Darksiders 3 Review: Presented by Dark Souls

by David Sanchez December 7, 2018 @ 8:33 am

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

For a long time, folks considered the Darksiders series the “M-rated Zelda.” This was due to the dungeon design, game flow, and special abilities. The series is back with its third installment, this time developed by Gunfire Games, and it has largely thrown the Zelda influence out the window. That’s not even remotely a bad thing, though, because Darksiders 3 is a strong game that offers something different from its franchise brethren and, barring some technical inconsistencies, succeeds almost entirely along the way.

The tertiary installment in the Darksiders series follows Fury — who isn’t really one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but really, who cares? — as she attempts to take down the personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins in order to restore balance and order. It’s a largely throwaway plot, but there are a lot of talk-y cutscenes thrown before and after boss battles. Thankfully, you can skip these cutscenes if you like.

Darksiders 3 isn’t so much about solving puzzles and getting through multiple rooms across labyrinthine dungeons as it is about going down linear paths and taking on groups of tough monsters as you make your way to a boss fight. Folks who loved the way that Darksiders would emulate Zelda in the past may take exception to this shift in design philosophy, but given that this series has made a name for itself by borrowing from other games, the structural change isn’t really a problem because it works.

It’s nice to see Darksiders 3 switch things up, especially when you take into account just how much fun the game is. Combat is more fast-paced than Dark Souls and feels like a cross between God of War and Bayonetta, the latter being a clear blueprint for the countering system. When an enemy attacks, timing your dodges just right results in a brief moment of slow-motion that allows you to unleash a devastating counterattack. When you’re not rapidly hacking and slashing, you’ll want to wait for the enemy to strike so you can deliver one of these powerful blows.

Interestingly, Darksiders 3 follows a very basic formula. There’s no map system to be found, but an onscreen compass always points you in the direction of the nearest boss. You don’t need to follow the marker, though, so while the game’s areas leading up to the Seven Deadly Sins may be linear, progression is not.

Fallen enemies provide souls that can be taken to the merchant to level up different attributes such as heath, physical damage, and arcane damage (caused by charged elemental attacks and counterattacks). If you meet a bloody end at the hands of an enemy or swarm of monsters, you’ll lose the souls you’ve collected up to that point. Upon respawning, you’ll have a chance to reclaim your lost souls once you get to the area where your character previously died.

It’s great that you don’t lose everything when you die, but problems begin to arise on account of the tedious checkpoint system. Checkpoints are few and far between, and given how the difficulty can spike at times, you’ll likely be forced to respawn and revisit areas you already cleared multiple times. It can get frustrating, especially since there aren’t always checkpoints right before a boss battle (most of which are really fun), which means if one of the Seven Deadly Sins kicks your butt, it’s not just back to the start of the fight, but back to the start of that area.

Speaking of the game’s world, because there aren’t any actual dungeons, everything is interconnected. There are no doorways, so it’s a huge, organic, persistent world. That’s actually really cool, but the game isn’t really optimized to handle this interconnected world, so sometimes it’ll just lock up for anywhere between two to six seconds to load up the next environment while you’re walking on a bridge or through a hallway. This never happened to me during combat, so it wasn’t exactly problematic, but it did break my immersion.

Darksiders 3 is just the right amount of difficult, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome, either. Playing on the hard difficulty setting, it took me close to 20 hours to reach the finale. If you’re playing on a lower setting, it’ll likely take about 15 hours. Yes, Darksiders 3 is challenging, but for all the comparisons it’s drawn to Dark Souls, it’s definitely not that difficult. So if you like that style of game but are maybe looking for something a bit less strict and punishing, Darksiders 3 is a fine choice.

Though not a graphical masterpiece, Darksiders 3 still features a nice art style. Environments range from post-apocalyptic cities and industrial parks to lush forests and caves. It’s a shame the game sometimes looks a bit too much like a last-gen title, because had the dial been cranked all the way up in terms of presentation, this could’ve been a stunning game.

The voice acting of each of the characters is solid, with a few standouts popping up here and there. The soundtrack is nothing special, though. Speaking of sound, there are moments where the sound randomly cuts out or becomes distorted. This isn’t as bad as the random load times that occurred while I traveled through the game world, but they were difficult to ignore nonetheless.

Does Darksiders 3 do the series justice? Some folks may say it doesn’t, but I genuinely believe it does. No, this isn’t another Zelda-like, but it doesn’t need to be. By taking a little bit from God of War, Bayonetta, and Dark Souls, the third chapter in the Darksiders series doesn’t exactly win any awards for originality, but that doesn’t matter because what you get is a badass adventure that, barring some technical issues, is wholly entertaining from start to finish.

Score: 8 out of 10

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