Darksiders finally makes its debut on the current generation of consoles, bringing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse into the 4K generation, but the question is, was the wait for the end of days worth it?
If you’ve been following the nearly decade old series, you’ll know that each game focuses on a different Horseman of the Apocalypse – War in Darksiders, Death in Darksiders 2, and now Fury in Darksiders 3. Technically a Horsewoman, Fury is impatient and impulsive, which puts her at odds with the other Horsemen (perhaps Horsepeople is a more appropriate term?).
Tasked with trying to capture the Seven Deadly Sins that War released during the events of the first game, you set off to defeat their physical forms and imprison them within the Talisman of Sin. Assigned a Watcher by the Charred Council, whom essentially serves as a babysitter to Fury and a devil’s advocate to the player, Fury sets off on her journey that quickly takes a turn, developing from capturing the Seven Deadly Sins into finding out just who is pulling the strings and manipulating the events of the last 2 games (and as a result, her fellow Horsemen) to their advantage.
To be honest, this is where things got a bit murky for me. Having played the previous entries in the series, even I was a bit hazy on the details, and Darksiders III would benefit from having some brief reminder of the story so far. Returning players might quickly pick up the main points, but newbies to the series might have a bit of catching up to do in order to fully understand the machinations at work.
As a stand-alone entry, the game itself is fun, but, if you want to fully appreciate the goings-on, you are going to have to reacquaint, or if this is your first entry, acquaint yourself with the who’s who and what’s going on a little bit more than the game provides. That being said, I didn’t feel too lost and could simply appreciate the go there do this find them nature of the game and enjoy it without being overburdened with back story. By the same token, that just means I didn’t feel invested enough to care.
- Developer: Gunfire Games
- Release Date: November 27th, 2018
- Price: $59.99/£44.99/€44.99
The menu is quite big and clunky – no slick skill tree or inventory here. This makes it easy to navigate as a result, and it is clearly designed as being somewhere you don’t need to spend a lot of time in perusing statistics and items.
Combat is quick and satisfying with most combos tied to the square button. As combos rely so heavily on one button, many of them require timing or need certain conditions met to initiate, meaning certain moves require a little finesse in order to avoid combat becoming repetitive, as you just constantly bash the basic attack. Mixing this up with the dodge button (tied to R1 and Triangle) once you unlock the Chains of Scorn works well enough, and skirmishes are more often than not quick and enjoyable. Once mastered, combos are satisfying and look and feel powerful when executed.
Dodging is a critical move in your arsenal that I quickly learned to utilise early on. Nailing a perfect dodge allows Fury to pull off some fairly devastating attacks that can turn the tide of a battle if used successfully. It’s critical to get to know each enemy type and recognise when they are about to attack, timing your dodge so that the window to counterattack opens up.
One of my minor gripes with combat is how healing items are used. Combat in Darksiders III is fast and furious, and often many enemies will swarm Fury and attack at once, requiring a bit of crowd control in many tense situations. Mastering the combat system early on is crucial, but so too is knowing when to use health or other items, such as the Thorn Shard, which returns damage to the inflictor or the Frenzy shard which temporary improves attack speed. Using them at the right moment can turn the course of a battle in your favour.
These items are all well and good, but my moan comes in that the animation, and, specifically, the healing animation that takes place whenever you activate a health shard, is simply too slow. In order to heal or in fact use any of the Shards you find on your travels, you press up on the d-pad which causes Fury to break the shard and enjoy the potent goodness trapped within it. When all is calm and the world is peaceful, fine, Fury, you take as much time as you need to crush that shard and enjoy the benefits. But when I’m mid-battle and on the verge of dying, surrounded by demonic minions that want my head, I want you to crush that shard as quickly as physically possible to prevent my untimely demise. Far too often, I would be in a position where I needed to heal myself and fight into a relatively safe position where I could use a health shard, only for one lucky rapscallion to sneak in under my radar and deal a killing blow, as I was mid-recovery.
Some may argue this is down to my poor ability or judgement, activating a healing shard when it is still not safe enough to do so, but this is simply not the case. Using items just doesn’t feel responsive enough here, and, when it does work, the whole animation takes a split second too long in a game where combat is so fast and decisive. Granted, this is a minor gripe but an annoying one when it can quite literally make the difference between life and death.
Fury’s main weapon is the Barbs of Scorn, a whip that she can use to inflict damage and pull enemies towards her. Fury can also use it to traverse the environment, leaping larger gaps by whipping an overhang and swinging across, or later a double jump, glide, and even a magnetic ability that lets you scale certain gem covered walls all come into use. As in previous instalments, many areas are locked behind barriers or obstacles that require certain abilities or items in order to overcome. Some of these are a bit on the nose, such as mystical barriers that need to be destroyed or gaps that you can’t currently jump, but this trope is seen so often in games now it is becoming par for the course. I would see one and think to myself “oo, I’ll have to come back here at some point” before moving on, relatively unconcerned with what lay beyond.
The fact that you have to return to these areas is made less of a chore after encountering Vulgrim, a merchant who not only allows you to spend the souls you acquire from fallen enemies to essentially buy attribute points, but who also gives you access to Serpent Holes, which act as Darksiders III’s fast travel network. Hidden away in the shop menu, the fast travel system is one that is easy to overlook, which was something I did to my detriment.
Early on, you meet Ulthane, a human hiding out in Haven who offers to help you by upgrading your weapons, provided you send any humans you encounter his way. I met this character, then promptly forgot all about him. It wasn’t until I encountered a mid-game boss that kept kicking my backside that I thought I was missing something and remembered that he offered to upgrade my weapons as long as I had enough artefacts for the work. Since I had collected so many, I was able to upgrade my weapons 4 times when I returned, but, without any map or other gaming pointers that we have come to rely on, I completely forgot all about this human blacksmith and ploughed through the game for a good chunk of time with the base weapons.
