More Metroid than Zelda
It’s kind of a small miracle that Darksiders III is getting made — or at least the way it’s getting made. Back in 2013, Vigil Games (developer of Darksiders and its sequel) went belly-up alongside its parent company THQ. A bunch of former Vigil employees formed a new studio called Gunfire Games. It got through the first five years mostly by riding the early wave of VR. Chronos is Gunfire’s most popular game.
We talked with senior designer Richard Vorodi and he can’t really hide the fact that a third Darksiders is what the team wanted to do all along. Now that it finally has the opportunity, Vigil — I mean Gunfire — is making the most of it.
Our brief demo takes place near the beginning of Darksiders III for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, that’s the logical way to introduce mechanics, systems, and characters. This game stars Fury. She’s the sister to War and Death (protagonists of the first two Darksiders), and combined they make up three-quarters of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
More interestingly, we’re shown the beginning because the game is mostly open-ended after that. Fury is on a quest to hunt down the manifestations of the seven deadly sins (it’s all very Se7en like that) and they can be encountered in any order. Darksiders III doesn’t really push you in any certain direction.
Players will have to figure out for themselves where they want to go, and that process carries over to navigating the world. Vorodi tells us Darksiders III doesn’t have any form of map. He says it just isn’t fun to constantly pull up a map to make sure you’re going the right way. Instead, there’s a strong reliance on landmarks. See that big church in the distance? Now you see the giant tree near it? Now you know two crucial parts of the map.
Learning and internalizing all of that is part of the experience. Vorodi assures us players will eventually know exactly where they are and where they need to go. If the last two games were Zelda-eque, Vorodi tells us this one is more Metroid. He also confirms that there’s a fast travel system but that most people won’t necessarily want to use it super often. Journeying between points A and B will yield lots of resources needed for upgrading. Instantly teleporting to the destination means forfeiting all that.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves, though. Those opening minutes as Fury really highlight how Darksiders III separates itself from its elder siblings. Fury is a mage and that means she isn’t a marvelous brawler. Attacks have some distance to them, as she pulls enemies in with her whip in order to unleash a flurried combination of strikes. There are hints at real depth to the combat mechanics, but we weren’t exposed to much of it. This is an action RPG and our start-game build of Fury didn’t have much in the way of upgraded abilities.
This culminates in our first major foe: Envy. She’s a a wicked bird-like creature who also goes by the alias Resentment Made Flesh (A++ for that). Vorodi explains how the Sins’ characteristics influence the art design. Envy has always been jealous of the Four Horsemen and their power, so her clothes and accessories heavily resemble stuff that War and Death wear. The other Sins are similarly designed as visual representations of their traits.
Envy’s the weakest of the Sins, but she’s no pushover. There’s a Souls-like rhythm to the boss fight (yes, I know everyone’s sick of the comparison) that requires patience, well-timed dodging, and striking at opportune moments. There’s verticality too. Envy destroys the arena, forcing us to bound upward after her. The whip pulls double duty as a handy platforming device, wrapping around sturdy holds to fluidly swing Fury across chasms.
Our Darksiders III demo ended shortly after besting Envy, once we stumbled upon that aforesaid giant tree. It’s an impressive showing, and it has us eager to tackle the other Sins with a more capable Fury. Against all odds, Darksiders is back after it seemed to succumb to its own personal apocalypse. Gunfire seems hellbent on making good on this second lease on life.
Darksiders III launches November 27, 2018 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.