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Game Review: ‘Darksiders III’ moves popular series into challenging field

Marcel Thee

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, March 18, 2019  /  08:59 am
Game Review: ‘Darksiders III’ moves popular series into challenging field

Hack-and-slash: Fury is on a mission to save the universe from the reins of the Seven Deadly Sins. (Courtesy of Gunfire Games/-)

The Darksiders series has always managed to provide a reliable gaming experience.

Never exactly standing out in terms of originality or even playability, the Darksiders series sustains itself through solid gameplay that makes it a welcome time-filler.

Its hack-and-slash gameplay is deep without being too overwhelming, while its story's references to the Bible's four horsemen of the apocalypse are intriguing, presenting a palette for ideas and visuals that don't necessarily need to be understood in-depth for some immersion.

Like the best kinds of coin-eaters you'd find at arcades back in the day, it's a game in which enjoyment stems from the simplicity of all its elements.

The latest installment to the series, Darksiders III, sets itself during the time frame of the first game. This time, players aren't playing as War, one of the horseman who has been a mainstay in the game since its inception. Instead, they will play as Fury, whose mission is to save the universe from the reins of the Seven Deadly Sins.

On a mission: Unlike her fellow horsemen, Fury does not equip herself with hefty weapons like gigantic swords or scythes. She instead utilizes some magic and a blade whip. On a mission: Unlike her fellow horsemen, Fury does not equip herself with hefty weapons like gigantic swords or scythes. She instead utilizes some magic and a blade whip. (Courtesy of Gunfire Games/-)

Fury, unlike her fellow horsemen, does not equip herself with hefty weapons like gigantic swords or scythes. She instead utilizes some magic and a blade whip.

As the game progresses, Fury will have access to Hollows, which in turn provide her access to newer weapons, including magical ones like electricity and fire, as well as physical ones like spears. She also goes through a character arc that sees her initially chilly outlook change into something more “human”, so to speak.

Play long enough and players will also be able to upgrade their health and attack. The upgrade system is easy to understand, with straightforward enhancements that include health regeneration.

The change in having Fury as the main character is a pretty big change for the game, resulting in brawls that are noticeably tougher than those in its predecessors.

Likely following in the footsteps of extremely challenging adventure games such as the popular Dark Souls series (where facing enemies  require multiple deaths to master), Darksiders III ramps up the enemies' skills, making the fights a lot more difficult to win.

Unfortunately, this shift toward something less kinetic isn't partnered with aspects in control and camera work that feel ready.

Face to face: The level designs are good, but look practically the same as they did in the last Darksiders title. Face to face: The level designs are good, but look practically the same as they did in the last Darksiders title. (Courtesy of Gunfire Games/-)

While listening to Fury's sarcastic quips and eventual character development are notable and add dimension, it is hard to fully embrace the moment when the controls will likely make you, well, rage.

Fights in the Dark Souls titles mostly require you to rely on counterattacks. This means lots of quick-reflexes and dodging – but the controls aren't intuitive and result in a lot of delay inputs in dodging that need a lot of time (and willingness) to get used to. This leaves Fury open to some very brutal and health-cutting attacks that feel unfair rather than challenging.

By the time players do get used to the mechanics, it will feel like a chore rather than something you find enjoyment in doing.

It doesn't help that the camera-work is equally frustrating, rarely locking onto enemies effectively and instead making it difficult to stay oriented and ostensibly know where to attack or dodge from.

The checkpoint system doesn't help, as it lets enemies re-spawn (after being killed) but completely resets all health and power-up shards players might have collected throughout. By the time the boss fight comes, the incoming brawl feels like you are starting it handicapped.

This feels extra unfortunate as the boss battles are by far the best part of the game. The Seven Deadly Sins (there's, ahem, seven of them) are each equipped with strong characteristics and attacks. They are relatively hard but, unlike their minions, offer a fight that actually feels fun to engage in.

Even with your health not at 100 percent, the fights feel somewhat fair, with your learning skills being at the forefront of importance. Get a grasp of the bosses' fighting ways, and players will be able to win the fight.

That same balance doesn't extend to much else. The puzzles, usually a crucial part of the Darksiders games, feel haphazardly thrown off here – and even a little too easy – never really affecting the rest of the game. 

Perhaps it is due to the game's transition to the hack-and-slash genre that it has somehow forgotten to put effort into its other elements.

Most unfortunate are the graphics, which are certainly far from bad, but in relative terms – compared to recent major releases like Red Dead Redemption 2 or its major influence, God of War – feel and look like they need some catching up to do.

The level designs are good, but look practically the same as they did from the last Darksiders title. At this point, they need to be great.

Darksiders III feels like a game in which attempts at progress feels half-hearted. The underlying concept in battling has changed, but the gameplay runs into the aforementioned issues, while everything else feels just OK. It may be a game that is fun enough to play at an arcade, but at this point it is difficult to justify its purchase. (ste)

 

 

 

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