Everyone might be talking about Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Red Dead Redemption 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, and Battlefield V, among other upcoming releases, but it is worth noting that by the end of November, you can also get your hands on the third chapter of Darksiders. After releasing remastered versions of the two previous games, THQ Nordic will now continue the saga with a completely new game and a fresh protagonist, Fury, who succeeds War and Death.
While we had the chance to play it briefly at Gamescom, this week we had the opportunity to spend some more time with a newer version of Darksiders III, albeit as part of a very limited demo. It didn't include any type of story, nor an introduction or cutscenes, and it dropped us into some mid-level section of the game where the focus was on combat and exploration.
About a year ago we replayed the two remastered games, and still have them in fresh in our mind's eye, so it didn't take more than a few minutes to realise that the series' classic game structure and mechanics remain intact. It's pure Darksiders, but with a hint of Dark Souls. We say this because, this time, when you die, you will lose the souls you had collected from fallen enemies. The souls will then form a spirit where you died, and you will have to kill it to recover those lost souls. After being killed, you will be sent to the last location where you met Vulgrim, the soul merchant common to all three games. As always, Vulgrim accepts souls in exchange for skill points and items.
Another difference is the way health works. In the previous games, the green souls left by the enemies automatically recovered the health of the player, but that's not quite how they work in Darksiders III. This time the green souls are less frequent, and instead of immediately recovering health, they form an item you can use, up to a maximum of three. This allows you to save the green souls for later, but at least in this demo, the reduced frequency of green souls also made the game more difficult (and enemies did considerable damage).
One curious detail we didn't expect was the presence of regular humans. We found a man in a hidden area, casually dressed, who asked for our help. Fury approached him and used an item, which - hopefully - transported the man to another location. That or she merely disintegrated him, we're not sure. Anyway, we assume that these human characters will be some sort of hidden collectible for the player to find.
Design and structure wise, this demo reminded us of the first Darksiders. It took place in a mixture of catacombs with sewers, and it featured very linear level design, albeit with several hidden areas. While many games have shifted gears towards the open world genre, Darksiders III seems to remain true to its relatively linear roots, and we like that. Some areas might be bigger and broader, but this won't be an open world game. The design is also once again reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda's classic adventures, where you will need to revisit areas after you have acquired a certain item or ability to access areas that were blocked.
Gameplay is also pure Darksiders. You can lock Fury's aim and movement to a specific target by pressing LT, use her main weapon (the whip) with X/Square, and her secondary weapon (which is switchable) with Y/Triangle. You can start a combo with the main weapon and end with the secondary, do it in reverse, or just use a full combo with one weapon. In the demo we had access to two secondary weapons: one was a huge purple hammer which caused great damage, but was slow. The other was a pair of daggers, which while weaker were also extremely fast. While the hammer seemed to be connected to rock powers, the daggers contained fire abilities. Fury's hair even changes according to the secondary weapon she has equipped, varying between purple and red - a curious detail, when she's is in the water, her hair 'extinguishes', reverting to her natural black colour.
Weapons are also used to interact with the environment. The primary whip can be used to swing around specific locations, while the hammer can break strong structures and the daggers can burn flammable webs and materials. Again, nothing that we hadn't seen in previous games, but it continues to work well.
Something that is much better in this third chapter, but which is not totally unexpected, is the graphics. The character models, the lighting system, and the textures are much more defined and showcase richer detail. It won't be the most impressive game you have ever seen, but unlike the remastered versions, you will be able to tell that Darksiders III is a game made in this generation.
We were pleased with this sample of Darksiders III. We miss games like this; relatively linear adventures that mix puzzles, combat, exploration, and platforming. We are also glad to know that the story will continue, as the original idea has always been to tell a story divided into four chapters with four protagonists. We want to see more narrative and meet new characters, but what we've seen so far leaves us hopeful for a triumphant Darksiders return in November.