No Darksiders has been quite the same as the one before it: as Hoody Link, you hacked and problem-solved your way through dungeons in the first one; skill trees and loot added some depth to number two. Obviously, then, the third Horseman-fronted fun time had to make some alterations to the hack-and-slash formula, didn’t it? Thing is, the biggest change is so unreasonably punishing that it draws frustration, and aptly, fury. Like the main character. Who is also called Fury.
Soulslikes are a tricky proposition: challenge the player enough so they’re satisfied after downing a tough adversary, or ensure they’re compelled to take learnings from a previous encounter into battle upon resurrection. Darksiders 3 doesn’t do that. Death is losing 20 or so minutes of progression because an unfairly powerful swarm of grunts pop out of nowhere, kill you with three or four quick shots, and send you back to a faraway checkpoint without your amassed souls. It’s disheartening more than encouraging.
With acidic gobs coming from demons over there, and hefty sword swipes from the ones here, you generally end up cartwheeling your way around the environment like a panicky gymnast, hoping you fluke the timing of your dodge just right so you can pounce with your brutal counter. It becomes more manageable the more you upgrade Fury, and your weapons, but enemies are never less than formidable, no more than absolutely rock hard, and often a headache.
One-on-ones require a tad more strategy, with time afforded to study tells before you go on the offensive. The button-mashy combat isn’t half-bad for the first few hours, either; in an era of sometimes bamboozling depth, a video game that invites you to hammer X loads for your primary weapon, and Y a ton for your secondary, is quite refreshing. Darksiders 3 outstays its welcome, though, so enthusiasm for the simplicity is quashed as the hours tick away, and you’re left craving something deeper. Any minor level of complexity is in progression through the world, and comes by way of your periodically accrued Hollows.
As well as weapons and Wrath abilities, Hollows give you new ways to access previously undiscovered areas; for example, you can equip the Flame Hollow to reach higher platforms with your improved leap, or use your fiery chains to burn webbing away from blocked doorways. Later puzzles, which are rarely too taxing, are occasionally enjoyable when you’ve got the full complement of Hollows, and utilise a number of them for the solution. And that’s Darksiders 3: when it goes with you, when it doesn’t fight against you, it can provide something worthwhile. You have to go with the story, though.
Darksiders 3 takes place at the same time as the two previous games, so the apocalypse has occurred (oops), and the universe’s governing body, The Charred Council, has tasked the lady Horseman with capturing the Seven Deadly Sins in her Ghostbuster amulet. Scattered across this battered land, the Sins have taken the form of the absurd and/or the deeply metal: an old dear of an overweight maggot-crab; a breathy woman with excellent cheekbones and earrings from Claire’s Accessories; and a muscular, hulking ball of genericism. The script is as over-the-top as the characters and premise, so if you’re in the market for campy wallop, this will do the trick. It’s adequately effective, complete bollocks.
Far too often, though, the whole thing falls apart when you’re on the hunt for these Deadlies. Creating an interconnected space that opens up with each new ability is tried and trusted, but when as poorly implemented as it is here, I’m left thinking a more concentrated model should’ve been considered. Your compass is your guide, and steers you in the direction of the next big bad you have to take out. Sometimes it’ll guide you along the path like a hellish GPS, leading you by the hand by indicating right and left turns; other times it’ll skip that part and point right towards where you need to be, forcing you to fumble your way there. This inconsistency, as well as a lack of even subtle signposting in areas, means it’s easy to get confused, and ultimately lost. A map would’ve helped matters, because the world doesn’t do a good enough job by itself.
While I can’t speak for how it performs on console, it’s pretty solid on PC. Freezes became more frequent with each new location, however, and loading screens more common and lengthy. After one hard crash, I tried to load my game again and got sent back to the title screen almost straight away. I was stuck in a really cruel loop where I was implored to study the logo and nothing else Darksiders 3 had to offer. I was just lucky I had a copy of my save, so I didn’t lose too much progress.
There’s something here. Underneath the muddled layout of architecture and a combat system that’s ultimately lacking, there is something here. Fiddling about with Hollows for a puzzle solution can be okay, and analysing an enemy’s patterns before raging on them isn’t half bad in a duel-like setting. But then you die, cheaply, and, if only for a brief moment, understand true fury.
Developer: Gunfire Games
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Available on: PC [reviewed on], PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release date: November 27, 2018
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