Developer: Gunfire Games
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 30.09.21
A code was provided for review purposes
I’m an admirer of the Darksiders franchise, with its heart on its sleeve inspirations from the greats of gaming such as Zelda, Diablo, God Of War and now Dark Souls!
I was lucky enough to be able to play the previous games in the franchise on PS4 on release and enjoy its ‘Divine Comedy’ parallels and dungeon crawling hyper-gothic locales. As with the previous two entries, Darksiders III has been ported to the Nintendo Switch with all its DLC included and some other nasty surprises.
It was originally released in 2018 to fair reviews on PS4, XBOX and PC, Darksiders III is by far the most unoriginal entry in the series and seems to capitalise on the ‘souls-like’ formula a little too much in places for my tastes.
The basics are simple. Explore the world, battling demons and angels with a variety of slashes and stabs from the main character’s (Fury’s) whip and unleash demonic magic when needed. This time, however, Gunfire Games has implemented a more deliberate combat system in which you must commit to attacks and spells once you’ve pressed the specific action button and rely heavily on its parry system a la Dark Souls and the enemies have been given a substantial health boost which simply makes them feel like attack sponges for the most part. There is an alternative ‘Hack n slash’ style combat mode to choose from, which makes the game feel more akin to Darksiders II, but this was not the developer’s intent when creating the game and it is painfully obvious.
Not So Noble Steed
In Darksiders III you play as the Horseman Fury, the only female member of the Nephilim-Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (yes those guys from Abrahamic Religion) as she makes her way capturing the escaped Seven Deadly Sins, with the deal that she will become the new leader of the Horsemen if her task is completed. In the first cutscene of the game, you lose your titular horse and are led down the linear ruined earth to capture The Sins in a hip flask (not a joke) for something like fifteen-twenty hours – with little room for exploration and a distinct lack of loot to even want to explore the earth in its final hours.
Battling the beasties and demons will yield orbs that can be used to make better weapons, level up and add new spells, from series regular Vulgrim the demon capitalist. It’s really simple with only three paths to upgrade strength, health and arcane. There is also an ultimate attack that grants Fury invincibility with added strength in the guise of a giant demon that incrementally increases upon successfully connected attacks.
The Whip that Fury starts her adventure with will be your primary form of attack from the get-go and potentially to the end of the game. You do collect spears and other elemental weapons upon vanquishing the bosses, but I always found myself using the default whip as my main form of offence. There is genuinely nothing new to add to the franchise with the gameplay except it’s slightly more difficult due to the enemy health boost and it genuinely feels a lot more linear. For some, this won’t be a bad thing and it’s inoffensive and quite charming throughout. However, the bugs and how the game runs on Switch do leave a lot to be desired.
It’s a Sin!
To put it simply, it’s not good! There is an obvious graphical downgrade with an almost Cel-shaded approach to character models and huge black lines for silhouettes, but it’s the frame rate that takes the biggest hit of all. It isn’t consistent from start to finish, with some boss encounters hitting what felt like single digits which are simply unacceptable for a twitchy finger action-adventure that relies on parries and counters. Also, due to the Switch’s power, the game has been broken down into smaller segments instead of a vast world to explore which means loading times unexpectedly show up halting progress (even during boss fights). This makes backtracking a pain and a lack of a map just adds to the frustration overall.
I wanted to like this port because these smaller action-adventure games feel at home on the Nintendo Switch, but regardless of whether you play in Handheld mode or Full Screen the game just struggles under its weight. The more enemies on-screen or bigger and larger bosses just make the framerate take an absolute nose-dive. So many times my deaths were caused by frame dips, which made me lose a parry or counter in quick-time moments that forced me back to the beginning of bosses, or sent me back to poorly implemented checkpoints.
The platforming and swinging from place to place is also affected by the poor frame rates which again lead to even more deaths and loss of progress, also unforgivably some loading screens can occur mid-jump/swing which is ludicrous. Upon dying you’re greeted by loading times from 30 seconds to a minute and these loading screens is where I met most of the game-breaking force reset bugs – losing hours of progress in some places. Admittedly it feels much better to play using a decent controller while docked but this then solidifies that this game should be played on Xbox or PlayStation and for a fraction of the price, I’d only recommend the Switch version if that was your only means to play.
Are You Not Entertained?
Even without the bugs and choppy frames, I feel that Darksiders III is the poorest entry into the franchise with its lack of verbose and fantastical dialogue in comparison to the excellent predecessors and strange timeline (set between the first and second game and in conjunction with the fourth game). It’s just a bit messy to grasp and dull until the boss fights which can be fun and exciting, frame-rate permitting!
To summarise, Darksiders III on Switch is the worst way to play the worst entry in the franchise and isn’t worth the asking price on Switch but fine on Game Pass. The saving grace on Switch is that the DLC is bundled neatly together and can be quite fun with an arena mode and extra bosses to destroy.
Unless severe patches are made, I simply cannot recommend this port to Switch and if you must play it… play it elsewhere.
Rapid Reviews Rating
1.5 out of 5
You can purchase Darksiders III on the Nintendo eShop
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.