You guys probably know that I'm a fan of the Darksiders series from my previous reviews here, both of Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition and the Darksiders: Warmastered Edition. The third iteration has been around close to a year now and it wasn't very well received at launch. I even let the thoughts of others influence my decision not to buy it at that point. That's not generally something I do. Regardless, I waited and with the recent Steam Summer Sale reducing it's price to $20.00, I finally pulled the trigger, (Strife Joke), and picked it up. Here are my thoughts. And be warned, there will probably be some spoilers.
Yeah so, tons of negativity came about when Fury entered the fray in Darksiders 3. Everything from how poorly the game is optimized, to how bad folks felt the level design is. I personally saw footage of people playing and it did seem to run badly and looked less creative than the previous titles. Ultimately I decided I could live without playing this one for a while. Upon installation I ran into a several annoying problems right away.
When I fired the game up the first time it started below my monitors native 1440p resolution. This in itself isn't actually that uncommon and is generally easy to fix with a quick trip to the options menu. Only that didn't work here. What the game did instead was cram a 1080p window in the corner of my screen and changing the options in the video menu didn't help that. I could get it to show at full screen 1080p, stretched and blurred, or I could get it to run windowed at 1440p. Eventually I found a workaround that solved the issue but it was convoluted and completely unnecessary. What I had to do was let it start in it's window then through the options menu, change the 1080p window to full screen mode and apply the setting. Then instead of starting the game I had to quit and restart where it would then again be in a window. Now I hit Alt-Enter and dropped back into the menu where I could then apply a 1440p resolution change and once again restart the game for things to run at my native 1440p full screen resolution. This is silly. Others suggested just changing windows scaling to match so that process would be rendered moot, but that's still not working at native resolution and really, shouldn't the menu options just do what they're supposed to?
Darksiders 3 seems to be hard-locked at 60 FPS. Now, this isn't a huge deal in itself. 60 FPS is perfectly fine and if you don't have an adaptive sync monitor then who cares? I have a 144 hertz panel and I would very much have liked to let it run as fast as it could to provide a smoother experience. But, it's not just that frame cap that's the problem. It's the fact that you can't break it loose. The video options contain a VSYNC button. You can turn it off but it doesn't do anything. I tried forcing VSYNC off though the GPU drivers to no avail as well. I even tried to edit the .ini file to manually set a frame target and that didn't work. Again, not a huge deal. The game ran mostly, just fine at 60FPS. The problem, however, is multifaceted. Shouldn't the menu options work as advertised? Certainly after nearing a year of being released they should. Not to mention VSYNC is forcing a bottleneck of sorts in your GPU. When it's on, VSYNC is telling your video card to only produce as many frames as the cap says while it waits for the panel to refresh and start a new batch of frames. This is to reduce or completely nullify screen tearing if your monitor's refresh rate can't keep up. I used it for a long time before I finally got an adaptive panel. But there are cases when this will cause frame drops because of varying reasons, among them is that the GPU is simply not allowed to produce frames as fast as it could be allowed to. In some very minimal cases I saw frame drops into the 40's and worse yet, I even managed to get the game play stuck at 30 FPS after a cut scene. I feel like if the setting worked, having VSYNC off would have resolved the frame drop issue. After all Darksiders 3 uses Unreal Engine 4, and that's an engine capable of handling everything that's been done with it here and more. There are some supposed fixes out there but I couldn't make any of them work in my case.
The biggest problem here is that through nearly all load screens the game would just stop working. I initially thought it was crashing and I would have to Ctrl-Alt-Del and stop the process. But I eventually found out that it's not crashing, just hanging. These hangs would sometimes happen for up to about a minute before the load would continue. This happened every time I played and every time I started the game. Right from the splash screen hitting "any button to continue" would freeze the screen, the music would stop, and the waiting began. Then the menu and once again to continue the game there was a long pause of "Not Responding" being reported by task manager. Then, poof, there I was playing. When the issue did not take place, load screen were just a few seconds long and really only used during fast travel or after a defeat and continue situation. I tried reinstalling the game, I even moved it to a spare SSD to see if access times were the problem. Nothing helped.
But That's It
All that I had to go through just to get it to run properly thankfully only needed to be done once. After all that was dealt with the game was great. Yes, the technical issues are big and it's enough to, understandably, make people not want to play. Especially if you don't know how to fix this stuff, or are just uncomfortable with things like changing values in configuration files. Why Nordic hasn't addressed these issues by now is beyond me. But if you're willing to be patient, chances are you're probably going to like the game itself.
To The Fun Stuff
When you start a new game you'll be given typical difficulty options and be allowed to choose a classic mode or the new game play mode. Classic makes things play more like the previous hack-n-slash ARPG style of the predecessors. I chose the new mode of play which is sort of a souls-borne type of combat. I can't really compare the two as I've only played this new combat mode, but I liked it. Fury isn't as durable as her brothers, War and Death. She's reckless and angry as her name suggests and as a result she can't block at all, only dodge. The window for dodging is narrow, it's not easy to avoid damage. But if you get it right she is then able to counter with a high damage attack. Defeating enemies gains "lurchers", souls to anyone that sees the game play. And if you are the one being defeated, all those souls drop on the ground. As an added bit of trouble at a certain range those dropped souls will vacuum up the ones you're gaining as you progress toward recovering the ones you lost. The blue ones act as currency to spend at Vulgrim's shop, (the demon vendor from the previous titles), on items and also serve as experience to level up Fury's three attributes -- Health, Physical damage and Arcane damage. You can see a count of how many souls you possess in the lower right corner next to the blue skull. The gold ones fill Fury's wrath bar, which she can then use to activate a sort of super power to help her deal with overwhelming odds. The green ones fill the Nephilim's Respite item that acts as the Estus Flask of the Darksiders world. You'll also find various consumable objects that will help in a pinch to get Fury out of scrapes.
