When thinking about some of my favorite hack & slash adventure games of last-gen, Darksiders and Darksiders II pop up in my head. The story was unique, and the combat was satisfying with creative level design. For whatever reason, I never picked up Darksiders III. So here we are in 2021 and Darksiders III has been ported to my preferred portable gaming device. This is why I held off on reviewing this game until my Nintendo Switch OLED arrived. At least 90% of my gaming on the Switch is in handheld mode and I wanted to experience this horrid creature-infested world on the new vibrant OLED screen.
Darksiders III tells the tale of Fury, a member of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. She’s bored, impatient, and thrilled her time to shine has finally arrived. Her job is to hunt down and re-capture the seven Deadly Sins who have escaped imprisonment and are somewhere on the post-apocalypse earth. The lore is deep as well as the story. Fury’s adventure doesn’t just have her brutally destroying a variety of demons. She will also need to save humans who have survived and bring them to a place called Haven. Just like Darksiders and Darksiders II, the story is entertaining and will keep you interested in seeing how all this will play out.
Visually post-apocalypse earth looks how one would imagine. Buildings are half blown out and barely standing. The streets are filled with abandoned vehicles along with random items still on fire. So, this is where the new 7 inch OLED screen comes into play. This screen’s brightness makes all these dreary dilapidated environments pop. Shades, shadows, and light reflections really stand out compared to the original LCD switch screen. As we know, there are no new internal enhancements besides the 64GB storage upgrade so the only game impacting change is the screen and if you own an OLED TV, you know it does wonders with color and brightness.
As I mentioned, this is my first time playing Darksiders III and I instantly noticed something different about the gameplay. This was nothing like its predecessors and no longer using the hack & slash combat system. Instead, we have a Dark Souls approach in which every attack needs to be strategically planned out or else you will be greeted to an early demise, and that’s what happened to me in abundance. I am absolutely horrible at the “Soul” style of gameplay. Like Fury, I’m impatient and enjoy making quick work of my foes. Unfortunately, by default, this is not possible and I found myself dying way too many times than I care to share. This was definitely not the Darksiders that I remember and I have to admit it was a bit of a letdown.
Upon doing some research, I discovered that this can be changed back to “classic” mode but you will have to start a new game as it cannot be changed in an existing save. I found this extremely disappointing since I had already put in a good amount of time in my current save and really wasn’t looking forward to starting over. I eventually did create a new save with classic controls and turned off nightmare mode which I completely forgot about. This is another new mode that if enabled then your save will be deleted on death. The question I now ask is who was requesting all these changes? Darksiders and Darksiders II were by no means god’s gift to the genre, but in my opinion, their faults were not in the gameplay department, rather the bugs and hiccups spread throughout. Oddly enough, some of the same issues appear in Darksiders III along with a few new ones.
Darksiders III, at least on the switch has some odd freezing issues which I’m assuming are load pauses. This would occur before boss fights and other big moments in the game. I would approach a doorway or turn a corner and the game would freeze for about 5+ seconds. It would then resume and play fine but even after dying during a boss fight and returning to the battle, it would freeze up again.
Frame drops and missing textures also occur depending on what’s taking place on the screen. Now I know many of you reading this are thinking this should be expected due to the hardware specs of the Nintendo Switch but I will counter that thought by saying that I’ve played Borderlands 2 and Bulletstorm on the switch. Both at times can have a good number of enemies onscreen in large environments and encountered nothing comparable. Don’t get me wrong these issues are not game-breaking but are noticeable and worth mentioning.
After creating a new game with classic mode, I felt back at home and resumed my hack and slash blissful extermination of all enemies. It’s not uncommon to see a popular game franchise make drastic changes to its core gameplay.
In some cases, the change was needed and in others, the change feels out of place and unnecessary. The latter can apply to Darksiders III. The variety of magical abilities Fury possesses mesh well with her melee weapons. Using the whip to swing around from place to place is a great addition and provides new ways to implement navigational puzzles.
Darksiders III steered the series into a new genre with this combat system and gameplay mechanics. The question of if this change was for the best depends on players and their expectations. I feel such a change would have been better for a spin-off title. This would have been a great way to test the waters and see if the Darksiders and Darksiders II player base would follow. The methodical Dark Souls approach overall works well in regards to having no input control issues. However, when it comes to how I prefer to play my Darksiders, it will be in classic hack and slash mode all day, every day.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Darksiders III for the Nintendo Switch (OLED model) provided by THQ Nordic and Gunfire Games.