It’s been six years since we’ve seen a Darksiders game. From bankruptcy to losing the intellectual property, to reforming the studio under a new name and rebuilding themselves, the majority of the masterminds behind the original series return with a third entry in a new gameplay style and a new main character. Fury, the only female horsemen, takes center stage and in this Darksiders 3 review we’ll find out if this is a most welcomed return or a franchise that should have stayed in the past.
I’ll get into the main plot soon but I want to take a moment to show some appreciation for the beautiful art slideshow that starts the game off and explains how the Horsemen came to be and their reason for existing. We also get a glimpse of Fury and her personality, which The Charred Council deems the most inpatient and unpredictable. This was a smart way to set the foundation of what is about to unfold, as well as, catch new players up on the lore and story that had taken place thus far.
The main plot of Darksiders 3 sees the player take control of Fury and she is requested by The Charred Council to go to Earth and eliminate the seven deadly sins who have taken hold over different areas of the war-ridden post-apocalyptic state of the world. As this request is made, War is beside her, chained and being punished for starting the apocalypse earlier than it was intended. Allegedly. Fury agrees to the terms with the added stipulation that she made the leader of the Horsemen once she is successful. The Charred Council agrees. To ensure that Fury complies with their wishes, a Watcher is sent to accompany Fury and be the eyes and ears of the Charred Council. Once both parties agree on the terms, Fury begins to depart but not until War asks for forgiveness of some issues that transpired between them in the past and begs her to be cautious as forces are at work against them. He also claims his innocence.
There are other side plots in the game and other characters with their stories and reasons for doing things. I don’t want to go too much into it, I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s all interesting to see how it all plays out in the end. It’s realistic in how everyone has their own ambitions and how open they are to help you if it will benefit them in some way. The game does a good job at showing you who is truly trying to take advantage of the world’s current situation and who actually wants to help people. It helps that the story is well written, even though some of the dialogue isn’t so, and it helps that Fury is a character you want to see succeed and grow as a character. The Sins are also well written and, for the most part, their twisted intentions are clear.
I enjoyed the tale Darksiders 3 tells and enjoyed the journey it took me on. Taking place at the time of the prior entries, it compliments them well and becomes more than just a layer in the grand scheme of things. The Sins were devious beings in it for themselves, much like Fury at the very start, but Fury was able to evolve and change as things became clearer. You know a game and story is good when you finish it and immediately begin speculating and anticipating the fourth entry because you want to peel back another layer and see more of what’s going on. With that being said, the story isn’t perfect. Some of the dialogue that is written isn’t nearly as polished as other aspects of the game and the pacing can feel a little off at times. It’s nothing major or frequent but there were very few times I felt something could have been drawn out a little longer or I could have used a little space to breathe. Like I said, nothing extreme but noticeable the handful of times it occurred. Fans of the series will also enjoy seeing previous characters making their return and newcomers will not be overwhelmed, but I highly recommend they go back.
In my opinion, this is the most important section of any review and every game. You can have the best-looking game with every single frame per second imaginable, but if your game is dreadful, then none of that matters. With that being said, let’s dive into Fury and everything you can do with her.
When it comes to movement, Fury feels weighty but never too heavy or floaty and she actually controls and moves well. As you traverse through the world, you have a double jump and a light sprint to move around. Oh, speaking of traversal, let’s get one thing out of the way. You do not control Rampage (Fury’s horse) at any point of the game. I can only assume that the point of that trailer was to capture the attention of those who have purchased Red Dead Redemption 2. Even if you could, I do not think the game’s world design would be able to support travel by horse, nor do I think the game needs it. As you travel this world, you will encounter enemies and you have some tools at your disposal to rid yourself of them. When you start off, and it remains your main weapon for the entire game, you are in control of the Barbs Of Scorn. The Whip-like weapon differs from the other main weapons of her siblings and fits Fury as a character and her personality well. You are given a lot more range in attacking, though the game moves away from large encounters in favour of more intimate ones, and it offers a lot in single enemy encounters. Other sub-weapons, in the form of Hollows, offer more range and dynamic gameplay in combat.
