Darksiders 3 Review: Perfectly Adequatesiders Edition
Game hype is a funny thing when it comes to long-running series, especially those finally releasing a new entry. Sometimes you wait years and lose 100 hours of your life to Red Dead Redemption 2. Sometimes you wait years and get Duke Nukem Forever.
Smack dab in the middle of that spectrum is Darksiders 3, the long-awaited sequel where we finally get to play as Horseman Fury while the apocalypse ravages earth.
Not an actively terrible game and certainly not a great one either, this third entry is the textbook definition of a perfectly adequate, run-of-the-mill action title that doesn't particularly stand out in any way.
Returning To An Old Friend... Who Is Less Interesting Than You Remembered
Let's start with graphics and aesthetics.
Darksiders 3 maintains the Darksiders style with the same distinctive character design on full display -- well, for every character besides Fury, who just looks like a Marvel superhero most of the time.
The locations where you battle demons, elementals, angels, and terrifying little cannibal fairy children are appropriately varied. You'll hack and slash your way through subway tunnels covered in egg clutches, ancient lava-filled catacombs, fungus-riddled caves, and overgrown apocalyptic skyscrapers.
The story unraveling between the whip cracking and sword slashing isn't really even worth mentioning. Fury is angry and wants to punch things, so she gets sent to Earth to hunt down the seven deadly sins. All of these demonic fisticuffs take place during the same time as the first game while War is trying to prove his innocence and before Death goes off on his fantasy adventure from the second game.
Fury is probably the least interesting of the four Horsemen so far, as her motivation boils down to, "I'm bored, let's fight". She weirdly goes from hating humanity and not caring if it is eradicated to trying to save all the adorable little babies so fast you'll get whiplash.
It's a mess, but you can't really expect much coherence from a universe that includes dwarves, magic users, demons, and a modern-day apocalypse all rolled into one setting.
Bare Bones Game Design
Apart from the visual style, Darksiders 3 sees a noticeable downgrade from the previous game. Nearly everything has been extremely simplified and boiled down to the series' base components.
Those addictive RPG elements that made Darksiders 2 stand out are mostly gone. Sometimes simplifying and removing unnecessary roleplaying mechanics make for a better experience (Mass Effect 2, anyone?) but here it really detracts from the overall gameplay.
Fury can utilize a few limited upgrades to her equipment that are mostly "deal more damage" or "heal a little over time." The main changes in style instead take place when you switch between different Hollow forms, going from fire to ice and so on.
Besides letting you access new areas, each form changes your attack type. With five very basic forms, there are far fewer overall options when compared to the wider variety of combos and weapon choices in the previous game.
This time around, you get three stats: health, damage, and "arcane," which is just the damage you deal while counter-attacking. I'm not sure why the developers tried to dress that up as somehow being a magic stat, because it most decidedly isn't.
But here we are.
There were also repeated statements from the developer that Fury is more of a mage-focused ranged character, and that is also the clear and direct antithesis to what's found here. She's up-close melee through and through, just more fragile.
You won't start to notice it until bigger enemies show up about two hours in, but there's been a shift toward more of a Souls-style combat. Fury doesn't have stamina to manage, but she's super squishy and battle heavily revolves around memorizing attack patterns so you can counter at the right times instead of dying immediately.
There's one big, glaring, obvious problem in inserting that style of battle into a fast-paced action title -- it actually slows down combat, which is a terrible design choice for a combo-heavy action game.
You won't crash into a group of enemies with your chain-whips slashing wildly, trying to rack up 99 hits anymore. Instead, you'll cautiously go against one opponent at a time and wait for them to attack first so you can counter, doing your best to avoid groups of foes (who will quickly overwhelm you).
This change honestly feels like a culling of elements so the developers had to do less rather than implement changes that were actually needed. For example, the minimap is entirely gone. In most cases that doesn't matter, because Darksiders 3 is much more linear and less open than its predecessor, so it quickly becomes a glaring problem.
Most of the platforming -- an intricate part of the puzzle solving in Darksiders 2 -- is also completely gone. The few instances that remain aren't exactly awe-inspiring, and the timed puzzles combined with a finicky ledge grabbing system just aren't particularly fun.
If you are keen to continue the next part of the Darksiders saga, I'd recommend doing so on console, as this entry doesn't seem particularly well optimized for PC. The error message above before getting dumped back to my desktop was probably the most frustrating puzzle to overcome (something you shouldn't have to navigate on console).
So now the big question is, "Is this game worth paying $60 for on release day?"The answer to that question is a big old hell no, son!
At best, this is a weekend rental. It also seems like a pretty good bet Darksiders 3 will be free on Xbox via Games With Gold within a year or so and either on PS+ or PlayStation Now around the same time.
Save your money and pick up something with better design unless you are the most diehard, obsessed Darksiders fan in existence.
+ Unique character designs remain interesting to gawk at
+ Varied atmosphere and style in levels
+ You get to kill tiny fairy cannibal children, angels, and demons all in one game
– Extremely bare bones weapon, stat, and upgrade systems
– Slow paced Souls-style combat doesn't improve the series at all
– Crashes and stutters frequently on PC version
[Note: The developer provided a copy of Darksiders 3 for the purposes of this review.]