The odds were quite heavily stacked against a third Darksiders game being made. The first was rather well received, but despite the second featuring many more than two shades of grey and brown, it didn’t meet the old THQ sales expectations. As that publisher crumbled in bankruptcy a few months later, it seemed that the final protagonist would quite aptly be Death.
But as with all things THQ right now, they’re being given a new lease of life. THQ Nordic (nee Nordic Games) has laid the foundations with the very ‘punny’ Warmastered and Deathinitive editions of the first two games, while Vigil Games was resurrected by a number of ex-members as Gunfire Games to work on the oddly gunfire free Darksiders III. We got to go hands on with a brief slice of Darksiders III at Gamescom – the brevity of which is absolutely the reason for the rather padded intro – to see what Gunfire have crafted.
Perhaps the most striking thing for me was how naturally my thumbs and fingers went for a dual attack button set up, expecting to find different light and heavy attacks to unleash on the handful of weird goblin-like creatures I ran into. Of course, my finger muscle memory was completely wrong to jump to conclusions because Darksiders has and remains a game with a single melee attack button. It’s a simple design decision, but it’s one that feels a tiny bit odd to me in the here and now.
A lot of Darksiders III’s look and feel shouts that it wants to let you artfully weave together complex combos to hack your way through groups of enemies, and yet it goes the opposite direction. That’s not a bad thing, per se, as it allows for the focus to shift to other parts of the combat and for Fury to take on different elemental damage types in her mage attacks – something I didn’t get to see here. A large part of that expectation might come from Fury herself, with her whips feeling reminiscent of the splitting chain sword of Ivy from the SoulCalibur games. Needless to say, it’s easy to unleash all manner of furious (heh!) attacks upon your foes, trying to focus on timing when dodging incoming attacks so that you can turn it around with a counter.
Still set after the apocalypse, there’s was the familiar scenery of a devastated, overgrown cityscape. Burnt out cars sat alongside the remains of roads, massive sink holes had swallowed up entire streets, the ground the remained have been ripped up into several different levels. It looks good, but not exactly the most inventive of locales for the demo to be set in.
Getting around this area caused me a few minor troubles, though. Fury’s double jump isn’t quite what you’d expect, but rather a forward roll in midair, giving a different and atypical feel to getting around. Grabbing onto ledges to pull Fury up to higher ground also felt a tiny bit hit and miss, and for some reason the demo’s tooltip for Fury using her whip to swing from certain points came after the point of its first use for me. Needless to say, I was having a bit of a time.
But when I got through to the battle with the crow-like Envy, one of the Seven Deadly Sins that have escaped from captivity during the apocalypse, these things started to come together for me. You can’t just whale upon Envy with your single chained attack form, but need to have perfected dodging to let you counter her sweeping melee attacks, jump over the waves of energy that spread from her at other times, and evade the rocks that are dropped down on Fury’s head.
Eventually Envy starts building up to a more deadly and powerful attack, which forced me to break out my barely grasped platforming chops to leap between ledges and swing from grappling points, so that I could string together a bunch of mid-air attacks and knock us onto the next step of the fight as Envy crashes through the floor.
All in all, I must say I came away from Darksiders III’s demo rather underwhelmed. This aperitif didn’t do much to whet my appetite further, but there’s clearly a lot more to the game than what was shown here, whether it’s variety in the world or the depth of the combat and how Fury’s abilities evolve through the game. Knowing that the game is in the same hands as the first two, I remain guardedly optimistic that Darksiders III’s unlikely revival can be a success and we might see further adventures in this apocalyptic world.