Dying in Darksiders III is a pain. Not only is it frustrating to die and lose your progress, but the way checkpoints work in Darksiders III is frustrating to say the least. For a start they feel decidedly uneven. Some checkpoints (in the form of Vulgrim’s shops, which appear as circular tiles on the floor) are quite close together between relatively easy sections of gameplay. Others, meanwhile, are spread out across vast distances. At times you might feel like you’ve done lots only to die and revisit an earlier section and have it all to do again. Sometimes I would play for good chunks of time to die and respawn at such an earlier stage, that I would have to take a second to remember which direction I was headed, as it had been so long since I’d passed through that area.
Not only that, but say you encounter a tough enemy that wipes the smug grin off your face and kicks your ass. Fine. Such a thing is to be expected in any hack-and-slasher, and you’ll get them next time. No problem. Except you will most likely restart at an earlier section, along with any enemies you defeated along the way. So not only will you have to encounter the enemy that gave you a licking again, but the enemies that you encountered on the way and probably aided in your defeat will be back for second helpings too.
This is a challenge that some of you might come to expect and even welcome, but it does get frustrating, especially if you defeat a particularly tough enemy only to fall at a weaker one because of a silly mistake (or more likely a slow healing animation). At that point, you have to restart again and try to defeat the tougher enemy all over again.
Luckily the souls you collect and subsequently drop upon death are available to be collected again should you return to the place where you died, and any environmental obstacles or puzzles will remain solved. This can help in getting back to where you perished a little bit quicker the second (or third/fourth/fifth) time you need to do it.
Some of the environmental puzzles themselves are a bit on the frustrating side, requiring precise timing as opposed to any skill or advanced cognitive abilities. The timing can be a little tricky, which results in you spending a little longer than intended on a puzzle, even when it is obvious what you are required to do. When combined with the uneven checkpoint system, this becomes a little bit more frustrating than it should be.
As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t a map in Darksiders III, so navigating the environment becomes a bit confusing at times. Often you’ll come upon an area you have already visited, but without any clue as to where to go next. Your objective is highlighted at the top of the screen, with each of the Seven Deadly Sins you are tasked with tracking down appearing as a different coloured Skull on a compass that rotates according to the direction you are facing. This Skull dictates the direction you should take in order to encounter the next boss, but in certain areas this system becomes more confusing then helpful. Do I take the top path or the bottom one? Do I have to get across that ravine, or backtrack and find another way around?
One rather open section had the skull directly ahead of me across a large gap too big to jump across, so I couldn’t take the direct route. Instead, I had to detour through a warehouse, back outside, back through the warehouse, and through a cave, which all took time and a bit of trial and error to find. The whole time I was thinking I was heading in the direction and pretty much gave up. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived opposite the area I had spent so long trying to work my way around earlier.
Unlocking abilities and equipment that further opens new areas is rewarding and helps with this somewhat. If you’re anything like me, you will err on the cautious side in case you miss any valuable collectable or secret hidden nearby, or you just simply end up heading the wrong way as I did a few times. Getting back on track didn’t really take too long, but it can be a nuisance when you head off and make good progress only to die and reset at a much earlier checkpoint, or realise you were heading off in the wrong direction entirely.
Equally, without a map, the fast travel network becomes a bit redundant as other than a picture that shows you your intended destination and its name, a lot of the areas look rather similar, and it becomes hard to distinguish between them. Do I want to return to the Accessway or the Hatchling Cesspool? I can remember where I need to return when I see it, but the pictures alone don’t do enough to differentiate between many of the areas to be of any use.
Exploration is an important aspect in Darksiders III, but sometimes it does get a little bit repetitive and at times frustrating should you clear a particularly tough area only for you to return later and have to do it all again when the enemies respawn. Luckily, platforming and exploring are fun, particularly as you unlock more abilities. There is also no shame in running away should an enemy prevent you from making any progress. Well, that’s what I kept telling myself anyway.
Gameplay is relatively stable, but a few times during my playthrough the game suffered some slight pop-in as it had to load the next area. This would cause Fury to pause in mid-movement. This could happen at any point as I transitioned from one section to the next, and it didn’t matter if I was walking, swinging, or mid-attack. The game would freeze for a few seconds and then continue as if nothing had happened, which only succeeded in pulling me out of the whole experience. Also, I did experience one system crash and another when the sound cut out entirely.
To be honest, I did enjoy the time I spent playing Darksiders III, even if I found myself frustrated more times than I would care to admit. Combat and exploration on the whole are fun, and overcoming a difficult section or enemy does fill you with a certain sense of accomplishment. A simple levelling system stops you from getting bogged down with minute details. This means you can focus primarily on the action, and, although the storyline does continue the lore laid out by the previous games in the series, it is not crucial that you understand every twist and turn.
Minor gripes aside, I enjoyed returning to the world of Darksiders. Hopefully, there won’t be as long to wait, before the Fourth horsemen Strife gets his time to shine.
Darksiders III PS4 Review
Darksiders III is a quick and frantic hack-n-slasher that relies on rapid reflexes and, at times, a lot of patience to overcome. Some minor frustrations don't take away from the overall experience, and new and returning fans of the franchise are sure to find something to like with this third entry in the series.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using base PS4.
Stuart has had a long and lengthy love affair with video games, since he first woke up to find Santa had left him a Sega Master System complete with Alex the Kidd built in no less. Since then, his thumbs have become calloused and he has missed many a nights sleep in the pursuit of those elusive “5 more minutes…” but his love has never wavered.