Though she wields a whip, Darksiders III‘s protagonist, Fury, is anything but whip-smart. In fact, as the various angels, demons, and humans on post-apocalypse Earth continue to tell her, she’s the stupidest of the Four Horsemen—alongside War, Death, and Strife—prone to violence and not much else. This is, sadly, mostly true of Darksiders III itself, which has a surfeit of dumb, mechanical combat, with a slapdash of exploration on the side.
Fury supposedly matures as she confronts the Seven Deadly Sins, but you wouldn’t know it from the game, which has players dispatching foes in the same ways from beginning to end. For example, Greed, hunchbacked by a monstrously large sack of loot, and Gluttony, sitting within a flower of teeth and blood, are visually distinct, but the encounters with each, as with almost every fight in the game, boil down to dodging an easily telegraphed move and then pressing the attack button. The single outlier, in which players must trick a foe into harming itself, is the exception that proves this rule.
The game’s shallow, obstinate approach to battle is frustrating, because the first two Darksiders titles were inventive spins on the puzzle-dungeons of The Legend of Zelda series. Whether it’s a result of major developmental shifts after publisher THQ’s 2012 bankruptcy or a sign of creative fatigue, Darksiders III is a muted, soulless sequel that lazily cribs from the worst elements of Dark Souls, like the mechanic for leveling up and the lack of a map. There’s no stamina meter, which means Fury can spam her attacks, nor are there options for using long-range magical attacks. There’s only one way in which to approach combat in Darksiders III, and it’s insufferably boring.
Darksiders III fares little better outside of combat. Many of the environments are overly reminiscent of the original Darksiders, which also featured ruined city streets, subways, and skyscrapers, as well as a demonic construction site. Those that are new often come across as empty facsimiles of actual New York locations, like the Natural Museum of History, here reduced to a single room in which that massive, iconic dinosaur skeleton is still intact, or a beached cargo ship, notable for its, well, cargo containers. The other environments are generic: some sort of catacomb, a lava area. Again, the one exception—a flooded area filled with phosphorescent corals—proves the rule.
Exploration is a staple of the Darksiders games, and true to form, Fury gains a wide variety of moves, from basic skills like a wall cling, glide, and explosive high jump, to novel abilities like being able to freeze surfaces so as to walk on water, or being able to increase her gravity so that she doesn’t float. But these cool skills have no purpose in battle, and are underutilized for progressing through the central quest. There are only a handful of basic puzzles that actually require these powers; for the most part, because you can’t reach new areas without these moves, they’re used to force players to stick to a linear path. After filling out your skill set, you can recover angelic and demonic artifacts with which to upgrade your enhancements, but the world’s too bland to bother backtracking through, and the game’s easy enough as is.
On top of all of these problems, Darksiders III is plagued by glitches, from the way in which the game staggers and pauses as it attempts to load the next area, to the way in which it inexplicably crashes. The sound occasionally cuts out, too, though the game’s dialogue and ambient music are so unmemorable that you might not care, just as the environments are so undetailed that you hardly notice when a segment of hallway belatedly flickers into place.
There’s little to love about Darksiders III, even for longtime fans. There are no great revelations about the conspiracy that led to the apocalypse coming early, just a lot of references to characters from previous games in the series: the ancient Maker Ulthane Blackhammer; Fury’s gunslinging brother, Strife; and the Destroyer, whose tower is still being constructed by the demon Abraxis. The game’s hasty, disappointing conclusion ties up no loose ends, and makes the pithiest of attempts at a moral by pointing out how even Fury can redeem herself by rising above the Seven Deadly Sins. Perhaps that ending would carry more weight if there were but a single aspect of Darksiders III that aspired to more than Sloth.