Too Long; Didn't Play: Darksiders 3

Sponsored By: THQ Nordic Review Key by way of Certis

Time Played: A sin and a half.

Sound Review

When a developer sets up a sequel like in the first Darksiders, it would be nice if they delivered on that potential.

Yup. Sure would be nice.

Fury Review

When the first Darksiders game came out, I had never played a Legend of Zelda game. That didn’t matter, because I hadn’t heard of Darksiders’ reputation as “Zelda for grownups” yet either. I just knew that the game was awesome. It was one of those rare birds that ended before I finished it, instead of the other way around. That ending earned a fist-pump and a vow to buy the sequel.

Then Darksiders 2 came out, and it was both too much like the previous one and not enough like it. The Heavy Metal reimagining of Death as a heroic Skeletor was cool and all, but to me it felt like the personification of death should play differently than the personification of war. But whatever. John and George both played the guitar, so if the other two horse-persons played drums and bass we could still have an epic foursome.

Now we have Darksiders 3. Famine and Pestilence have been benched in favor of Strife and Fury, or as I like to call them War’s son and Wrath’s daughter-in-law. War is still in chains, and nobody seems to care much. Death is out doing the things that happened in Darksiders 2, and the developers figured nobody cared then so they won’t care now. In this game you play as Fury, who fights with a whip, is very angry and is bent on stomping out sin. Basically, the powers that are blaming War for the apocalypse want Fury to go capture the seven deadly sins and put them back in jail where they belong, and they’ve offered her the Top Slot in the Fell Four if she pulls it off. I haven’t made it far enough into the game to see if they replaced “sloth” with “peanut brittle,” but since they axed Famine and Pestilence I won’t rule it out.

After aping God of War in the first two games, this game went in a more Dark Soulsey direction with the combat, so if we’re carrying the band analogy forward I guess you’d say Fury plays the bass, which makes her Paul, A.K.A. the most marketable Beatle. There’s a heavy emphasis on dodging enemy attacks; because one of the horse-persons of the apocalypse should constantly be in danger of being wiped out by low-level mobs – and you’re punished mercilessly for playing the game the way you’d expect a character named Fury who is angry and impatient all the farking time to play.

At least there’s no stamina meter to contend with. That’s a big plus, because the only way to get out of being surrounded (which happens constantly due to the camera being a Darksiders camera) is to spam the dodge-roll button. But you’ll recall that a big plus is also the shape of a cartoon band-aid, attempting to fix some sort of comically grievous injury. That may be a bit harsh for describing the combat, but I’m going to run with it anyway because the combat, while not exactly bad, is boring, which is actually worse. There’s one standard attack button, and something called a “hollow attack” which either isn’t available in the first hour or I accidentally skipped the tutorial for how to use it. You can also press the left bumper and right trigger to engage in your “Havoc Form” which turns you into a fiery whirlwind of whirling whips for a short time. You’d think being on fire and invincible would be fun, at least, but it’s basically just an excuse to ignore the dodge-roll button for twenty seconds, which I was already kind of doing, which is probably why I was dying so much.

Which brings me to a little piece of ludonarrative dissonance I’d like to share: Of all of horse-persons of the apocalypse that Darksiders has, which one do you think would be the least likely to have the patience for corpse runs? If you guess Fury, you grok my mouth music. I can see Death going back to recover souls, because that’s basically his day job. I can understand War trying to recover lost souls, because he’s all about armies and the more people you have in your army the better. Fury? She hates everyone and everything, and is constantly complaining about how slow everyone else is. Why the heck would she give a rat’s rear end about collecting loose change that she dropped? Even if you take into account that she’s the least survivable horse-person yet introduced, and is therefore presumably used to dying all the time, it makes no sense.

Making no sense is ok if the combat is fun. Being less fun if the story and world make sense can be a positive. Being un-fun and nonsensical at the same time is, well, a sin.

Will I rage on?

