Darksiders III Review – A Soulsy Metroidvania

Article by: Andrew Farrell on November 26, 2018
Darksiders III Review – A Soulsy Metroidvania

The Darksiders franchise has always struggled somewhat with finding its own identity. The first game was very much God of War + Zelda, with the second building on that and adding larger, open areas with sidequests and ARPG-style loot. Darksiders III, however, takes a completely different path. So, how does it compare to its predecessors? And is it a worthy successor?

To be upfront, Darksiders III could be best described as God of War + Dark Souls + Metroid. The game keeps the look and general combat feel of the previous games in the series and borrows progression and game design from the latter two games mentioned above. It results in what is definitely one of the purest 3D Metroidvania games I’ve ever seen. That’s honestly one of my favorite genres, so I was pleased by this turn. But there are some major issues along the way.

Darksiders III tells the story from the perspective of Fury this time. The game begins with her being summoned by the Charred Council to head to Earth. There she must track down the rampaging Seven Deadly Sins and restore the balance of the world. It’s a simple setup, to be sure, but the game’s story is definitely enjoyable. The cutscenes are all entertaining and well-paced. The dialogue is also well-written. This isn’t a game that bogs you down in cutscenes either, but what’s there is good. The game’s structure centers on Fury as she follows her compass and finds and defeats each of the Sins in order to complete her mission. The Sins can also be faced in different orders.

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Good thing she landed in this smoking crater and nobody was hurt!

Darksiders III Is A Beautiful Game To Look At

Presentation-wise, Darksiders III has excellent visuals. The areas are all detailed and distinct. The visual style is still exaggerated and cartoony like the previous games, but everything is animated well. Fury herself is absolutely brimming with personality, though a lot of that comes down to the voice acting. The performances in the game are all uniformly excellent, with Fury’s voice actress in particular doing a wonderful job.

So, as I said earlier, Darksiders III takes a ton of design cues from Dark Souls. Enemies are strong and can kill you in a few hits. When you defeat them, they drop souls called “lurchers” that you can use to upgrade Fury’s stats or as currency to buy items. When Fury dies, she drops all of her lurchers on the spot and is sent back to the nearest checkpoint, here called a Plinth. For all intents and purposes, yes, it ripped all of that straight from Dark Souls. But this brings a fair amount of problems, unfortunately.

Where Dark Souls‘ combat is methodical and based around blocking and observation, Darksiders III still plays a lot like early God of War. The problem is, this combat doesn’t mix all that well with the Dark Souls design elements. For one thing, enemies flash when you hit them, which is extremely distracting and can make it hard to notice when they’re telegraphing their attacks. And many enemies attack with little warning, leading you to take a lot of damage before you even realize it’s coming.

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Just grabbin’ a bug to throw at an obstacle. Nothin’ ta see here!

I Really Don’t Get Why Fury Can’t Block

Fury also can’t block. She can dodge, but early on it felt like her dodges didn’t come with enough I-frames. I frequently found myself getting hit during dodges where I felt I should have escaped with no damage. Additionally, while the camera works fine for one-on-one fights, it is absolutely not adequate when you’re surrounded. I died a lot when enemies surrounded me, as I could only see one of them. The camera also has a tendency to move in way too close in narrow areas, leading to deaths from not being able to see at all.

One of the most egregious examples of the camera and design failing in this regard is in a certain boss fight. It takes inspiration from the Ornstein and Smough fight from the first Dark Souls and has Fury fighting two bosses simultaneously. However, since they love to attack from opposite sides, you can only watch one at once. They’re also fond of standing right next to each other, making it so that one blocks the other. I died a lot because I simply couldn’t see that they were attacking me for one reason or another. Combined with the iffy dodge, this fight was truly awful.

As for Fury’s attacks, they are rather straightforward. Her main attack uses a whip sword that allows her to attack individual enemies or in an area. I mostly focused on upgrading this, as it’s always active. There are several other weapons, of course. When Fury beats certain Sins, she’s rewarded with things called Hollow Forms. These change her hair color and give her new weapons and traversal abilities. The traversal abilities are especially cool, but there isn’t much reason to use most of the other weapons, save the heavy one that breaks enemy guard stances.

That’s right. The enemies can block, but Fury can’t. The combat also lacks specificity. There are different combo strings Fury can pull off, but you’ll most likely just mash the attack buttons over and over again. Thankfully, if you dodge a move perfectly, time slows down and Fury can execute a strong counterattack. She also has Havoc mode, which allows her to transform into a more powerful form briefly and a single, strong wratch attack you can use when the meter fills up.

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This is Ulthane. He upgrades your weapons and enhancements.

Using Fury’s Abilities To Reach New Areas Is A Blast

Fury can upgrade her weapons with a material called adamantine, which she finds scattered throughout the environments.  Early on, Fury meets Ulthane, a blacksmith. He’s the one you have to go to in order to upgrade weapons. He also tasks you with rescuing humans hidden throughout the game world, and he rewards you if you find enough. I used the vast majority of my adamantine on the whip sword, as I wanted as much of an edge as possible. After all, early on, Darksiders III is extremely punishing. I barely upgraded or used any of the other weapons, though. There just isn’t any real reason to use them in combat. They are much more useful for puzzles and reaching new areas, though.