As you progress in the game you'll find familiar faces and voices and even though Joe Mad wasn't involved in this game, the art direction is really faithful to what he brought to the previous titles. Level design is kind of a controversial issue though. Not that it isn't good. The world is connected and large and takes the player deep underground and into high rise buildings etc. There is no form of map at all. Only a compass pointing toward the next goal. Though this feels like small issue as you progress. The real problem is that the design means there's no room for riding, Rampage, Fury's horse. And in point of fact, you never get to. Rampage, is killed in a cut scene before you're ever able to even summon him. I hated that. I understand the reasoning because again, the level design isn't built for it. But Fury is a horseman and she should be able to ride her horse. The death of Rampage, is brought up a lot and serves as a plot point to keep Fury on track. It works and all but I'd much rather have just been able to ride the open areas on him or at least be able to use him in combat like the previous games.
Along with lots of familiar faces, you'll be introduced to new ones. The major newcomer is the Lord of Hollows, who will provide Fury with her different forms as she progresses. Fire, Storm, Force and Stasis are her hollow forms and each provides a new weapon for Fury along with powers that help with traversing the environment and special wrath powers. Each weapon has it's own move set and is able to be upgraded as well as enhancements for those weapons. The environment itself is a Metroidvania style with areas being out of reach until you're able to use the proper mode of transport to reach them. There are lots of fairly basic puzzle solving bits that open shortcuts and so on and it's all pretty fun to play through. I particularly like that Fury can cross gaps all, Indiana Jones, style by swinging with her whip.
Boss battles are kind of a point of contention. They're smaller, less epic feeling fights than before but none the less fun to experience. Fury is tasked with finding and capturing the seven deadly sins for the Charred Council. From there the story unfolds and she sees, like her brothers, that there's plenty more happening than just a simple unsanctioned apocalypse. I rather enjoyed the story and the character arc that Fury goes through. She's even given a couple of choices that will effect the ending depending on which option the player goes with. There are of course some predicable moments but all in all I really really enjoyed playing Darksiders 3.
Support for your Xbox One controller is full and contain the typical options. I chose to play with mouse and keyboard because I usually do when it's applicable. It's just what I prefer. But both control methods work quite well.
If you're interested in seeing some game play, head here and check this out. I made a video and yap about some of this stuff there.
Music and Graphics
As always the soundtrack is very epic feeling without being overwhelming and too in your face. Lots of cool orchestral scoring and so on. Game sounds themselves are satisfying. Fury's armor rattles with footsteps and each power has it's own identifying noise. Ambience is great everywhere.
Not everyone would agree, I'm sure, but I really like the look of the game. It's faithful to the previous games with some improvements to modernize it a bit while still running very smoothly. Textures aren't super high resolution and can be stretched a bit thin, but I really love the colors and lighting and specifically. Fury's details are pretty exceptional. You'll be able to see the texture in the leather under the chunky metal. Everything still has a very comic book feel. As it should.
The only thing I wasn't a big fan of is how the game handles reflections. They looked fine but Fury, herself, is a light source and the way the game handles that is to put a reflective response to any surface that is directly in line with her. So what you see is a glow on the ceiling, a wall, or the water but only in a direct line with Fury's hair, which is the light source. That makes sense since that's how rasterization reflections work but, and I can't believe I'm going to say this, Darksiders 3 would probably benefit from ray tracing quite a lot. Especially in some of the underground areas.
Okay so technical problems aside, I feel that Darksiders 3 is a good addition to the series. I really hope that Nordic won't take all the negativity to heart and that they'll allow Gunfire to make a fourth game allowing us to play as, Strife. On the other hand I also hope that they'll still fix the weird issues that exist now with this game. As much as I like THQNordic and Gunfire Games, they shouldn't get a pass for letting that kind of thing stand. Not to mention it would go a long way toward helping folks enjoy it more. So would I recommend it? Yeah, sure. I liked basically everything about it. It doesn't overstay it's welcome at about 25 hours of play time and it provides a good, strong experience. Even providing players with a new game plus mode at the end. Combat and story elements along with good voice acting and humor when it's needed keep you feeling engaged. But the technical problems make me say that you should wait for a sale. It's a fun game but there's enough time during loads losing response and picking back up to make a sandwich. That's not awesome. But I do suggest you give it a shot if you've waited like I did. The game itself really is quite good.
System Requirements For Darksiders 3 are as follows
- OS: Windows 7 / 8 / 10 64 bit
- Processor: AMD FX-8320 (3,5 GHz) / Intel i5-4690K (3,5 GHz) or better
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: GeForce GTX 660 / Radeon R7 370 with 2 GB VRAM
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 25 GB available space
- OS: Windows 7 / 8 / 10 64 bit
- Processor: Intel Core i7-3930K (3.2 GHz)/AMD Ryzen 5 1600 (3.2 GHz) or better
- Memory: 16 GB RAM
- Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 480 / NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 with 4 GB VRAM
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 25 GB available space
- Additional Notes: We recommend using a controller.