From its inception, Darksiders was meant to be a multi-entry franchise. The four biblical horsemen of the apocalypse are its protagonists, after all. Following the release of the second game and the collapse of publisher THQ, the future of the franchise looked apocalyptic, and not in the fun video game way we all appreciate. However, many of the developers of the first two games (though notably not the series’ creator, Joe Madureira) reformed to create Gunfire Games, and that studio is picking up the series where it left off. Gunfire Games will be taking a demo of Darksiders III to Gamescom, but we got a chance to play through it first.
The first Darksiders followed the exploits of the horseman War, Darksiders II followed Death, and the third follows Fury, War’s sister. The final horseman, Strife, makes a shadowy appearance in the demo’s opening cutscene, but whether or not he will be a major factor in the game remains to be seen.
Back To The Apocalypse
Back To The Apocalypse
The demo opens with the Charred Council, three stone faces with mouths of flame who directed the horsemen in the previous games, performing a ritual that mostly involves reminding the player of who the main characters are and their roles. Fury interrupts the ritual in the interest of getting on with it so she can get to the action and the council identifies her as the most unpredictable of the apocalyptic riders, calling her a “terrible engine of rage.”
From there, Fury begins the task given to her by the council: collecting the seven deadly sins. Fury is dropped into a what appears to be a city street that has lost a long war with nature. Dilapidated cars litter the overgrown street, and it immediately recalls locations explored by War in the original Darksiders. Also like the original game, Fury is joined by a Watcher, a companion character that reminds her of her mission and occasionally offers assistance. In the first game, the Charred Council sent a Watcher (voiced by Mark Hamill in that game) with War to keep an eye on him and make sure he stuck to his mission. It’s safe to assume Fury’s Watcher is with her for the same reasons.
For this demo, Fury only has a single attack button, but I find combos by holding down the button in the middle of a flurry of attacks or waiting to press the attack button after some initial hits. The controller layout screen in the options menu also hints at Chaos Form and Hollow Attacks, but they are closed off for my demo. I make short work of the assorted enemies with simple combos, but it’s clear there is some additional depth to the fighting system that will surface later in the game.
After taking out a few enemies and using Fury’s chain whip to swing over gaps, I find Envy, the first of the seven deadly sins. She’s an ugly vulture-like creature that reminds me of the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal. She broadcasts her attacks explicitly but moves surprisingly fast, sending out shockwaves to jump over as well as directed attacks from above that I roll out of the way to dodge. Envy collapses the floor and I do some straightforward platforming and whip-swinging to get back to her.
She kills me during that second stage of the fight, but my failure reveals a new mechanic. Darksiders has always been transparent about borrowing mechanics from games like Zelda, God of War, Prince of Persia, and Portal, but now it has a new game to add to that list of inspirations that won’t come as much of a surprise: Dark Souls. Leading up to my fight with Envy, I had been collecting souls from killed enemies, and when I made my way back to her to attempt our fight again, I saw the souls I had presumed lost waiting in the middle of fight location waiting for me to collect them. I learn later in the demo that those souls can be exchanged for experience points for my health, attack power, or magic abilities.
Knowing her patterns now, I defeat Envy and trigger a cutscene. The Watcher accuses Fury of killing Envy instead of capturing her, but Fury holds up a glowing green talisman she stole from around Envy’s neck that sucks up her essence. It glows and functions like the Nephilim amulet that Death used to store the souls of his departed brethren in Darksiders II, but they appear to be two different objects, despite the similarities.
Impressed, the Watcher says, “You were all that the council promised, mistress,” reminding Fury that the other deadly sins will not be as easy to find and capture. The two move on to a similarly dilapidated city street and Fury comments that she is impressed by her brother War’s work, considering it was him who inadvertently caused the apocalypse in the prologue to the first game. “His gifts are impressive,” Fury says, but the Watcher reminds her that she has no peers among the horsemen. The Watcher seems to think Fury is the most powerful of the group.
Exploring The World
Exploring The World
Before the demo concludes, I get a chance to explore the environment. I see platforms too far away to reach, implying a future upgrade that will let Fury access distant locations. I also find hallways blocked by glowing purple rocks, and another covered in some kind of translucent material that can probably be unlocked or destroyed with the right ability. I also see, off in the distance, a wall that looks a whole lot like the ones Death had to climb in Darksiders II. I didn’t climb any surfaces during the demo, but I bet Fury has the same upper-body strength as Death.
I also come across a large enemy who sleeps until I attack him. I defeat him, but he gives me more trouble than any of the enemies up to that point. I could have totally avoided him had I just walked by, so he was a totally optional additional combat challenge.
Right before the demo ends, I come across a gigantic tree weaving its enormous roots through the assorted buildings. The Watcher refers to it as The Maker Tree, and I am unable to explore any further.
Darksiders III so far feels like a continuation of the first two games in a way that I appreciate. It’s strange to be nostalgic for a console generation that only ended recently, but it played distinctly like a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 character-action game, which is a style of adventure I miss and haven’t played in some time. Hitting enemies with the chain whip felt good, but I am hopeful for more depth in the combat as you learn new abilities. I am also concerned that I didn’t solve a single puzzle. Darksiders II’s late-game had some amazing Zelda-inspired puzzles (like playing catch with clones of yourself through portals), and I hope Fury also gets a chance to use her arsenal of abilities to open locked doors when the game releases in November.
For more on Darksiders III, you can hear “Fury’s Theme” from composer Cris Velasco by heading here.