This week, Yahtzee reviews Darksiders III.
We return once again to THQ's ongoing reinterpretation of Judeo-Christian mythology as dramatized with poorly-painted Warhammer 40K miniatures, centrally featuring the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, except with Famine and Pestilence dropped out in favor of two others that wouldn't look quite so off-putting on a box art, Fury and Strife, there apparently being no overlap between the remits of those two and War; presumably, war in this universe is only ever waged very dispassionately for extremely sensible reasons.
Fury is the sole daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Apocalypse, and apparently, the least predictable of the Four Horsemen. Why is that, Darksiders? Because she's really angry and violent all the time? Surely, that makes her the most predictable of the Four Horsemen, Darksiders, or, at least, fully consistent with the previous two? Oh, I see; it's because she's the girl, isn't it? War and Death and the other bugger can slap angels and demons around with surfboards on the ends of sticks, and that's just boys being boys, but you pick on Fury for doing it because she's supposed to be making packed lunches and ironing everyone's pauldrons. One of the root causes of Fury being furious is how she thinks everyone underestimates her, but you know what might help that, Fury, love, is not showing up to every battle in stiletto heels.
After Darksiders I and II, a lot of questions still remain surrounding the ongoing story, chief among them being "How the fuck do you expect me to remember this plot?!" The first game was eight years ago; I can barely remember what I was doing last night, or why I woke up this morning in a half-empty vat of Frangelico. Darksiders III takes place after the first part of Darksiders I, but before the rest of Darksiders I, and either before or alongside Darksiders II. Keep up; this isn't going to get easier.
Fury is sent to walk the freshly-fucked-but-not-quite-as-fucked-as-it's-eventually-going-to-be Earth in order to track down the escaped personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins. I was hoping for some kind of twist along the lines of Fury spending half the game trying to track down Wrath, only to realize, "Hang on, that's me, isn't it?" But no; as I said in my Darksiders II review, this series is essentially about bureaucracy, and the Celestial Administration apparently doesn't mind a little competitive redundancy in middle management. Wrath is characterized, with staggering obviousness, as a big, angry, violent bloke; competition for the title must've been fucking stiff.
Darksiders continues to reinvent itself from game to game; well, reinvent the part that follows the "but" in the phrase "like God of War, but..." So Darksiders I was "like God of War, but Zelda", #2 was "like God of War, but Diablo", and now #3 is "like God of War, but Dark Souls", not that we're chasing trends or anything. Fury explores an interconnected open world that expands as she takes down the Sins, respawns at fixed, infrequent checkpoints with her potions refilled when she dies, and can recover her souls from her previous bodies, but in keeping with the established pattern, the Darksiders version of the games it emulates is always a brightly-colored, hollow, plastic Fisher-Price version of it. Darksiders III's combat, for example, isn't one iota as nuanced or interesting as Dark Souls' is, maybe because Fury is stuck with one main weapon the whole game: her whip, because of course, the token lady has to have a whip, doesn't she? Can't have a sword; people might accuse her of having penis envy, the same way male characters are always accused of having vagina envy whenever they're depicted using padded envelopes or ordering the fish tacos.
The Dark Souls bell-end has massaged my uvula a little too often over the years, and when reviewing Souls-esque games, I do tend to mark them down for the ways they differ regardless of if the change works for them, and no, having one main weapon isn't really a problem, if you're one of those unambitious types and your parents have gotten used to being disappointed in you, but the combat still feels iffy in a slightly-hard-to-explain way. It's more Bayonetta than Dark Souls in that it's very dodge-focused, and if you dodge just before a hit, there's a little slowdown and you can seize the advantage; fine so far.
One of the tactics enemies might develop in such a game is to do a little pause or feint during the windup animation, to make it harder to predict when the blow will land and throw off your rhythm. But that would be something to introduce some ways into the game, and I swear, in Darksiders III, every fucking enemy does it, even the piddly little starting zombies swiping at you with broken twigs and half-eaten sausages, and if you've attracted more than one enemy, a loss of rhythm combined with a misbehaving camera with fiddly lock-on makes it annoyingly easy to get passed around like the last unruptured pedophile in the prison shower.
Elsewhere in the mechanics, there's a recurring pattern of aping Dark Souls without fully understanding the nuances; yes, the world is open-ended and has that Dark Souls quality where, if you see something huge in the distance, you can say, "Someday, I'm going to go there," in your best Mufasa-from-The Lion King voice and be correct, but you still take down the Sins in fixed, linear order, and are led by the nose through the entire game by a slightly wonky compass that is supposed to point the way forward, but apparently isn't terribly career-motivated. Also, I already said Fury's supermarket-owned-brand Estus flasks refill after she dies and respawns at a checkpoint, but they don't refill if you merely stop at a checkpoint, so when you find a checkpoint after an arduous journey, you'd be well-advised to find a nearby enemy and let them kill you so you can be back at full healing capacity before pressing on, and the legendary apocalyptic warrior Fury happily bending over so a standard groundling can practice broken-twig gynecology isn't terribly immersive; well, it is for the broken twig, but not in the right way. Ow!
Still, I find Fury to be the least boring and contemptible of the three Darksiders protagonists thus far. At least her character undergoes growth; so I'm told, anyway. Could've sworn she didn't; she starts the game angrily mowing through gremlins and ends the game angrily mowing through gremlins, but near the end, her support character says, "Mistress, you've changed!", and who am I to fucking argue with that? In truth, I can't bring myself to hate Darksiders III; I don't love it, but it's harmless and doesn't outstay its welcome like Darksiders II. As I say, it's a hollow, plastic Fisher-Price toy of a game, so if I kick it apart, it's going to ruin someone's Christmas morning.
That said, something about the plot bothers me; there's this bit in the intro where Fury's checking in on an imprisoned War, and they say he's been put in the time-out chair for breaking the Seventh Seal without approval from upper management, and something about that niggled me in the back of my mind, so I looked up the plot summary for Darksiders I, and my suspicion was confirmed: War didn't break the Seventh Seal! If anything, he was being punished for not breaking it before setting off the Apocalypse; he breaks it at the end of Darksiders I, but that takes place long after this. Yeah, so, commiserations if you are trying to follow the ongoing story of Darksiders, 'cos THE FUCKING WRITERS AREN'T!
- The end of all things: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Then I rewatched the Darksiders 1 outro and War wasn't even the one who broke the sodding seventh seal in the end so idk
- The Horseman household goes through a lot of anti-tangle shampoo