I think I’m done with Darksiders 3. For all this time spent chasing down the deadly sins, Darksiders 3 commits the deadliest sin of game design: It’s boring. Now, I’m on record as loving boring games, but those games are boring by design. It’s one thing to aim for boring and succeed marvelously, ala Farming Simulator. It’s quite another to aim for exciting and hit boring. It’s the same reason I can enjoy a baked sweet potato and also enjoy a sweet potato pie, but if a sweet potato pie tastes like a baked sweet potato then it’s a waste of crust.

The Darksiders franchise has been on a steady decline for me since the first one, and at this point I might not even try the fourth one if it ever comes out. Unless it’s a squad-based tactical RPG where you play all four horse-persons at once. Then I might give it a look.

Is it the Dark Souls of Darksiders games?

Whenever something is good or popular it spawns imitators. A lot of the time those imitators fail to understand why it was good or popular, and they present a sort of paint-by-numbers copy. A good example is how God of War had gore and boobs and the years that immediately followed were jam-packed with gore and boobs but almost none of them were worth playing in the same way that God of War was.

Darksiders 3 is one of those games. It’s copying some of the motions that Dark Souls makes, but it doesn’t understand the reasons for them. The combat isn’t fast enough to be exciting, but not slow enough to be methodical. It expects you to be technical and cautious, but there’s no penalty for spamming the dodge button and the character herself seems like the sort of person who would have no patience for cautious, technical combat.

So this game falls into the “Like Dark Souls, But” category, which is distinct from the “Like Dark Souls’ Butt” category, which was created primarily for games like Lords of the Fallen. Darksiders 3 is like Dark Souls, but its combat isn’t precise enough. It’s like Dark Souls, but the limits Dark Souls puts on gameplay to make things interesting are not present.

It’s like Dark Souls but not good, is what I’m trying to say.

One out of four soul flasks.

Comments

Out of curiosity, how far did you get?
I ask, because I really disliked Darksiders 3 as well at first. I thought it was boring and poorly designed.
But I stuck with it (never a good way to sell a game, I know), and it's clicked with me a lot more. Took killing maybe 3 or 4 sins, though.
Yes, it's definitely not as well polished as Bloodborne (what it's trying to copy more than Dark Souls, I feel), but it's also got an appeal for being even faster paced than BB.
The Metroidvania style exploration also has an appeal, and with more of the world opened up, I'm enjoying going back to earlier parts to explore and clean up.
Anyway, I wouldn't blame anyone for not sticking with a game because "it clicks later", but not knowing how far you played (just past the first sin?) I would say you should give it another chance.

Greg noted he didn't even get the Flame Hollow, so he completed Tutorial 1-A, basically. I'm not sure he'd like Darksiders 3 either way, but I'm also not sure what he actually thinks of Dark Souls, now that I think about it. Which, I mean, I don't like Dark Souls, but I love Darksiders 3, and according to Clock the two are way more similarly than I have the experience to understand.

The thing is, there really aren't "trash mobs" in Darksiders 3. Everything can kill you, and it will if you're not careful. But at the start, the combat really does feel lacking with just one basic attack. Once you get the Flame Hollow you now have a double-jump, a quick secondary attack, and the ability to wade through lava. Three new abilities all of a sudden. You also are able to collect and upgrade enhancements after you get the Flame Hollow, which adds to the meta-game of stat-boosts, which give greater reason to pay attention to the environment and make note of spider-ball gravel and wall-jumping segments.

People might have complained about Metroid Prime starting you with multiple abilities before taking them away, but when you look at early impressions of Darksiders 3 it kind of makes sense. You get a greater sense of everything you'll be able to do eventually in order to get through those under-powered sections. Nier did the same thing, showing you all the fancy magic while tossing you against trash mobs before taking it all away. That way you knew that, eventually, you'd be doing some fancy magic to mix up with your combat.

Darksiders 3 was never going to survive a TL;DP, but I'm not sure it would be up Greg's alley as it is. Then again, Greg likes God Hand, so I could just not have a real understanding of his tastes in difficult action games.

I'm also not sure what he actually thinks of Dark Souls

Short memories around here.