgrim, a merchant vendor and fan-favorite character from the first Darksiders game, returns not only to offer a means for purchasing new wares and leveling up but also a way to fast travel using Serpent Holes. Vulgrim’s locations act as respawn points upon death, as well as landmarks to orient yourself in the world when trekking back to previously explored areas.

Fury’s progression revolves around collecting souls from slain enemies and occasionally from shattering various items. These souls are fed to Vulgrim, who in return gives Attribute Points to Fury to be used for leveling up each of her attributes.

Souls are dropped in a floating bundle upon death and can be retrieved by returning to break the bundle at the location where you died. While this mechanic seems very Souls-like in its origins, the mechanic in Darksiders 3 differs in that your dropped souls don’t disappear if you die a second time on the way to pick them up. This less-punishing approach also allows you to farm souls a bit if you strategically find a way to use death to your advantage.

Arcane vengeance

Flashy, combo-driven combat is another one of the core features of the Darksiders games. The first Darksiders featured powerful, sword-heavy combat and executions. The second game focused more on fast-paced maneuvering and combo chains. Darksiders 3 falls somewhere in between and features combat that is considerably more tactical.

Throughout the game, Fury is gifted a series of new magical abilities called Hollows. Each Hollow form alters Fury’s appearance and transforms her weapon, granting her a new set of combat maneuvers and traversal capabilities. Once acquired, Fury can switch between each Hollow form at will, and certain Hollow forms are required for clearing debris that blocks access to new areas and collectibles.

Fury’s Hollow forms are vibrant and flashy, and fit in well within the Darksiders aesthetic first established by Joe Madureira. Fury’s hair illuminates to reflect which Hollow form she has equipped, and each form enables a new set of combat maneuvers that pair well with her default chain whip, the Barbs of Scorn. The combat feels powerful and satisfying, provided you can consistently pull off the Arcane Counter, a strong counterattack that allows you to unleash additional arcane damage to your target. Mastering this maneuver requires precise timing and the ability to predict enemy movements, so don’t expect to button-mash your way through harder enemy encounters. A different Arcane Counter is available for each Hollow form, and this move practically becomes a necessity for defeating mid- to late-game enemies.

The limited weapon selection in Darksiders 3 is much less cumbersome than the random loot drops of the previous game. Improving your arsenal involves visiting Ulthane, a Maker blacksmith who returns in Darksiders 3 to forge new upgrades for your weapons and slotted enhancements. The weapon progression is quite linear–simply collect enough Adamantine to level up each weapon and improve its traits. The most wiggle room you have in terms of customizing your build involves slotting different enhancements into each weapon, which provide bonus effects when the weapon is used.

When upgrading enhancements, you can choose to follow either an Angelic or Demonic path, depending on the benefits you wish to prioritize. The Angelic upgrades, which typically pertain to Fury’s health and survivability, seem like they would be the better choice when playing on higher difficulties. However, the value of each weapon upgrade relies more on the types of enhancements you choose to slot into the weapons you use most, rather than the individual upgrade paths of the enhancements themselves.

Striking a balance

Each horseman of the apocalypse stands apart from one another in terms of combat, strength, and personality, and these distinctions are solidified in each of their respective games. Fury is confident, proud, and ambitious, which are traits that are reflected throughout the narrative as her journey unfolds. However, Darksiders 3 feels much more reserved in the delivery of some of its core features and mechanics. Whether or not this is due to the limitations of a smaller development team is hard to tell, but it’s a possibility that must be considered when judging this game against its predecessors.

Darksiders 3 does seem a bit lacking when compared to its series brethren, at least for those who come in with high expectations. Darksiders 3 is recognizably a Darksiders game. However, the game would have benefited from more risk-taking in areas where it chose to play it safe. Nevertheless, Fury’s story is one worth experiencing, especially for long-time fans who are anxious to see how the next chapter of the four horsemen unfurls.


This review is based on a PC retail copy provided by the publisher. Darksiders 3 is set to release for Xbox One, PS4, and PC on November 27.

