Darksiders III, another chapter of the franchise created in mid-2010 by the late THQ, now THQ Nordic, was released in 2018 for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The sequence, unlike its predecessors, sought to differentiate itself to the maximum by bringing a series of new systems that, in theory, would implement the action and RPG mechanics already known to fans.
But were these new changes enough to resurrect and adapt, to more modern times, this saga of games with more than ten years of history?! And yet to score a great success in front of a niche that already is so saturated that is that of action and adventure games!? It’s about these and other subjects that I’ll talk about in this week’s review, plus other details of the game, of course.
Obviously, this article will detail, exclusively, the third game of the series, however, I think it’s important to contextualize the plot in which it is included — and you don’t have to worry about spoilers. I still point out that the saga takes as inspiration the Catholic Bible, as well as its characters and events, but because it is only an inspiration, many things were changed, such as the name of one of the horsemen, from Plague to Strife.
The story of the Darksiders universe begins with the creation of an ancient race called “Nephilim”, warriors created by Lilith, the first woman, who descend from the union of angels and demons. Centuries after their creation, when the Creator gave the Paradise of Eden to the human race, the nephilins, filled with anger, began a bloody battle against the forces of Heaven, formed by angels and archangels.
To prevent an all-out war from taking place, four warriors of this race were chosen by the Charred Council (the entity responsible for balancing the kingdoms) to be their pawns and inherit an immense power, as well as the name of Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
From there and after various events, battles, betrayals, and the involvement of the kingdom of Hell, the Council decided that the four would be asleep, to return only when the seven seals were broken and when the human race was ready to participate in the future war that would be fought between the forces of Heaven and Hell, bringing the judgment of all the evolved.
In Darksiders, we accompany War, the first of them to be awakened, on his journey in search of answers. In Darksiders II, we control Death, which seeks some way to resurrect the humans who were killed with the coming of the apocalypse, and this time, in this third game, the knight of the time is Fury, who will be responsible for capturing the seven deadly sins that have been plaguing the forces of both heaven and hell.
Fury is known for being the most merciless knight, her fury (pun intended) is known to everyone and she is the only female character among the four. Also, she possesses, like her siblings, several characteristics that make her quite unique, such as her unfriendly temperament, her aversion to the human race, and, of course, her weapon Scorn, a grip that can take different forms, such as that of a whip, spear, sword and more (I’ll detail these mechanics later).
In the first few minutes of gameplay, it was possible to notice that the developers opted for mechanics and scenarios much simpler than the previous ones. Of course, the game continues focused on action and adventure, but its proportions have been considerably diminished. The scenarios were again linear, abandoning the open world of the second game, and the same goes for the combat that, apart from some new elements that resemble a little hack ’n’ slash, was simplified, creating an experience that refers, at least to me, to the games of the Japanese developer, From Software, in particular, Bloodborne.
This may seem somewhat dubious, comparing this title to the great games of this acclaimed studio, but Bloodborne was the first thing that came to mind when I came across some of the main elements of the game, such as its level up system, based on souls collection and point distribution, leaving aside the uninteresting skill tree of its predecessor, and its combat, totally based on attack and dodge.
Still not clear? So let me explain. In all encounters with enemies, be they bosses or minions, Fury has two action possibilities: attack, creating some sort of combo, or dodge during the windows of opponents’ blows (that are curiously large and visible); if you succeed in the dodge, it is still possible to perform another series of combos and from there these movements repeats. All of this makes the combat somewhat pleasurable and fun at first glance, but unlike Bloodborne, things stop there. As the hour's pass, this “dance” becomes increasingly tiring, even against different enemies or bosses.
Another factor that contributes even more to this is the game's difficulty, which, in my opinion, is almost nil — I was able to finish the story mode at the “Apocalyptic” level and I can count on my fingers how many times I died during the battles. Of course, the game has some elements that increase the difficulty, at higher levels enemies cause greater damage, and healing stones, items used to restore Fury’s life, are quite scarce; but I believe that the game leaves to be desired when it comes to challenge.
