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Darksiders III Hands On Impressions From Gamescom

I'm not quite feeling the fury......

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Darksiders III is available for demo in THQ Nordic’s show floor along with Biomutant, and also showing a few other games!

THQ was one of the better known game studios back then. So when THQ went down some time ago, I was kinda sad because they made some of the best childhood games I played during the PS1 era (though I can’t exactly remember what they were). So when THQ resurrects itself as THQ Nordic I got excited at the thought that they are gonna make another great game. And lo and behold, today they have 2 games that have piqued my interests: Darksiders 3 and Biomutant. And today, I got the chance to try and play Darksiders III. I may just have tried Devil May Cry V yesterday, but do not worry, I won’t be comparing Darksiders to that, it won’t be fair. It will be Darksiders II instead.

The previous Darksiders (Darksiders II) was a blast to play. Everything felt good. The controls are tight and responsive, Death feels light and snappy to control, moves are cancellable and there are enough amount of combo branches to not feel spammy or boring, skills help you survive various situations that your basic tools are not likely to normally be able to help in, the camera is also magnificent, zooming out during encounters so you can see enemies and the environment around you and there’s a lot of variation for those, both in theme and size.

Darksiders III……is not so much of a blast.

Now a quick disclaimer, I might not be playing the Demo correctly here, so if any of you down in the comments went to gamescom and had a better experience, please do tell. I, too want this game to be good, so please tell me if I’m wrong in one way.

My very first and most important complaint about the demo is that there is too much cutscenes or dialogues where you can’t control Fury in any meaningful manner. At one part there’s even a minute (or more) long walk and talk segment. No fights, nothing interesting. You’re just forced to walk while listening to them talk plot stuff. That is an absolute waste of time in a demo, where what people want to try is the gameplay and not watch a damn short film. And then, once the talking part ends, your control of Fury is handed back, which I almost didn’t want back. It just doesn’t feel as good as Darksiders II. Here’s why.

Fury is sluggish. Death, even off his horse, moves like the wind while Fury moves like a dumpster trying to be moved by the wind. Her run is slow and the sprint doesn’t add that much speed. This wasted even more of my time just trying to get to the end of the demo (as I died repeatedly). And the level isn’t even that big. It’s really really small compared to the horizon-reaching vastness of Darksiders II, and somehow Fury still manages to feel so soo sluggish. Vertically, Fury is also quite challenged. All her double jump does is basically keep her in the air a split second longer rather than actually reaching new heights, and thus far in the stage, there are only poles you can swing from with Fury’s whip like the grappling hook from Uncharted, except worse because you can only control when she lets go and not quite the direction of it.

Which speaking of the level, it is comparatively really small compared to the previous Darksiders. Some areas are just long halls with no clear purpose other than to probably serve as a cover for loading screens. The areas in which you fight in are confined, relatively small spaces that doesn’t allow a lot of dodging. And the ones that are big enough for an all out brawl tend to have obstructions in the way. An enemy attacks and you wanna dodge? Too bad, there’s a broken car on your right. On your left? Oh there’s a fence there, that won’t do.

Dodging in those environments is horrible but the dodge move itself is also probably just as bad. The dodges are one of those kind that neither put you far enough to be completely safe from the enemies, or quickly cancelable to allow for regular punishing. The only good part about dodging is when you time it right you can trigger a special punishing move. While it deals considerable amount of damage, it doesn’t really connect to other moves and some enemies don’t even flinch from it which simply diminishes any value to it. This is a huge step backwards from the previous game where Death can chain-dodge to get to safe distances or a more strategic position, but also stops the player from doing too much of it by limiting it to 4 or 3 dodges after which the recovery is longer in addition to be cancelable to a really good combo starter.

Combos, in Darksiders II, flows really nicely, with different combinations of light and heavy attacks creating different branches which puts the enemies in positions that some other combo can then catch and continue the beatdown with. In Darksiders III, the combos feel really simplistic, with now heavy attacks delegated to holding down the attack button and some other combo branches can be done through delayed inputs. However, the combat feels more monotonous with the combos not really doing anything other than beating the enemy up. Aerial combos are not that great either seeing as there are no launchers and the enemies don’t jump that often either.

Darksiders IIIThis….feels so wrong, especially knowing that Fury uses (bladed) whips, which has more (imaginatively speaking) utility compared to scythes. They could’ve made her have a gap-closer where she pulls the enemy towards her, she could use it to tie onto enemy then smack other enemies with it as a flail for crowd control move, the possibilities are certainly much more than what you’d ever think a scythe could ever do. This would also fit her femme fatale vibes, toying around enemies with her whip in an entertaining display both for herself and you the player.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that the Y/Triangle button was assigned to a “Hollow attack” however I tried pressing it but nothing happens. If this is supposed to be a feature unlocked early in the game but in a later part of the demo, I have certainly failed to reach that part within the play time limit given. In addition to being rather worrying gameplay wise, there could also be performance issues in the game. I encountered a split-second freeze during combat, for reasons unknown, and it seems like I was the only one experiencing it, so hopefully it’s a hardware problem on the PC that I tried the demo on rather than some optimization issues in the game itself.

At the end of the day, Darksiders III failed hold up to my expectations. I had high hopes for it but it seems that the game just was not built the way I wished it to. Maybe it’s following another gameplay style that I did not thought to try while playing it, maybe it just failed to achieve what it intended. Until the final game releases we won’t know for sure, but as of now, for me, it was a letdown.

And on that note, -F- out.