Contributing Editor

Larryn is a content creator on YouTube and a full-time writer who has written guides and editorial features for various gaming websites. She can often be found at small gatherings preaching the gospel of The Witcher 3

Review for
Darksiders 3
8
Pros
  • The dynamic, interconnected world feels cohesive
  • Challenging combat keeps you on your toes
  • Weapons and magic capabilities feel powerful and satisfying
  • Interesting creature and enemy designs
Cons
  • Puzzle mechanics are sparse and could be more challenging
  • The early game pacing felt off
  • Total game length is a bit short
From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 26, 2018 3:00 AM

    Larryn Bell posted a new article, Darksiders 3 review: Hell hath fury

    • reply
      November 26, 2018 3:39 AM

      Larryn Bell... is she new?

      • reply
        November 26, 2018 1:07 PM

        I'm not on the crew, no. The Shacknews fellas know I'm a fan of Darksiders, so they were nice enough to let me give my two cents on the new game. ;)

        • reply
          November 26, 2018 1:09 PM

          That's cool. How's the writing? I heard a weird rumor that the same writing staff behind The Quiet Man was the same writing staff for this game.

          I realize that doesn't make a lot of sense, but there it is.

          • reply
            November 26, 2018 2:07 PM

            Yikes, i had not heard about that. The writing is okay, nothing glaringly bad at least.

        • reply
          November 26, 2018 2:21 PM

          Welcome to the madhouse ; )

        • reply
          November 26, 2018 7:14 PM

          You like Witcher 3. You win.

      • reply
        November 26, 2018 3:52 PM

        so close to larynx! Larynx Bell

        • reply
          November 26, 2018 5:56 PM

          Definitely heard my share of larynx jokes growing up. That and being called Larry.

    • reply
      November 26, 2018 4:41 AM

      I didn’t even know they were working on this!

      • reply
        November 26, 2018 4:52 AM

        Yeah the media / marketing outreach for this game has been nil.

      • reply
        November 26, 2018 6:15 AM

        I wonder if they are just releasing it to get it out the door. The reviews on the game have been really bad.

        • reply
          November 26, 2018 8:19 AM

          Not so much bad as just very mediocre.

          • reply
            November 26, 2018 8:52 AM

            They've been that way for pretty much every darksiders game although the first one was a bit higher than 2 and now 3.

    • reply
      November 26, 2018 8:52 AM

      Oh shit, I didn't realize that released tomorrow. Nice review Larryn.

      • reply
        November 26, 2018 10:10 AM

        yeah, I knew this was a thing in development, but had no idea it was anywhere near gone gold status

      • reply
        November 26, 2018 10:23 AM

        They have a few people already doing early streaming. The dialog and voice acting is a bit corny.

        • reply
          November 26, 2018 11:01 AM

          Always has been although I think they cheesed it up even more on this release.

      • reply
        November 26, 2018 1:03 PM

        Thanks!

    • reply
      November 26, 2018 11:12 AM

      Wow, I will be honest: As someone who loves Darksiders (yes, even the 2nd one) I figured this one would be a total garbage fire. Happy to hear it's entertaining, if a bit average. I don't have time for it now, but I'll pick it up eventually.

      • reply
        November 26, 2018 3:37 PM

        Same. Other reviews are equally positive, general consensus is they focused on the combat system but lessend on the environment puzzles. So somewhat of a Souls/GoW game? I'm game especially since I am still curious where this story goes. I'll grab it once I beat down a few of my pending games as well.

    • reply
      November 26, 2018 3:40 PM

      Very interested in this title. I loved the first and the second was fun although with a few issues. It's one of the more interesting IPs imho if they can get it going. THQ situation was not good for the series.

    • reply
      December 2, 2018 3:43 AM

      The new patch helped a lot. I'm actually making tons of progression now on Apoc difficulty. Just beat Sloth.
      (not sure its actually out yet but enabling beta updates to the game on steam will net you the patch)

    • reply
      December 3, 2018 10:14 AM

      Try Gametide Now and earn
      http://bit.ly/2Q8v4AL