You have the Chains of Scorn that grants Fury fire-based powers as well as transforms her main weapon into a pair of flails that are excellent in closing the distance between enemies and quickly getting into attack. Another power she gets is the Lance Of Scorn, a lightning based power that sees the weapon take on the form of a spear and it’s great at attacking enemies quickly without the need to get as close as the Chains, but closer than the Barbs. Then you have the Mallet Of Scorn that sees the weapon take on the form of a massive hammer that would make the great Mjolnir feel emasculated. This is the weapon for those who love devastating attacks that do massive damage. The Edge Of Scorn grants the player a large broadsword that can be split into two and slow down enemies. These are all balanced and work well; the game encourages experimentation, and it’s great combining and switching to the different powers and weapons to see what you can do.
Not only do these Hollows grant a weapon of sorts, you really only have one weapon as the Scorn merely changes shape to the desired weapon, but they also grant you abilities to help in maneuvering through the world and environments. For example, the first Scorn you get are the Chains and they allow Fury to walk on lava as well as to fire upwards, higher, after jumping. Likewise, the Force Hollow ability is very similar to the Morph Ball ability Samus uses from the iconic Metroid series and allows Fury to do the transformation into a ball to reach other areas. Another ability allows her to float in the air, slowly descending, and it looks like something Storm from the X-Men franchise would do. You do have access to a ranged weapon that is gifted to you, called Salvation, but it is different from the weapon of the same name found in Darksiders 2.
With all of these weapons, you are equipped to deal with the game’s enemies. Enemies are fewer in numbers but are more challenging than prior entries. It is easier to kill you and the enemies can take more hits than ever before. The goal is to fight these foes by pulling them away from others because one on one ordeals are for the best. The actual combat has a sort of rhythm to it and just because it is a hack and slash game, mindless button mashing will not get you far. Ideally, you’ll want to experiment and see what weapon can take out which enemy the quickest by trying out the different possible combinations Fury can pull off. From there on it’s all about mixing and matching, defeating foes, and utilizing your dodge button. That last part is key and can really make a difference in an encounter because if you time it right and dodge at the right time, you can perform a counter attack right after and this will have Fury deal more damage. It’s a brilliant system that makes dodging an important part of the game, a stark contrast from the prior two entries. Enemies are varied with different attacks and abilities and you should always proceed with caution because encounters with previous enemies might surprise you when they pull of new abilities. Two things will happen as you fight enemies: you will kill them, and you will die, each one offering its own gameplay element. As you kill enemies, you’ll eventually build up your meter to unleash Fury’s Havoc Form. Like prior entries this sees Fury take a new form that allows her to deal massive damage, as well as heal. You’ll see her engulfed in flames, doubled in size, and in possession of two whips. Fury comes across as very intimidating and really, really, cool. On the other end of the spectrum, when encountering enemies, you’ll die. Now, you will have been gathering souls from the enemies you’ve taken care of and these souls play a critical role. When you die, you have to go to the area where you died and collect them. An interesting take on this mechanic is that you can leave those souls there, die several times in other areas, and they’ll more than likely still be there when you return. That’s perfect for when you reach a level that’s too difficult and want to come back later without risking death to gather those souls once again. It takes a lot to lose those souls permanently, even after multiple deaths in succession.
