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Darksiders III (PlayStation 4) artwork

Darksiders III (PlayStation 4) review

"DarkSoul-ders? "

So, imagine my surprise when I started playing Darksiders III. I'd gone through the first two games and found them to be fun takes on the tried-and-true Legend of Zelda formula, with the second one being one of my recent highlights due to its multitude of massive dungeons, as well as its desire to be better than the original in, if not every way, at least the ones which resonated with me.

There I was. On my couch, control in my hands, prepared for more of the same. And what did I find? That the whole "more of the same" thing was confined to the game's setting and plot. It's still Biblical apocalypse happy-fun-time and you're still controlling one of the Four Horsemen on a quest to get to the bottom of a massive conspiracy that's led to conflict between the forces of Heaven and Hell and all-out chaos as shadowy figures shoot their shot to wind up on top when everything's said and done. And there still are all sorts of modern action-RPG trappings real-time fighting, the acquisition of items and abilities allowing you to progress in your quest, puzzles to solve and so on.

However, the puzzles are downplayed in this installment and the majority of your abilities will be supplied as alternate versions of your base weapon that also bestow a particular skill useful in reaching areas previously off-limits. A number of the series' more puzzle-centric items, such as the portal-creating Voidwalker, have vanished and the vast majority of bosses require little more brainwork to defeat them beyond recognizing their attacks and knowing when to dodge and when to launch your own offensive.

Instead, Darksiders III took its inspiration from FROM Software's Souls series. Fury, the lone female member of the Horsemen and your protagonist, is not particularly durable, making your ability to dodge quite crucial because she sure as hell won't be tanking many blows. Everything you kill turns into soul currency which can be handed over to series-regular Vulgrim to purchase goods or put towards gaining levels. Scattered throughout every area of the game's world are corpses holding glowing orbs of light that, when interacted with, bestow various items such as allotments of souls far greater than the average enemy can provide.

Of course, other items can be handed to the game's blacksmith character in order to boost the power of your weaponry, as well as enhance accessories that can be slotted into them to add a variety of passive benefits. Also of course, you'll be in possession of an Estus flask by another name and you'll be able to find items to both improve its healing capacity, as well as allow you more uses of it.

The differences, at least initially, are more superficial. You can give your souls to Vulgrim at checkpoints at anytime to put them into a bank to spend on levels when you've accrued enough. Just visiting a checkpoint will neither resurrect dead enemies nor refill your healing flask you must die for either of those things to happen. And, unlike a Souls game, you won't have to be worried about being completely left in the dark as to the plot unless you scour the land for every little bit of well-hidden info.

Darksiders III might be the third game in the series, but it takes place in the same general time period as the others. Fury gets summoned by the Charred Council at the same time they were holding War prisoner due to the initial events of the original game. Her quest: To help them maintain their balance a precarious thing being threatened by how the physical manifestations of the Seven Deadly Sins have been released and are causing all sorts of havoc and chaos.

Much like War, Fury will find herself "enjoying" the company of one of the Council's Watchers, although this one at least doesn't act as overtly hostile as the one Mark Hamill voiced in the first game. The quest also gets off to a good start, with the first Sin, Envy, being dispatched very quickly. However, things start going sideways after that. Fury's battle with the hulking Wrath ends with both parties being grievously wounded and Fury waking up in the hellish chamber of an enigmatic being known as the Lord of Hollows.

This dude offers assistance to Fury in the form of regularly summoning her to his chamber to bestow a new sub-weapon and its powers. The first one gives you the ability to emit flame, which will be of great help in burning away all the webs preventing you from freely moving around Hollow-man's abode. And after that, in accessing hidden items and new areas to explore in the game's Metroidvania-esque world so that you can find more Sins, kill them and gain new sub-weapons to help you reach more new areas.

From there, Fury will use her growing number of abilities to explore the world, deal with the occasional plot twist and conclude matters with the immediate conflict resolved, but many more on the horizon as, for the third straight time, a Darksiders game ends with a big "TO BE CONTINUED" all but spelled out. With the fourth game in the series, Genesis, taking place before the other three, it's enough to make one wonder if the creators actually have a conclusion in mind, or are satisfied to simply tell a whole bunch of connected tales setting up a major conflict that may or may not actually happen. I mean, at some point, Lucifer does have to play an actual role beyond "Voice rarely heard in cutscenes", doesn't he?

So, if you picked up this game hoping for any Darksiders plot resolution beyond Fury's personal quest, you might be disappointed. And if you were expecting more of the series' Zelda-esque vibe with large puzzle-filled dungeons, you also might be less than ecstatic with what you receive. And if, like me, you're a Souls fan and found the shift towards that style to be intriguing, well, the results are mixed there, as well.

For a good chunk of the game, a Souls veteran will feel at home. Fury is pretty fragile and gaining levels only will give her a tiny amount of health or a modicum of either physical or magical attack, making it so that grinding to overcome tough foes is far less feasible than learning from failures and improving in battle. But then you'll collect a bunch of goods to improve your weaponry and will be hitting harder. And then, you'll start really enhancing your favorite accessories and, damn, the bonuses they give can be game-changers! I was able to add a hefty amount of life and attack power to Fury, as well as auto-regenerate some health and gain experience for breaking background objects in order to finagle a few more levels out of her adventure.

The end result: I had far more trouble with early-game Sins such as Avarice and Sloth than I did with anything attempting to stand in my path towards the end. I suffered a total of one death against the final three bosses. And considering how easily I topped that foe in the rematch, it's safe to say that demise had more to do with me getting over-confident than anything on the part of my opponent.

While I did find Darksiders III to be a bit of a disappointment taking all of that into consideration, it's still a pretty fun game that's mainly hurt by the obvious comparisons that can be made to others. Its change in style detracted from the Zelda homage stuff that attracted me to the series in the first place; while it didn't take FROM's stuff as far as that company does, leaving it feeling more like "Souls-lite" than the real thing. I'd guess the amount of enjoyment one gets from it would at least partly be determined by their ability to judge it solely on its own merits, instead of those of previous games in the series and what it's attempting to emulate.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (February 24, 2022)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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