Darksiders fans have been patiently waiting in the sequel waiting room for a good while. Sitting alongside devotees of the Portals and F-Zeros of the world with fingers crossed, hoping their beloved franchise gets a third entry. THQ Nordic’s revival of the “Dark Zelda” series has certainly been a long-awaited one, and there’s a lot of expectation riding on Gunfire Games, the developers taking the reigns on Darksiders 3. Thankfully, the end product is a solid one that’s sure to please those looking for something fresh and challenging.
Darksiders 3 continues the trend of rotating through the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse game-by-game, landing us with Fury. The hot-headed, whip-wielding heroine is worthy of her namesake, with Cissy Jones’ suitably intimidating performance bringing her to life effectively. Her arrogant and self-assured demeanor might grate on some people initially. While her early quips occasionally making your eyes roll, the story establishes that she’s overly confident and naive. However, Fury’s character arc is ultimately a satisfying one and watching her slowly come around on the truth behind things is the most engaging and rewarding part of the story.
The narrative takes place alongside the previous games. Although it's somewhat hard to tell since Darksiders 3 doesn’t pay much attention to the events of the previous games. There are characters that players will recognize, like Vulgrim the greedy merchant and Ulthane the Maker, but don’t expect to see a great deal of the other Horsemen. Fury’s brothers and fellow Horsemen War and Death don't see a great deal of screen time. War is still imprisoned following the events of Darksiders, and Death is “off attending to other business”. Strife is also around, but there’s not much of him either. The Charred Council summons Fury and tasks her with slaying the Seven Deadly Sins in order to restore balance to the world. It’s a straightforward setup, but it makes way for a fun and memorable adventure.
The world of Darksiders 3 feels pretty lifeless, and not just because it’s the end of the world. There are a few characters that you’ll come across, but you can’t really talk to them. They’re mostly just there to serve a function. The Demon merchant Vulgrim and your Watcher companion are the only exceptions to this. Vulgrim will engage you in conversation periodically, and Fury and her Watcher are constantly interacting. The interactions between Fury and her Watcher are interesting and their dynamic is fun to watch, but there’s a whole lot of missed opportunity throughout the world.
Ulthane the Maker, for example, serves a narrative purpose, but functionally he’s just there to upgrade your weapons and enchantments. He runs a place called Haven, which is essentially a refugee camp for surviving humans. Early on, he asks you to return any humans you come across back to Haven. Rescuing these humans will reward you with some minor gameplay benefits if you collect enough of them, but it otherwise feels pointless and very arbitrary.
The humans seem like they're going to be an interesting part of the world when they're first introduced. Humans are caught up in the war between Angels and Demons. Their world has been torn apart, their lives destroyed. However, you quickly realize that the game isn’t going to do much with the idea. Rescuing humans quickly becomes nothing more than a collectible. It doesn’t feel like you’re making an impact on the world, and nothing comes of it until the very end of the game. It feels like an unfortunate missed opportunity that could’ve been much more interesting.
A quick summary of Darksiders 3 would say that it’s closer to Dark Souls than Zelda. The puzzle-solving and dungeon crawling is still prevalent, but there’s much more of an emphasis on combat. The systems and ideas of a Souls game are all here. Defeating enemies will earn you Lurchers, a currency you spend to buy items and level-up. The Lurchers you’re carrying drop when you die, requiring you to collect them or lose them forever. Serpent Holes, where you can fast travel and spend your Lurchers, serve as Bonfires, acting as a checkpoint you’ll return to after each death. Even the weapon upgrades are very Souls-like, requiring you to gather a series of progressively larger and rarer materials to improve your arsenal.
It may seem like just another Souls clone to a seasoned fan of From Software’s iconic series, but it eventually reveals itself to be a Souls-lite in reality. The difficulty of Darksiders 3 doesn’t focus on being unforgiving. The default option, which is the second of four settings, is a tough but fair experience. You’ll die quite a bit in the early hours, but if you’re upgrading your weapons and leveling up frequently you’ll become pretty overpowered. There’s a difficulty curve that steadily climbs for the first two-thirds of the game, keeping up with you as you grow stronger and more capable. By the time I neared the end, I was killing bosses without any problems. It was certainly fun to grow that strong over the course of the adventure. Even if the ending felt anticlimactic, it's an appropriate wrap up for Fury's character arc.