When you die, you are sent to the last checkpoint you visited and that’s usually the last Serpent Hole you encountered. Serpent Holes are where you meet the demon merchant Vulgrim. It’s here you’ll be able to buy items, such as a quick restoration of health, but each purchase raises the price for the next time. Got to love capitalism. Vulgrim’s main purpose, however, is to allow you to level up Fury. This is the RPG element of the game where you will invest into three categories for Fury: Health, Strength, and Arcane. Health increases Fury’s life and allows her to take more damage, Strength grants Fury and increase in the amount of damage she can do, and Arcane increases the magic aspect of the game such as the Havoc Form. Right off the bat, you’ll notice that this is vastly scaled back from Darksiders 2 but it actually works in this game. Instead of having a large skill tree with a bunch of possible abilities and combos to unlock, you are given those combos and abilities and only have to focus on increasing Fury’s foundation. Serpent Holes also allow you to fast travel to already visited areas without the need to backtrack through them. This is helpful for those who don’t want to fight enemies and need to get somewhere quickly because every time you get near a Serpent Hole, you’ll trigger the autosave and the enemies will respawn. I’ve used the fast travel mechanic many times to reach Ulthane quickly, he’s the blacksmith that will help you craft and increase your weapons and armour. He also implores you to save the humans you encounter throughout the world in the game’s side quest.
Before we get into the other gameplay elements in this game, we have to quickly talk about the boss battles. Boss battles have always been a sort of measuring stick, an encounter to test everything you’ve learned at that point, and to see if mastery of the abilities and weapons has been achieved. They are also used to introduce a player into what they can expect and what the encounters will be like. Darksiders 3 does this all extremely well. Whether it’s visually, audibly, or mechanically the game nails it all. Boss fights are varied and challenging, some more difficult than others, and they give you a sense of accomplishment once you finally overcome them. The Seven Deadly Sins each bring something unique and different to their fights and make them an enjoyable experience that a player has to actually work to overcome. The true highlight, however, of the game’s bosses and enemies are actually the hidden ones in the world. I grew up in an era where games were hard, and you had to keep trying and learning to finally overcome and become victorious over an enemy, a difficult hair-pulling task at times. Darksiders 3 recreates that in a gaming era where more is handed to a player that is actually earned and I praise the developers for it.
Now, when you aren’t fighting enemies, you’ll be exploring the labyrinth-like world. There is no mini-map telling you where to go next and you have to actually use your mind to figure it out. The path forward is pretty obvious, you have an indicator at the top of the screen showing you which direction your facing and the nearest Sin, but it’s the hidden areas that are most intriguing. There are a lot of interconnected pathways that lead to different areas, not on such a scale as other games have implemented in other franchises, but enough to find items and hidden locations. The game acts as a Metroidvania as well in this aspect because to reach hidden areas and alternate pathways, you’ll need some items and abilities you receive later on in the game. This also ties into the game’s platforming sections as well. You’ll be jumping on to platforms, both horizontally and vertically, to make it to the next area. The platforming in Darksiders 3 is actually really good and truly shines when your switching and combing powers, abilities, and weapons to traverse the world. It also never breaks the pacing in the game as it knows when you should be fighting when you should be platforming, and when you should be doing puzzles. Darksiders 3 has a lot more puzzles than I ever thought the game would, more than it actually needs, and they are all way too easy. You won’t find any really challenging puzzles in this game and that’s a shame because I think it would have done this game good to treat puzzles like the combat, a focus on quality rather than quantity. Puzzles are disappointing, but they can lead to some nice shards and enchantments, as well as push the story forward as you successfully complete them and get access to the next area.
I’ve mostly praised the gameplay of Darksiders 3 thus far, with exception to the puzzles, but there are some things we need to discuss that aren’t that good. The biggest issue with this title is definitely performance ones. The frame rate is often times all over the place and even though it’s 30FPS on Xbox One X, it struggles to maintain that. This is odd with how nothing ever seems so extreme on screen that the system can’t handle it and the console should be able to perform the game at 60FPS, most definitely at a locked 30FPS. The game also finds itself in a situation where it’s constantly loading and if you stray too far from where the game expects you to be, it will literally stop to load. This breaks immersion, the pacing, and just ruins the experience when you’re in the zone enjoying the game. It’s another reason I often times just used the fast travel mechanic rather than running to my souls if they were a substantial distance away with a lot of enemies between them and me because the game would stop to load and can account for some of my deaths. The game has also glitched on me, nothing extravagant, with enemies becoming one with the environment and textures loading out of sequence. The biggest offender goes to the game’s camera. The camera can be wonky at times, not perform the way one expects, and become an enemy to the player. Of also encountered a few times where I would turn the camera and it would reveal unloaded parts of the map. These technical issues happened enough for me to be disappointed but never enough to ruin the game and that’s because of the strong gameplay the game has and the great character and story within. That being said, it’s unfortunate a great experience is marred by these blemishes.
