After we beat the final boss in Darksiders 3, it showed some cut-scenes, and then the game transitioned to one of its many loading screens. One minute turned to two. Two turned to three. And after waiting five minutes, it became apparent that Darksiders 3 was perpetually stuck on its loading screen, forcing us to close out of the game completely and redo the last boss fight to see the rest of the ending. If this was the only technical issue we encountered in Darksiders 3, it would have been frustrating, but by the time we reached the end, we experienced so many glitches and game-breaking bugs that it was honestly the most fitting ending to our time with it.
Darksiders 3 is a broken mess of a game and it’s baffling that it’s being released to the public in its current state. Players will run into technical issues and glitches more than they will enemies, and considering the sheer number of creatures new hero Fury will come up against, that’s saying something. We ran into everything from invisible floors to one rather bizarre bug where we fell off a cliff, Fury disappeared, and then the camera stayed in the chasm for what seemed like forever until she finally respawned elsewhere.
The game doesn’t just suffer from gameplay bugs. Textures routinely fail to load, despite the constant freeze-frame loading screens, and when they do, they’re typically washed-out and ugly. Audio likes to drop on a semi-frequent basis, sometimes impacting the audio for our entire PS4 system, removing any sound effects not just in the game, but the dashboard as well. This seemed to occur when trophies would pop during cut-scenes, and forced us to reset the game to fix it. At first we suspected it was a technical issue with our PS4 console, but we couldn’t replicate it with any other game.
The widespread technical problems make Darksiders 3 impossible to recommend, but even if they weren’t a factor, it would still be a boring, unimaginative action game that fails to capture the magic of the first two games in any way. It has less of the Legend of Zelda-style puzzles that the series is known for, and more focus on combat, which wouldn’t be a big deal except the combat is as mundane as it gets. Fury later unlocks new abilities, called Hollows, that make the fights a little more interesting and offer new ways to traverse the environment, but they can’t overcome the combat’s inherent blandness.
The puzzles Darksiders 3 does have are clever but repetitive, and the game’s heavy reliance on its mediocre combat makes the overall gameplay experience a drag. The strategy for every enemy is exactly the same, and that’s dodging at the right time, smashing the attack button, rinse, and repeat. It never really evolves beyond this, even when the new abilities are added to the mix. Fighting multiple enemies forces players to mix things up a bit, but fighting more than one enemy at once is not recommended, as Fury can easily get stuck in a loop where one enemy’s attack animation will be replaced by the next one, trapping her against a wall and leading to an annoying, cheap death.
Darksiders 3‘s combat goes from mediocre to downright dreadful thanks to its absolutely horrendous frame rate. Even when barely anything is going on, the game will chug along, sometimes to the point that it practically looks like a slideshow rather than one cohesive image. Since the combat is all about timing dodges, some fights in Darksiders 3 are virtually impossible on higher difficulty settings because of the unreliable frame rate.
The awful frame rate drags down Darksiders 3‘s gameplay, and the misguided checkpoint system makes it even worse. Checkpoints are few and far between, and if Fury dies, it means repeating a lot of unpleasant combat sections and attempting to once again navigate through the sometimes confusing level design. It also means players have to return to the spot Fury died to regain the souls she collected (used to purchase upgrades and items in-game), similarly to Dark Souls, but if they actually wanted to use those souls to buy something to help them with whatever is giving them trouble, it means walking all the way back to the checkpoint. This kind of mechanic is usually used to create tension, but all it accomplishes in Darksiders 3 is force players to do a lot of backtracking, and it doesn’t add anything positive to the experience.
Despite its massive gameplay flaws, some fans of the Darksiders franchise may still be willing to suffer through the game if the story is any good. But it isn’t, outside of the ending. Darksiders 3 is set parallel to the first two games, which makes the franchise’s overarching plot feel like it’s running in place instead of making any real progress. Fury’s journey feels inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, and any fans looking for closure or significant story developments won’t find them until the very end.
In Darksiders 3, Fury is ordered by the Charred Council to travel to Earth, currently in the middle of the apocalypse, and capture the Seven Deadly Sins. One of the game’s only redeeming qualities is seeing the designs that the developers dreamed up for each Deadly Sin, as they are all pretty creative and freaky-looking, with a couple uninspired exceptions, like Lust and Wrath. It’s also cool how some of the Sins can be fought out of order, though the downside to that is the return trip to skipped Sins leads to excessive backtracking.
Fury’s quest to kill the Seven Deadly Sins doesn’t carry much weight to it, and the game’s attempts to appeal to emotions fall flat on their face. There is one scene early on that is clearly meant to tug at the heartstrings, but it comes across as unearned given the little to no character development Fury has had at that point. Fury being an unbearable character certainly doesn’t help matters either. Her personality is defined entirely by her name, meaning she’s mad a lot, and while she talks about how she’s “changing” from her time on Earth, the game does a bad job of showing it. Fury is the epitome of a one-note character, and thanks to some corny dialogue combined with her constant yelling, she comes across as abrasive.
Out of all of Fury’s cut-scenes, there is exactly one scene that felt important, and it turned out to be nothing more than a hallucination. There’s also a plot twist that may surprise those new to the series, but anyone familiar with Darksiders and the plots of the first two games will see it coming a mile away, so much of the story is spent just waiting for the obvious twist to happen – and it doesn’t until the last 30 minutes or so.
And those final 30 minutes seem to come a lot quicker than they did in Darksiders 2. Darksiders 3 is far less ambitious than its predecessor, greatly reduced in scope, and with a smaller, more linear world. This is probably for the best considering the myriad of technical issues, but it’s still disappointing to see the series take such a huge step backwards.
Being a smaller game than Darksiders 2 is the least of Darksiders 3‘s problems, though. The game is a nightmare to play through, with an unlikable protagonist, a chugging frame rate, and a mountain of bugs. It’s completely and utterly broken, but even when it works (which is almost never), it amounts to nothing more than a below average hack-and-slash with some decent puzzles. When THQ went out of business, there was worry that a new Darksiders game would never be made, but after the abomination that is Darksiders 3, some fans will be wishing that the franchise stayed dead.
Darksiders 3 launches on November 27 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided with a PS4 code for this review.