Accessing new areas mainly requires these new abilities. For instance, the Fire Hollow gives Fury both a rocket jump that lets her shoot upward and the ability to burn cobwebs that block her progress via a charged attack. Each of the Hollows has an appropriately themed weapon along with it. The Fire Hollow has a couple of flame daggers that set the enemies on fire. The rocket jump is also useful throughout the whole game for reaching higher areas.

I personally love the way Darksiders III handles its map and progress. It’s structured just like a classic Metroidvania game. And there are naturally a ton of secrets to be found strewn throughout the world. Each area is also interconnected, so you’ll frequently find new pathways. It also helps that the level design is absolutely excellent. The game doesn’t have a map, but the areas are memorable enough that it doesn’t necessarily need one. I spent hours scouring each region for extra items, using my new abilities to find new goodies tucked away to give myself more of a fighting chance.

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Some of the game’s environments are simply striking.

The Areas Change Focus Partway Through, Which Is Jarring

Much like in Dark Souls, Fury has a healing item that refills – only this one does so when she dies. She can’t heal or refill the healing items unless she dies. Just like its inspiration, this revives all the enemies in the area as well. The game is stingy with upgrades for this healing item at first, but by the end of the game, I had more than I needed. The game handles finding these healing item upgrades and other items exactly like Dark Souls as well. The areas are scattered with glowing orbs on the ground that mostly contain clusters of souls. And Darksiders III gives you a massive amount of them, most of which I did not use in the end.

Now, a large amount of Darksiders III definitely felt like a Dark Souls game in terms of focus. But at a certain point, the areas seemed to shift away from combat to instead focus on pure exploration and navigation instead. Since I scoured the areas so hard for items to assuage the difficulty, this made me vastly overpowered by the second half of the game. I went from dying constantly to only dying when the camera screwed me over.

Fury can also find enhancements that she can upgrade with artifacts. These enhancements went a long way to making me as overpowered as I was. I only focused on upgrading a couple of these as well. They’re interesting in that they each have passive effects as well as active ones that mainly upgrade the weapon they’re equipped to. Initially, you must choose only one of these effects. One enhancement reduces either a large amount of damage or greatly increases your attack. Once fully upgraded, it does both. Another greatly increases your I-frames while dodging. This enhancement took the dodge from not having enough I-frames to being too lenient. By the end, I was avoiding anything that was telegraphed enough for me to dodge.

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For those about to rock. . .

The Game Has Some Serious Bugs

Even though I struggled through a couple early-game boss battles, I didn’t actually die during three battles against Sins. It was weird how quickly the game went from annoyingly unfair to rather easy. The difficulty and overall combat in Darksiders III could definitely use some tweaking, as I wasn’t satisfied by the complete lack of a difficulty curve.

Unfortunately, I ran into some major bugs during my time with the game. Most of these simply resulted in me getting stuck on an object, though I did once fall through part of the game world after it failed to load. Once, however, I died to a boss, only for the game to glitch and play the post-boss cutscene, albeit without most of the game world loading. After exiting out of the game while it was doing this, the cutscene kept playing on the title screen. Upon restarting the game, my save file was corrupted and I had to start over from the beginning. The devs will likely fix this, and there might even be a workaround. But I certainly wasn’t happy about that.

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It ain’t easy capturin’ sin.

Darksiders III Is Great, But Held Back By Some Flaws

Overall, I honestly loved Darksiders III in spite of its shortcomings. It does have some serious problems, but the world and level designs as a whole save it in my eyes. Taken on its Metroidvania merits, it absolutely nails what makes the genre one of my favorites. After beating Darksiders III‘s surprisingly easy final boss, I honestly just wanted more. It’s the first 3D Metroidvania game I’ve played in years that scratched that itch. The exploration and navigation are all sublime and extremely enjoyable.

Does Darksiders III have some major missteps and flaws? Most definitely. But many of these are fixable, so I hope the devs patch the game accordingly based on player feedback. The game is a good length and takes around 15 hours if exploring isn’t your cup of tea. People who want to explore every nook and cranny will probably take about 20 hours, though. Unfortunately, there’s not much to do other than finish exploring once you beat the game. There aren’t any unlockables or anything of that nature. If you want more you’ll just have to start a new game.

I enjoyed my time with the game and want to give it a higher score based on that alone, but it simply has too many issues right now to warrant it. Even so, anyone who likes 3D Metroidvania games should absolutely get the game, as it is very good. It’s just that it could easily be a lot better with some more polish to the combat, camera, difficulty, and bugs.

3.5/5
Darksiders III is a very good game marred by some severe issues. Still, I loved it. I only hope Gunfire Games addresses its issues.

Pse Me

Andrew Farrell has an extreme hearing sensitivity called hyperacusis that keeps him away from all loud noises.  Please do not throw rocks at his window.  That is rude.  He loves action and rpg games, whether they be AAA or indie.  He does not like sports games unless the sport is Baseketball.