The art style that has defined the series in the past makes a welcomed return in the third entry. Originally created from one of the best comic artist, Joe Madureira, the artistic approach helps the game stand out from other games. Especially in this era where the goal is usually either to be retro inspired or photorealistic. For those unfamiliar with this art style, it’s the same used in Marvel’s popular 90s comic Uncanny X-Men and in comic book turned video game Battle Chasers. It’s a wonderful style that is unique and one I hope we see more of because think it’s actually pretty impressive and translates well into this medium. Now with this art style, the game has a lot of different locations you visit. A nice, diverse, collection of areas you’ll travel to that are all crafted well. To see the lore of the game is represented well in this art style and really brings it all to life. You’ll go from broiling lava filled locations to the decaying world and other great sceneries that are visually appealing. The game didn’t have any pop in and textures, for the most part, were detailed and looked good.
When it comes to enemies, we have to start with the standouts and they come in the form of the bosses. The Sins are designed with a level of detail that could be overlooked if not careful but when you actually take the time to truly look at them, it’s great the way the team has been able to encompass their namesake into the design. A wonderful example of this is Sloth. The definition of a slothful person is someone who is lazy and unwilling to work, and this is extremely evident in the design as Sloth is literally carried everywhere, he wants to go. He is as lazy as they get. Anything that requires any effort is too tiresome for him and that’s even shown when he speaks as if talking uses too much energy. Greed, on the other hand, is always looking to take more of everything and carries a large sack on his back that is ripping at the seams. The sack is almost triple his size and is a great visual on what his character represents. Each Sin is crafted this way, with time dedicated to making each one visually amazing and connected to what they represent. All the other enemies in the game, visually striking and intimating looking, have had care put into crafting them.
When it comes to the protagonist, Fury, she is also depicted superbly. The only female member of the four horsemen of the apocalypse is covered from head to toe in armour that has a nice intricate design to it. Fury’s hair flows with the wind and, like the enemies, visually expresses who she is as a character. The armour shows that she is ready for battle and refuses to ever be, or appear, vulnerable and the flowing of the hair shows just how unworried she is about way potential dangers. A truly unique thing the game does with her design, based on a gameplay element, is the ability to change her hair colour with the touch of a button to visually signal what weapon and power you have access to at that moment. It’s a small thing that does a lot and I can appreciate using simple design choices to tell a grander tale. All the other character designs are good as well but some of the human NPCs look a little rough.
When it comes to effects, they all look great. Your eyes are always greeted with something colourful and destructive to witness. Watching how Fury’s whip cuts through the air and hits enemies, how the enemies react, and the particle effects the game generates depending on what power is used, they are all great to see. They complement the sound effects that follow them. There are a lot of effects that are at play, and in use, during the course of your playthrough. The electrical particles that fly as you use lightning infused powers and the effects they have on enemies and objects, as well as the blaze of embers and heat as you use fire styled powers are just a few of the amazing effects the game uses. This is all even grander when you see it done this effectively with this art style. The UI and menu systems in the game are all sleek and fit within the confines of what a real system like this would look and feel in this world.
