Retrospective Reviews

Darksiders III: A Retrospective​ Review

on 5th January 2010, a new IP dropped onto my radar that promised 'the Legend of Zelda' gameplay mechanics in a post-apocalyptic setting. Oh, and you played as one of the Four Horseman, War. What's not to like about that idea?

Darksiders I was a brilliant success and loved by A-RPG fans worldwide, it was also a much-needed rest from the then repetitive formula Zelda titles were leaning on (And from Skyward Swords terrible mechanics).

14th August 2012 saw Darksiders II release, this time helmed by ‘Death’. DS2 changed up the original formula with monsters dropping loot which Death could then equip or sell whilst keeping the dungeon structure of Darksiders I. Again, it was a brilliant outing into the war between Heaven and Hell and the cover-ups in between.

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Death Comes For Us All…

Unfortunately, 2012 was also the death knell for THQ as they filled for chapter 11 bankruptcy in August of that year. Which was sad due to the number of industry professionals out of work and more so due to the uncertain future of the Darksiders franchise.

Nordic games snapped up the THQ brand along with a couple of their remaining IPs including Darksiders that same month, naturally becoming THQ Nordic from then on.

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THQ Nordic has obviously always had a keen interest in their then newly acquired IP, with Darksiders I and II receiving the remaster treatment for the current generation of consoles, which went down smoothly.

As I’m sure my readers have noticed, developers and publishers like to test the waters of old IP by remaking their back catalogue first. It makes sense, as the hype was off the charts when Darksiders III was announced exclusively by IGN on 2nd May 2017 (Wait, didn’t Amazon reveal it first? #leaks):

Gunfire Didn’t Hold a Vigil For Long…

Placed in the capable hands of ex-Vigil staff (Original Darksiders developers) under 2014 formed studio Gunfire Games, Darksiders III revealed a new protagonist, ‘Fury’ the HorseWoman. Set against the backdrop of Darksiders II and Fury’s chained up brother, War, Fury is tasked with destroying the physical incarnations of the seven deadly sins. OH, how the hype ensued!

Fast Forward to 27th November 2018 and players finally have the long-anticipated third instalment of the Darksiders series. It’s a brilliant feeling and a release I am more than thankful for, but a few things have changed.

Naturally, the series is going to evolve slightly given that there has been a 6-year gap between Darksiders II and III. That being said, the adjustments feel foreign to the series on first impressions.

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The Darkside of Darksiders?

Fury’s outing into the ruined landscapes of Earth and beyond has slower paced rewards than the two games previous. For example, Fury’s first powerup isn’t found until a couple of hours into the campaign. The combo system for the first portion of the game is largely mapped to mashing X (Xbox One) until a power-up is bestowed to mix things up a little.

Dodging, hits and movement feel a little off and delayed on first impressions, leaving my muscle memory I’ve saved up in previous instalments a shambles. A good example would be the titles first boss battle which involves quite a bit of jumping and well-timed hits. My button input was slightly delayed in comparison to my on-screen actions which was originally very disheartening, this is a game many of us have been waiting for over half a decade for!

But I stuck with it and took the mechanical changes with a pinch of salt. Spending souls to buy buffs, level up and manage a dumbed down skill tree focusing on Health, Physical Damage and Arcane Damage would be a handful of examples.

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A Strange Adjustment Period

After 4/5 hours of gameplay, I came to the realisation that I was looking at Darksiders III with the nostalgia classes I have handy for its previous instalments. In a world full of complex open environments, endless skill trees and details to take into consideration, it is tremendously satisfying to just kick back, switch off and play a good challenging 3D Platformer.

Darksiders III acknowledges its roots by providing upgradable weapons and the occasional power-up, but the tree that has blossomed from said roots is simply something that’s fun to play. Looking back, I have 2 HD remasters of games I have played and loved. Why would I want a copy of them?

Gunfire games have successfully reinvented Darksiders as the go-to 3D Platformer of this generation, much like titles such as ‘Legacy of Kain – Soul Reever’ in its heyday. No, it’s not going to win Game of the Year, and yes it will probably piss off the die-hard fans of the franchise, of which I was originally guilty of.

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Curing a Fanboy

When Darksiders I released, the industry was abuzz with technical prowess and how big and complex a game can be built in the name of immersion. Darksiders III has been set loose in a saturated market full of expansive and detailed experiences. Again, why do we need another one?

Save points can be punishing but situational respawns make up the pain one has suffered when one falls off a ledge of misses a swinging jump. Save points also serve as wormholes for convenient backtracking when needed. Enemies have a nice range of difficulty, which naturally spikes with boss battles but is complemented by pseudo bosses just to test Furys metal.

The presentation of Darksiders III is also a job well done, with physics and frame rates behaving whilst keeping up with every movement of Fury’s hair. I tried playing in both 1080p and 4K out of curiosity, and one found a considerable amount of motion blur on the 1080p playthrough. 4K, on the other hand, looked incredible without a detail out of place.

The voice acting in Darksiders III is spot on and never ventures into the realm of wood and cheese, which is so easily done in fantasy settings such as Darksiders. The sound engineering is also a job well done, a great example is turning the volume up anytime Fury is pile driven through a floor or surface. Every clank, crash and thump can he heard which astounded me.

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Verdict:

Graphics: 9
Presentation:8.5
Gameplay: 7
Sound: 10

Overall score: 8.6/10

Without spoiling too much of the narrative, Fury’s story is a tale worth experiencing. Fans of the original titles need to take note of the change in direction for Darksiders III and run with it, from there I can safely say players will not be disappointed. Darksiders III provides the same challenges and lore it has always provided but has slimmed down into a manageable yet enjoyable 3D Platformer with light RPG elements.

Format: Xbox One X (reviewed), PlayStation 4 and PC
Price: £44.99 (Xbox Store)
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Gunfire Games
Age Rating: 16+

Release Date: 27/11/2018

Review copy provided by publisher

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