Who would have ever thought that being a Horseman of the Apocalypse was going to be a tough gig?
Fury, our favourite hot headed feme-fatale, returns in a sinfully fun, yet hellishly difficult finale to the action-packed trilogy, Darksiders. Darksiders III, brought to you by THQ Nordic and recently released for Nintendo Switch, is a straightforward ‘paint by numbers’ third person button masher that has not strayed too far from the previous two action packed installments. If you enjoyed the high stakes combat scenarios, a gritty storyline and explosive boss battles – Darksiders III has more of what you are looking for.
This super engaging installment takes place during a time skip that parallels the events of DarkSiders II just before the main Darksiders storyline. You play Fury, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who is summoned by a group of mythical beings tasked with upholding the ultimate balance in the universe. As it stands, ‘War’, one of the Four Horsemen, has ridden too early, causing the armies of heaven and hell to descend upon the Earth. As a result, the (personification of) the seven deadly sins are unleashed and are now running a muck on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Angels and demons clash over territory, and a few human survivors cling to whatever is left of life on the planet. While War is swiftly captured and brought to justice for his actions, there still remains the matter of the deadly sins ransacking the Earth. The council then decides to task Fury with hunting down each of the sins and promise her the reward of leadership of the Horsemen in return. (I mean, how can one refuse, right?) This ultimately forms the engaging arc for what is probably the most character-driven growth story that the series has ever told. Darksiders III tells a story about understanding what actually makes humanity tick, what makes them unique and more importantly, worth saving.
The Darksiders games in general have long been heavily inspired by many games in the hack and slash genre, and it is evident that the game wears its influences quite openly. However, where Darksiders III shines brightest is with its hyper focus on strategic combat. You’ll recall its predecessor, Darksiders II played with traditional RPG elements. However, in part 3 that mechanic has been replaced in favour of having players choose between two distinct combat modes. In ‘default mode’, combat feels more like a Zelda 3D game, where Fury belts out damage via quick and fierce attacks and comboing is what you would expect it to be. However, attacks cannot be suddenly interrupted with other moves such as dodges or blocks. This means that the player must fully commit to any given action before performing the next. Think about sequentially planning your attacks in real-time, and committing to them. You must think, ‘attack’, ‘attack’ then ‘dodge’. In this mode, healing items take a moment to use and requires Fury to stop moving. (Yikes!) This adds a bit more pressure to the experience as players really need to think about the next step while fighting enemies. This is a sharp deviation from other similar games like God of War for example. ‘Classic mode’ on the other hand, allows combat to feel a little more like the previous two Darksiders games by removing the two handicaps mentioned above. This makes the gameplay a bit more fluid and helps players change up their fighting style as the scenario deems fit. That being said, despite the preferred mode you choose, the difficulty is maintained. At the end of the day, this game is hard. It is the most difficult game in the series when it comes to combat and it’s very easy to become overwhelmed by enemies and bosses if you aren’t paying attention to the action.
Combat is only part of the journey. Darksiders III, while focused on combat, does incorporate several exploration elements and some light puzzle solving. In comparison to the previous games the focus on dungeon crawling is reduced, and much of the puzzle solving involves using abilities that need to be unlocked first, before you can proceed. Much like games like Metroid or Zelda, it’s a pretty elementary mechanic that works for the game and the overall experience.
Luckily this is not Fury’s first rodeo. I mean, you don’t ride with the Horseman without picking up a few abilities along the way. While kicking in the heads of some pretty ugly ghouls and goblins, Fury will acquire various upgrades during her adventure. These are called ‘hollows’, and they are awesome! Hallows will allow her to take on different elemental forms that grant her new movement abilities that will be necessary to scale insurmountable terrains. While there are too many to name, in general, hallows allow her to do things like triple jump, walk underwater (think Castlevania or Bloodstained) or even on top of water. One of my favourite hallows unlocks the ability to cling to walls and ceilings making transversal even easier!
The DarkSiders 3 world in its entirety is massive! The game’s external environments and dungeons seemingly go on forever. And though the world is huge, seamless and interconnected, the only means Fury has to navigate this sprawling world is a compass. Yup, that’s it – no map. The compass, represented by a small skull on the top of your screen, points you generally in the direction of your next major objective. However, it is very important to note that the game is definitely not on rails. Fury can venture off the beaten path in order to explore areas in order to collect items for puzzles or other power ups. This game clearly wants you to explore and perhaps take on the optional mini-boss battles for additional experience. Nonetheless, if you are in it to just tackle the main storyline, navigating the large and spacious levels should not be an issue via your skull compass. Luckily, fast travel also exists and serves to help you move quickly from previous checkpoints you’ve unlocked.
Darksiders III is the most challenging take on the trilogy for a series that wasn’t exactly known for being easy in the first place. While the game does draw on the most fun elements from triple A titles in it’s genre, it must be noted that it does so in the best possible ways. This game is definitely fun and gives you a chance while still maintaining its high caliber challenge. The rewards that are granted are definitely worth the means. In truth, Darksiders III should be played by intermediate to advanced players, or those looking to up their overall gaming skill. If you are not bothered by the random onset of trial and error transversal sequences, this is your game. Sticking to the storyline, you can expect to be Fury’s friend for about 15 hours. However, exploring the rest of the game and taking on the myriad of side missions will easily rocket that number to 30 hours or so. The game also includes two DLCs that only open up the world further and add more weapons to Fury’s already impressive loadout!
While Darksiders III is not a return to form for the franchise, it does offer a new level of challenge that fans of the genre will absolutely love.