Graphically, I don’t have any real complaints about Darksiders 3. This is a real wonder art style that works really well in video games and is a welcomed return. The world is great, detailed, and there is variety in locations you’ll go to. The characters are designed nicely, a display of unique and original creations. The highlights of these designs are definitely with the Sins and Fury, especially the creativity surrounding Fury’s hair. The game’s effects are also nicely implemented, and everything works together well. Not every game needs realistic graphics or a graphical style that harkens back to older games, it’s alright to be different and sometimes different is special. Darksiders, the series as a whole and especially this third entry, is, visually, special.
When you’re playing through the game, wandering through the world and not in combat, the game utilizes ambient sounds. These sounds appear here and there but in between, there is a sense of lifelessness to the world, a sense of lost despair. It works here, given the plot and the situation the world is in. Vibrant music, epic ballads, and a heavy emphasis on world sounds wouldn’t work well within the confines of the story the game is trying to tell with the world. The sound is a representation of the world, the post-apocalyptic state of the world, the empty lack of real sound reminds the player of the chaos and death the world has suffered. The small sounds here and there are little reminders that there is still live striving to survive in these conditions. For me, it works in the grand scheme of things.
With that, there is music that plays within the game. When you engage in combat, music will play to motivate your encounters and they fit well within the game. The music is never overpowering, it never detracts from the game, and it adds to the gameplay experience. You’ll notice the music start slow and slowly build and it works well as that’s usually how an encounter will play out. It complements one another well and the selection chosen is a nice range of heavy drums and musical percussions that forms excellent adrenaline raising battle theme. I was always impressed by the scores because I never expected something so grand and epic sounding. The team behind the sound design have done a great job.
Let’s get into the voice acting now because I thought it was done excellently. Beginning with our protagonist, Fury, her voice suits her character and personality. This is a woman who is bored, longing for something to do, and at the same time, she is unwilling to waste her time with other’s that cause her any form of annoyance with her short fuse. On top of that, Fury is arrogant. The way she carries herself, the way she speaks and the way fights are all with extreme confidence. The voice actor has nailed this range perfectly. I found myself pretty impressed with how she could transition quickly from feeling confident in showing sorrow. I hope she reprises her role should Fury make an appearance in another entry. Those actors who voiced the Sins all did a grand job as well, nicely capturing the feeling and personality their designs gave off. They also have different ranges and each Sin is unique in terms of how they are vocally presented. The female Watcher is also nicely done and a Stark contrast to the Watcher from the original Darksiders (who was voiced by the legendary Mark Hamill).
Overall, the sound and choices made have all been great. The only issue I found with the sound, besides one character receiving a new voice actor, was the lack of anything groundbreaking. There was nothing so grand and epic, as well as there was nothing truly memorable. The music nails its purpose in function and design, but they could have taken it to a grander level. Besides that, they did well with everything else. The voice acting, especially Fury, is done to the point where that voice, to me, is now defining of that character and anyone else wouldn’t do it quite as well. There are some dialogue pieces written that will have you scratching your head, but the cast performs them well.
The third entry in the Darksiders franchise is a welcomed return for the series. Darksiders 3 has good sound design, a great plot, challenging gameplay, and a very strong art style. The music in the game is bombastic when it needs to be, and the ambient noises capture the state of the world. Voice acting is wonderful despite some rough dialogue and voice actress Cissy Jones captures Fury completely and knocks it out of the park. The story was great, adding another layer to the grand plot first showed in the original Darksiders. With the story as an onion, each entry seems to be a layer and brings us closer to what will no doubt be a phenomenal ending in the future. The art style used in these Darksiders games is gorgeous and sticks out in the large sea of photorealistic graphics and retro-inspired games. It really enhances the whole experience and the character designs, especially with as much detail that has gone into them. I really love the creative boss designs and Fury looks like a deadly capable destroyer. The use of changing her hair colour depending on the power being utilized is a tremendous decision. I really love how each entry has used a different gameplay style and mechanics and Darksiders 3 is no different. The game is a blast to play and the boss fights are both challenging and really fun to play.