OXM took a trip to Texas to get hands-on with the apocalyptic action threequel
PublisheR THQ Nordic Developer Gunfire Games Format Xbox One ETA 27 november 2018
Hell hath no fury, as the saying begins… but the post-apocalyptic hell-on-earth that forms the backdrop to Darksiders III does ‘hath’ Fury, and she’s going to kick ass in high heels.
Despite sporting surely the most impractical footwear since Bayonetta’s gun-heels, the Horsewoman of the Apocalypse is more than equipped to take on the Seven Deadly Sins, which, since her brother War supposedly brought on the apocalypse in the first game, have now been unleashed on the world. It’s the third instalment of a series begun by Vigil Games back in 2010, and after Darksiders and
Darksiders II (featuring Death as its protagonist), the now-defunct Vigil morphed into Austin, Texas-based Gunfire Games, which is where OXM had its first hands-on time with the hack’n’slash action-adventure sequel.
Our time as Fury begins on a justabout-recognisable Earth, or what’s left of it, in a subway station. There’s icky stuff all over the walls, and bugs running around the place, some of which, as we get into the literal swing of things with our whip, we find to be more nuisance than nasty. Fury’s whip is a magical one that, rather than trailing around behind her or having to be looped up Indiana Jones-style every time she sets off running, appears and disappears from its more corporeal handle with a flick of the wrist. It comes in handy not just in the melee combat, but for swinging across chasms, pits and from platform to platform.
Making our way through the dank subway as it intersects with caves and sewers, we encounter some fast-moving, pouncing creatures that require skilled timing to dodge. Fury has no means to parry attacks, but a quick shoulder-button hit will have her roll deftly in the required direction. But, as we find to our cost, enemies are quick on the follow-up, and there’s no guarantee your dodge will get you out of trouble. It requires pin-point timing. Ditto the opportunity to counter. It’s tricky, requiring practice and fast reactions to pull off the best moves without getting hit, but it’s satisfying when you get it right.
We soon find our way blocked by some sort of sticky webbing, presumably put there by the insect creatures, though they are actually more beetle than spider. One such tiny flying beetle emerges from a sticky nest. Instinct says ‘kill’. And the next one that emerges tastes the whip before it can flap its tiny wings and beetle up to Fury. And another. And another, before we realise these little fellas aren’t attacking Fury, she’s standing in the way of their dinner – a coagulating blob of glowing red matter that’s dripping horribly from a gloopy appendage hanging from the ceiling. Upon consuming this gunk, the beetles bloat and glow firey red… becoming ‘bomb bugs’. We can pick these bugs up, and quickly hurl them as weapons or incendiary devices to burn away the webbing – allowing progress through previously hidden tunnels. It’s a fire-making device that crops up a lot during our playthrough, and requires making friends with more than one of these actually cute little critters, before we make them explode. Flame on We meet our first major boss and Deadly Sin, Wrath. He’s a huge, almost mechanoid armoured behemoth, as
“The beetles bloat and glow firey red… becoming ‘bomb bugs’”
angry as his sin would suggest. It’s a tough battle requiring deft timing with dodge moves and some healing and fortification pick-ups, but it’s following this that we get our first big surprise reveal. Fury receives her first ‘hollow’, which happens to give her flame power, and while she has this magic equipped, her flowing hair changes from its usual vibrant and gravitydefying purple locks to actual flames.
Fury’s hair is undoubtedly one of the most striking aspects of Fury’s design, which was helped in the concept stages by Darksiders creator Joe Madureira, aka comic artist Joe Mad. This, along with her whip and stylised look, is part of a trio of key design concepts.
“We joked early on that it was like we’ve got three main characters,” explains John Pearl, design director at Gunfire Games. “We have Fury, we have her hair and we have the whip, and those all have to look cool when they are put together.” It’s a strong look certainly, one that has the potential to become truly iconic in time. Other hollows that Fury will obtain will specifically alter the nature of her magic and nature of her attacks, and, presumably, hair.
The next part of our playthrough takes Fury into the catacombs. This time, Fury’s world is a more continuous journey in a map that links up in a more coherent fashion – gone is the hub area mechanic of the previous games, from which the player accessed distinct ‘dungeons’, to provide a more seamless journey through the world.
This place is crawling with skeletons – almost cute in design, and often indifferent to Fury’s presence. Here we find another major difference from the established mechanic of the previous games, and other hack’n’slash classics whose lineage is a part of the series’ DNA. There are no gated fights this time, instead, the enemies are presented more organically.
The skeletons, rather than rushing to attack, are busy doing things like kowtowing to the glowing swords held by statues around doorways, which form the games’ levers and which you strike to activate. Others are literally just sitting around minding their own business. Dark life Of course, our first instinct is to lay into every enemy we see, but in Darksiders III, that’s not entirely necessary. This lack of gated fights offers up a more Dark Souls- esque experience, complete with a certain amount of combat difficulty. While some skeletons will easily break apart with Fury’s whip, or alternative flaming nunchuk attack, others will parry, and attack two at a time, creating some quite difficult, smaller-scale fights. But, we’re still going to want to whip the hell out of any and all enemies though, aren’t we?
But hacking away is really not working for us, and we die a lot in our playthrough. The bigger demi-bosses we encounter hit hard, often knocking Fury into a health-sapping ‘fall’ – luckily she teleports back to the ledge, but it makes such bruising bosses all the more tricky. When Fury ‘dies’, it’s back to the last checkpoint, which often means a long trawl back to where you shuffled off your immortal coil – a reasonable if sometimes infuriating punishment for failure.
For fans of hack’n’slash dungeon crawlers and Metroidvania style games, Darksiders III will be fun to play, already feeling like a much more satisfying experience than the earlier entries in the series, with a more dynamic feel thanks to its continuous one-big-dungeon world. And despite the dark, subterranean settings of the areas we played through, Darksiders’ visual flair is evident, improving on but staying faithful to the aesthetic of the previous games. There’s fantastical realism here in spades, real-world physics and a gritty sense of the postapocalypse combined with bombastic heaven-and-hell mythology and those Joe Mad-inspired character designs.
When we finally end our playthrough, reaching an upwardleading ladder that suggests we’ll be above ground when we track down our next deadly sin, we’re super-excited to take Fury on more adventures. And maybe, just maybe, find out where she left her horse.
“Fury’s whip, stylised look and hair are a trio of key design concepts”
Below Fury’s hair reflects the power she’s currently wielding, in this case fire.
Below Fury’s whip attack is powerful, but she’d better watch out for those claws.