Darksiders has been a franchise that I personally have enjoyed entry to entry, even with its sometimes, annoying faults. Borrowing elements from such famous genres like Zelda and melding them with more classic RPG elements, or in the case of Darksiders III, borrowing from Dark Souls, and placing them on top of a simplistic but enjoyable story makes for a fun, no-frills kind of game. But as with all the entries in the Darksider’s franchise, there is an unavoidable amount of jankyness that finds a way to cast a poisonous penumbra around nearly every aspect of an otherwise solid title that is hard to ignore. For Darksiders III, this a bit of toxic essence of jank that is present in all Darksider games expands slightly further than previous entries, but beneath those issues exists a game with a strong foundation that can be hard to put down.
Darksiders III, as mentioned above, tries to borrow elements from the Dark Souls series this time around. This places a heavier emphasis on making more calculated decisions and trying to avoid damage whenever possible. However, it becomes quickly apparent that this design decision clashes with the concept of Darksiders as a whole. In this entry, you play as Fury, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse who is sent on a mission to capture the seven deadly sins who have escaped during the events that take place in the earlier entries. As one of the four horsemen, you are supposed to be some of the strongest beings of the entire universe, but by adopting this Dark Souls style gameplay, Fury quickly seems like one of the weakest. During my playthrough, I played on the difficulty level Challenging (the 3rd difficulty level out of 6) and it became quickly apparent that these enemies hit like trucks. A few wrong moves and my health bar would quickly go from full, down to just a sliver.
Now, I have been a Dark Souls player for some time now, and I have also dabbled in other extreme action games such as Devil May Cry and Bayonetta. Suffice it to say, I know my way around a game that requires good timing, but Darksiders III makes it difficult. In games like Dark Souls, enemy attacks are well telegraphed so the player knows when to move out of the way, parry, or block. In Darksiders III, seeing these clues can be a strain on one’s eye. Darksiders was originally a more action-focused game that took inspiration from Zelda’s level design. Players were expected to chain combos, dodge, attack, and if you got hit, you could shrug it off and take a few more if it came down to it—it was important to dodge but one or two misses wouldn’t kill you. Because you had more health than a typical Dark Souls game, it was ok that attacks were flashy and sometimes not the easiest to see, in Darksiders III, this isn’t the case. All those enjoyable attacks that combo together can bring about tons of different colors, animations, and effects, easily getting in the way of actually seeing attacks and having an opportunity to dodge properly. This created several frustrating moments while playing, that instead of taking the route of a Dark Souls player and attempting to learn their patterns, resulting in me simply using my big attacks that can’t be used frequently to force my way forward.
The combat system feels like it is conflicting with itself. It has the solid bones of the previous entries’ combat systems, but on top of it, there is an additionally harsh layer regarding dodging enemy attacks that don’t fit with the rest of the game. The flow of combat and graphics actively work against your ability to avoid damage, which can be frustrating. Not just for the fact that it makes it difficult for the player, but that outside of this system, the combat is the same enjoyable self it has always been through the series, being almost akin to the earlier Devil May Cry entries but more refined. I felt like I was constantly fighting two different systems that were attempting to reign supreme.
It’s this contrasting but partially incompatible delivery of these systems that can be seen throughout Darksiders III as a whole, even in how it tries to take elements from previous entries. In Darksiders II there was an emphasis on equipment through finding and creating new gear to wear that helped aid Death, the protagonist, through his journey. In Darksiders, there were no character levels, just weapon levels that grew the more you used them. As for Darksiders III, it tries to blend parts of each but fails to gain any of the benefits in the process. Weapons can level up, but they come from resources you find while exploring rather than use, restricting how far weapons can be leveled and leaving only one real choice (your whip) as the recipient of most upgrade materials. On a different front, with the lack of armor and weapons to upgrade and change like Darksiders II, leveling up lacks any true sense of growing your character. Every level I earned felt like just a slight improvement in my stats that were, arguably, hard to feel the difference between. But again, even though these faults, Darksiders III is still a game with a strong structure.
The story, which while incredibly light, took me back to a universe that has been dormant for some time, and I was just happy to be back. Fury as a character isn’t much different from the other horsemen in her demeanor, but rather its those around her that fail to deliver. War and Death—the past protagonists—were not much for speaking, but the characters around them were the ones who provided the narrative for these stoic horsemen. Fury, unfortunately, wasn’t provided the same luxury, but once more, the characters are there. They still provide context to her character and the story far more than Fury ever could, it just fails to reach the same levels as the first two entries in the series. If there was one or maybe even two characters that had a consistent or meaningful interaction throughout the game it would have lifted the story to new heights, but, unfortunately, such characters were missing.
The world of Darksiders III, thankfully, has remained consistent. Areas are diverse, each having their own flavor and feeling to them, largely being linked to the sin you are currently pursuing. This can be best seen most notably in the later areas, where each land has distinct rules and mechanics only available there that also make use of all the powers you have collected on your journey. One of my personal favorites was in, for lack of a better term, the toxic wastelands, consisting of pools of poison water and dilapidated machinery that the Angels has made as one of their basis of operations. It gave a true sense of the apocalyptic nature of the world with that iconic Darksiders’ touch that I have enjoyed since the series inception.
In the end, Darksiders III, is a weaker version of both Darksiders and Darksiders II. There is nothing terribly wrong with it, but there are all these little things that add up to make the experience worse than it could be. If the combat had a more defined objective. If the characters surrounding Fury were more fleshed out to better serve her story. If the game overall better represented earlier entries in the series. Perhaps then, Darksiders III could have been a great game. In the end, my experience Darksiders III was still enjoyable, I just wish it was more, especially as an entry into a franchise that has been long dormant. However in my experience, sometimes you just need to finish what you started so you could move on to the next, better thing.
I know I certainly needed to move on from this article to something better; perhaps Darksiders III was the same and just needed to be done so we could move on to Darksiders IV.