- Developer: Gunfire Games
- Release Date: November 27, 2018
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
The original Darksiders and its equally competent sequel were two unique hallmarks of the last generation, boasting a fun, quirky visual aesthetic and a gameplay formula that shifted before the player’s eyes. Drawing inspiration from such a wide range of other titles, it constantly kept the player guessing as they explored dungeons amidst a battered, post-apocalyptic world.
Gunfire Games’ third instalment tries to do much of the same, stopping to adopt a splicing of modern mechanics along the way. It does so with mixed results as its combat fumbles between a Souls-esque dependance on timely accuracy and the relentless hack ‘n’ slash antics of Devil May Cry.
Exploration suffers a similar fate from what I’ve seen, trading previously sprawling, open environments for claustrophobic subway tunnels that simply don’t gel with the fast foes you’ll encounter. After spending 90 minutes with a recent preview build, I’m left cautious, if still excited about where this threequel will go.
You play as Fury, a sister of the Four Horsemen, stars of previous Darksiders outings. Taking place parallel to the events of other games, you’ll explore a decimated vision of Earth on a mission to murder personifications of The Seven Deadly Sins.
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My demo began atop a narrow cliff situated inside a subway system long overtaken by paranormal arachnids and other morbid creatures. All of them are hostile, immediately engaging the player regardless of whether you see them or not. This brings to light one of Darksiders 3’s biggest problems: the camera.
It simply isn’t good, and the speedy nature of enemies means you’re frequently dealt damage from threats out of sight. It’s also detrimental to the tight, melodic combat you’re encouraged to engage. R1/RT activates a dodge, and if done perfectly, slows time for a brief second.
Sadly, once out of this animation, you’re immediately vulnerable to damage and powerless to stop an onslaught of attacks. I met an untimely death several times due to situations I was powerless to stop, pinned up against the wall by a camera that didn’t work in tight spaces, making it difficult to see monsters coming or fight more than one at any given time. A shame, since combat is quite fun!
Fury can use a multitude of weapons, the primary one being a fiery whip capable of slashing foes to pieces both at range and up close and personal. It’s a beautifully designed piece of her arsenal, complemented by a range of secondary weapons such as a colossal hammer capable of slamming enemies into nothing.
There’s ample room for experimentation thanks to customisable runes and movesets for almost all equipment. Once again, Gunfire Games is eager to combine a traditional hack ‘n’ slash outing with a robust role-playing experience, and the third instalment doubles down on such things.
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You can engage enemies using light and heavy attacks, both of which can be buffed using items assigned to the D-Pad, such as Strength Shards that temporarily increase damage. A fairly routine system is enhanced somewhat by different movesets, although I sincerely hope there’s a meaningful upgrade path, as this will grow stale very quickly otherwise. One is hinted at when stumbling across shrines that are very reminiscent of Dark Souls’ iconic use of Bonfires.
Restricted during my demo, here you can fast-travel, purchase goods and level up your character using what I can only describe as ‘souls’. Obtained from fallen foes, this currency is yours for the taking unless you’re killed, then you’ll need to fetch it from the vicinity of your fallen corpse. You won’t lose anything for dying several times, as evidenced by me stumbling around and finding 10,000+ from many of my failed attempts.
Providing me with such ample forgiveness negated pressure I’d otherwise feel to obtain my precious experience. Combine that with encounters which, at this point, feel unbalanced, and it makes journeying out to retrieve them a waste of time. Granted, this could improve massively once I’m out in the open world and no longer constrained by uninspiring locales.
The 90 minutes I spent with Darksiders 3 concluded as I confronted Sloth, one of The Seven Deadly Sins. Depicted as a grotesquely lethargic bug literally held up by an army of creepy crawlies as he sits atop a rotting chair, he despises Fury and what she stands for, laughing in the face of the goals she hopes to accomplish. Not messing around, this quickly descends into a fun yet rudimentary boss battle.
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My first task was to topple Sloth from his aforementioned throne, forcing him to stop lazing around and fight me like a bug! After this, the key to victory was memorising a fairly simplistic sequence of attacks, dealing damage as I went. After a few minutes, I emerged victorious, triggering a cutscene that expresses the no-nonsense attitude of our heroine. “That’s enough exercise for a lifetime,” the deity shrieked as I began to absorb his soul.
Gunfire Games told me at Gamescom 2018 that you will be free to tackle The Seven Deadly Sins in Darksiders 3 in whatever order you wish, choosing which areas you venture to and bosses you fight. Your level and the capabilities of enemies scale alongside one another so you should seldom stumble into areas filled with overpowered foes eager to one-shot you. Knowing that few will experience Darksiders 3 in the same way is exciting – if the full world is one truly worth exploring.
I’m not sold on Darksiders 3 yet, partly because my time with it thus far has been relegated to generic subway tunnels when a much wider, more ambitious world is being teased above.
Combat is very similar to previous entries, yet seems to trip over itself when trying to adopt modern mechanics from far better action titles. It’s lacking its own identity, a sad reality for a series adored by so many.
There’s a lot of unfulfilled potential here, and I really hope Darksiders 3 rises to match it when the November 2018 release comes around.