There’s some light puzzle-solving here and there, but it's all fairly rudimentary. Most of them are pretty solid, requiring you to use your Hollow abilities in creative ways to overcome obstacles and traverse the environment. I just kept expecting them to get more involved and challenging. They never stretched beyond straightforward, and when they did it was janky and awkward. One particularly frustrating puzzle has you trying to get a block to stay on a switch while a powerful tornado rages above. The tornado follows you around, so you have to guide the block with the wind. It's an interesting idea, but the execution is clunky at best. If you’re coming into Darksiders 3 expecting a puzzle-heavy experience similar to the original, you’ll be pretty disappointed.
Thankfully, Darksiders 3’s focus on combat is a successful one. Fury’s weapon of choice is her deadly whip, which is extremely satisfying to use. It feels like a good balance between War’s strength and Death’s speed, offering a long reach and some potent sweeping attacks. You’ll get a steady stream of new weapons as you progress, but the loot of Darksiders 2 is a thing of the past. Instead, the progression is more akin to Darksiders. You’ll earn new weapons when the story wants you to have them.
Your whip is always your primary weapon. Second weapons come at a regular pace and are relative to the Hollow you have equipped. The alternate elemental forms provide you with new abilities as well. For example, the Flame Hollow gives you some sweet fiery daggers and allows you to jump dramatically higher. Switching between the different Hollows for both puzzle-solving and combat purposes is fun. It's always rewarding to experiment with combos featuring both your whip and secondary.
The satisfying core of Darksiders 3’s combat is essential to its success because it's somewhat lacking in depth. Character progression is limited to just three basic stats. There’s not really much you can do to vary your playstyle outside of switching between the small handful of Hollows. You can upgrade your weapons by equipping them with enchantments that offer unique bonuses, but there’s not much strategizing that comes with these enchantments. You’ll eventually find enough enchantments to slot into each of your weapons. By the end of the game, you'll be guaranteed to have fully stocked equipment.
Darksiders 3 isn't especially long. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, landing at around the 12-15 hour mark, but it also could have gone for a bit longer. The previous games took me over 20 hours to finish, and I could have played more. With Darksiders 3, I’d seen pretty much everything I wanted to see in about 15 hours. The lack of depth doesn’t lend itself to replayability, either.
The narrative setup of Fury hunting down the Seven Deadly Sins provides some of the strongest and most memorable moments. The boss designs are all great and wholly unique. Each boss you come across, like Envy, are excellent personifications of their respective sins. Gluttony, for example, is a huge and vile creature lusting with appetite carried by his minions as he's too obese and lazy to do so himself. It’s endlessly rewarding and satisfying to see the next Sin. The encounters themselves are equally excellent, offering tense and challenging fights that are gratifying to the end.
Likewise, the top-notch enemy and character designs provide a ton of variety. Their color and flare keep things looking fresh and unique. The bland environments and urban areas can get pretty samey, but their color and density make things stand out. The excellent art direction makes up for the game not looking amazing on a technical level.
Unfortunately, Darksiders 3 is a little rough around the edges. There are some unfortunate optimization issues on PC, with the frame rate in certain dropping frequently and obnoxiously. My PC isn’t the greatest in the world, and it's in dire need of an upgrade, but it's on par with the game's recommended specs. It should've been able to run the game just fine. Otherwise, Darksiders 3 looks pretty good. The art direction carries the less technically impressive aspect of the game. The lip sync, for example, doesn’t look so hot.
Darksiders 3 Review | Final Thoughts
Ultimately, Darksiders 3 is a solid entry in the series that’s sure to entertain with its engaging character arc and satisfying combat. The increased Dark Souls influence and lessened Zelda inspiration may not be to everyone's liking. What's here is solid and fun enough to last for 12-15 hours. It makes up for its lack of depth with creative boss designs and challenging encounters. The new lore established here is fun. However, diehard fans may be disappointed by the lack of reverence for what came before.
TechRaptor reviewed Darksiders 3 on PC with a copy provided by the publisher.
- Satisfying Combat
- Memorable Boss Encounters
- Cool And Varied Character Designs
- Fury Has A Quality Character Arc
- World Feels Lifeless
- Technical Issues
- Lacking In Depth