Returning to the combat subject, as previously stated, Fury can attack and dodge, as well as jump, use items and activate her Havoc Form, her most powerful ability that turns her into a huge humanoid creature. All these are actions already known by the franchise fans. The differential here is in the Hollow Forms — Transformations generated by artifacts that allow her to change its powers, so to speak. There are four, fire, storm, force, and stasis (it works like ice), each bringing news to movement and combat possibilities, such as gliding, freezing certain platforms, double jumps, as well as new armors and weapons for her wielding, such as sledgehammers, swords, scythes, and spears.
Loot mechanics have been completely ignored in this sequence (thank God) and all weapons and armor can be upgraded with certain specific items, as well as imbued with runes, which improve various statuses of their performance, such as damage and range. Unfortunately, developers continue to insist on elements that have never worked out very well in previous games, especially the puzzles that only suit to delay the player’s progress. Apart from a few exceptions, these challenges are often confusing, time-consuming, and repetitive.
The Seven Sins
Now, let’s talk about the bosses, who, even a few, are quite memorable. There are seven (as you might expect), each representing one of the seven deadly sins listed and defined by the Catholic Church — Envy, Wrath, Laziness, Avarice, Lust, Gluttony, and Pride. And this is where, in my opinion, is one of the greatest game charms, since most of these are very well crafted, either through dialogue, design, scenario building, or combat.
I’ll have to detail some aspects of the bosses, so here are small spoilers, but I believe it’s nothing that will harm your experience. For example, Avarice, the sin that represents the fear of losing something it possesses, is a demon who carries a huge bag, full of things, on his back, this makes his movements a little slower than normal, and during the battle he makes use of these junk, throwing them against our protagonist. Superb, the representation of the claim of superiority over others, in turn, is an extremely beautiful character, but hides, behind her mask, a deformity.
My greatest highlight is Lust. Unlike the representation we are accustomed to seeing in games, as a seductive female creature, often of huge breasts and sample; Darksiders go down a completely opposite path, depicting her as a power-hungry androgynous warrior. This, besides being a much more interesting representation, which develops, through design, the sin concept, still treats it as a thing extrinsic to sexual desire, since it can be interpreted as an emotion of intense desire that can be by the body or, as in this case, by power.
In addition to very interesting fights, the seven deadly sins also contribute to the protagonist's development. Throughout seven battles, each of them will question, in their own way, Fury’s motivations. Lust stirs up her quest for power, Laziness inquires her about her willpower, Superb denies her position in front of the Council of Flames, and so on. And, with each of these clashes, Fury grows as a protagonist, no longer being that caricature of strength and brutality that usually hangs through our imagination, becoming a character much more “human” and captivating.
Another factor that also contributes to her development the Watcher, a watchwoman that is responsible for the fulfillment of the orders given by the Council. She accompanies us throughout the whole campaign and gradually creates a relationship with the protagonist, that exposes, even more, Fury’s personality and how her behavior and conceptions are transformed with each sin defeated.
All the elements mentioned so far when combined correctly, create a very fun and interesting experience, as is the case of this game. Of course, the franchise will never be remembered for being a great series of the gaming world and the same goes for this third title, but I believe that does not change the fact that it continues to hit the most important points for games of this genre, such as character building, scenarios, and battles. Hits that make this both a big highlight in the AA niche (games that get lost in the middle way between the AAA, of a great investment, and the indies, of less investment), and an adaptation of itself, bringing elements of other games to create an experience not unique, but fun, that can please both new players and longtime fans.
I hope, in the not-so-distant future, that THQ Nordic will announce a sequel to the series, not a prequel, like Darksiders Genesis (I haven’t played yet, but I intend to) but a true sequel that presents us with an adventure involving Strife or a final war, bringing the long-awaited reunion of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
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[Some images used in this article were taken from Google or from game community profiles on Steam]