Windows Central Recommended Award

One of the most popular franchises that publisher THQ had was Darksiders, a fantasy action role-playing game (RPG) series that put you into the boots of a Horseman of the Apocalypse. The last game in the series before now was Darksiders II, which was met with some solid praise from both critics and fans alike. With people praising the game for its mechanics, artistic direction, and for the lovably dry and sarcastic protagonist, Death, it looked as if Darksiders was on the path to fame.

Sadly, this was not to be. In 2012, THQ filed for bankruptcy, and the Darksiders intellectual property was sold to Nordic Games. Fans held onto hope for a new game, but as the years went by without any news of one, there was concern that the series was being abandoned. Thankfully, though, this was not the case.

In 2017, Darksiders III was announced, and Nordic Games (now known as THQ Nordic) worked with developer Gunfire Games, a studio made up of people that worked on the previous two Darksiders games, to bring it to life. Now, Darksiders III has arrived — but is it good enough to revive the franchise's name and bring it back from the depths? I believe it is. Here's why.

A return to glory

Darksiders III

Embrace your fury

Darksiders III is a fantastic action RPG held back only by some technical problems and some occasional gameplay flaws.

About this review

This review was conducted on a Windows 10 PC equipped with an Intel i7-8700K processor, an NVIDIA GeForce 1050Ti graphics card, and 16GB of RAM, using a review copy of the game provided to Windows Central.

You'll love Darksiders III's story, gameplay, and visuals

As with the previous titles in the series, Darksiders III is set on a post-apocalyptic version of Earth in which the armies of Heaven and Hell eternally fight one another. This conflict nearly destroyed humanity as a result, and as humanity struggles to survive, the powerful Seven Deadly Sins plan to wipe them out permanently. The Charred Council, a powerful court that maintains the balance between mortals and immortals alike sends you, Fury — one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — to stop them.

The plot of Darksiders III isn't deep, but its cast of characters is phenomenal.

This is essentially the entirety of the plot, and while there isn't that much depth to it, it's good enough. The real meat of the script lies with the characters. Fury, like Death in Darksiders II, is witty, sarcastic, and dry as a bone. However, she's also rash and speaks before thinking, giving her a unique touch that makes her dialogue a treat to hear. In addition, the Seven Deadly Sins are a fantastic bunch. Each of their personalities and appearances perfectly represents the sin that they're named after. For example, Sloth takes the form of a terribly obese and lazy grasshopper, while Wrath is a bloodthirsty savage encased head-to-toe in fiery armor plating.

There are plenty of minor characters too, and each one is written and voice acted with great effort and care. In Darksiders III, the characters are the story.

In terms of gameplay, Darksiders III is a departure from the wide-open world design of its predecessor. Instead, the world resembles something you would find in a Dark Souls game: a series of linear environments connected by a network of different pathways. Aside from starting and quitting the game, there aren't any loading screens in Darksiders III at all, and that alone helps everything feel more immersive and fluid as you traverse the lairs of the Seven Deadly Sins. Choosing to explore off the beaten path will reward you with valuable items that you can use to upgrade your weapons with.

Speaking of weapons, Fury utilizes a razor-sharp metal whip in combat, slicing and dicing foes in true hack-and-slash fashion. However, unlike Darksiders II, there's a bigger emphasis on timing here — simply mashing the attack button won't get you far. Death was fast and agile, diving into the fray with scythes flying. Fury, though, uses heavier, wider attacks that require you to hit foes after dodging their attacks or spotting an opening in their guard.

In addition, once they're unlocked, Fury can transform into one of four different magical forms at will. These forms give her special powers and weapons in combat, as well as skills that can be used outside of combat to solve puzzles. For instance, her Flame form lets her use fiery double blades and safely wade through lava, while the Lightning form gives her an electrified spear and the ability to float like Storm from the X-Men. These forms add a ton of depth to the gameplay experience and using them to discover secrets hidden in the world is a blast.

Visually, Darksiders III is a gorgeous game with a stylized, colorful artistic direction that stays true to the series' roots. Each environment in the game world feels unique and beautiful in a strange way — even the Bonelands, toxic wastelands filled with zombified angels, have a charm to them. In total, there are seven of these locations, one for each Deadly Sin.

Everything, from the world to the creatures within it, is beautifully brought to life.

The characters and the enemies are also fantastic. Beyond the Seven Deadly Sins, the various hostile mobs that you encounter in each location ooze creativity. Lanky lizard warriors, egg-laying crustaceans, gigantic spiders, and demons from Hell are just a fraction of the things that you'll be slashing at with your whip.

You'll dislike Darksiders III's framerate and gameplay flaws

As beautiful as Darksiders III is, it's marred by the fact that framerate consistently struggles whenever there's a lot happening on-screen. Thankfully, this isn't too common, but there are instances where you get swarmed by a dozen or so foes. Trying to time your dodges and attacks in this scenario is already hard enough without the framerate taking a dip, so having to contend with that as well is annoying. Using Fury's Havoc ultimate ability (pictured above) in particular is guaranteed to cause this, as your attacks while using it are filled with flashy special effects.

There are some issues with the combat as well. While for the most part, it's amazing, it's not perfect. Some of the encounters in the world feel a bit cheap with how some foes will ambush you around corners and score free hits, and sometimes hit detection feels off — both for you and your opponents. This can lead to times where an important attack of yours that should have landed does not, or an enemy gets a hit on a swing that you're positive you dodged.

It's unfortunate to see Darksiders III abandon some of the second game's RPG systems.

Another thing that bummed me out with Darksiders III was the absence of armor loot. In Darksiders II, Death could find pieces of armor in the world that improved his defenses and gave him special traits, but none of that is present in Darksiders III. In its place is a system where you can give weapons enchantments that alter how they perform in combat, but this doesn't have the same level of depth. There is a tab on the inventory screen for armor, but I went through the entire game without finding any. This could indicate that at least some form of cosmetic armor types will come in a future DLC, but in my opinion, it should have been in the game at launch.

Should you buy Darksiders III?

Despite the issues that drag down Darksiders III, it's still an excellent hack-and-slash action RPG that is more than worth the $60 purchase. Combat is challenging and fun, the game world is richly detailed and full of secrets, and the artistic presentation is nothing short of phenomenal. Darksiders III is definitely a game that you should pick up, and the Darksiders franchise is definitely here to stay.

Pros:

  • Fantastic character writing.
  • Fluid, challenging combat.
  • Incredibly detailed game world.
  • Breathtaking art direction.

Cons:

  • Disappointing framerate problems.
  • Some cheap combat encounters.
  • Less focus on RPG loot.

4 out of 5

A return to glory

Darksiders III

Darksiders III is a fantastic action RPG held back only by some technical problems and some occasional gameplay flaws.

Darksiders III releases on November 27, 2018 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC via Steam.

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