Written by Jonathan Wojcik
REVIEWING THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS FROM DARKSIDERS III
Despite its apparent success, Darksiders is a video game series I somehow pretty much never heard of until the third game dropped this past November, and I still don't know a great deal about it except that in each game, you play one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and I don't think I've seen such 1997 Comic Book character designs since, well, 1997. Whether you find that obnoxious or charming is up to you, complete with the absurd booby armor of the third game's player character, Fury. She's apparently the series replacement for the Horseman of Famine, because I guess making people die of hunger wouldn't have been as appealing for an antihero.
Anyway, Fury and her horse and her weird friend there, a thing called a Watcher whose job is to keep tabs on the Horsemen, end up taking on all seven of the Deadly Sins over the course of this game, and this would be why over a dozen people have probably suggested I check it out, because I've always been pretty opinionated on how generic and predictable the Deadly Sins can be as characters in far too many of their media appearances.
So...does this one break the mold? I usually take a few hours to research a game before I write about any of its content, but at the time of this writing, I've only seen Sloth. I'm going to be doing most of this article completely blind, checking each boss out as I come to it, and see how it goes! Note that this game is actually fairly nonlinear, and some of the boss battles are even completely different depending on how long you take to get around to them, but we'll be going in what some seem to agree is the closest thing to a "default" order.
I have to say we're off to SUCH a good start here. Envy is always one of the harder sins to nail down and tends to vary the most from one interpretation to the next. My favorite of all time is definitely the pitiful little true form of Fullmetal Alchemist's Envy, but Darksiders III gives us a pretty fun one too. Her design is clearly taking heavy inspiration from the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal, and her voice actor seems to have the time of her life as a cackling, screeching buzzard-witch.
Unfortunately, there's a twist to Envy that means this isn't actually her real form at all. It's possible it used to be what she looked like, but what we see in this encounter is apparently an illusion. I can't say anything more without spoiling an admittedly impressive plot twist here, but I'll go ahead and pick it back up at the very end of this review, so, maybe skip the rest if you ever intend to play this game for its story.
After that excellent beginning, I'm afraid I find this one completely underwhelming. You could have pretty much guessed almost everything about Wrath before even seeing his design; he's a big, angry, violent brute who's constantly on fire under his chunky warhammer-looking armor. He loses even more points for the fact that we know what his face looks like, just a bald guy with sharp teeth. About the only thing really interesting about him is that he's always had a big crush on you, because you're Fury, one of the only beings he can conceivably even have respect for.
This is another one with a somewhat conventional design, an almost Krampus-like horned goblin, but he's another performed with a lot of personality. I could have even sworn his voice was provided by Mark Hamill reprising his Joker, but it's actually an actor named JB Blanc whose list of voice roles is incredibly extensive.
What IS interesting about Avarice here is that, unlike other intepretations I've seen of the "greed" demon, he isn't after anything necessarily valuable, and if anything, he doesn't seem to have a concept of it at all. Instead he believes that everything, literally everything, already belongs to him. Rocks, dirt, garbage, everything. Throughout your battle against him he'll attempt to crush you with such priceless relics as old bathtubs and refrigerators. That's honestly a lot more fun than the usual treasure-hoarding greed demon.
This is the good one. I mean, obviously! Sloth is this setting's "Lord of the Flies," an insect-themed demon who wants nothing more in life but to relax on his throne of hardened excrement, carried around by his crab-like minions and doing as little as he can possibly get away with.
The design is pretty top-notch. The huge, globular heap of a body looks great with those long, thin, bony arms and giant, clawed hands, while his tiny little insect-skull-face is downright adorable. Once again however, it's the vocal performance that really sells this character. He's got a surprisingly eloquent, sort of "mafia godfather" personality and really doesn't give a damn about anyone or anything else as long as he never has to get up and do anything.
Lust is always the most hit-or-miss of the deadly sins, and as I was only just talking about in my Digimon reviews, all too often portrayed as nothing but a generically "sexy" lady demon to a degree that sometimes ranges from the just plain boring to the almost tasteless.
It's pretty interesting, then, that a game this over-the-top opts for a Lust demon that not only offers no traditional bouncy fanservice, but has little to nothing to do with sex or sexuality at all, unless you count the sultry, seductive voice of this stylish, gender neutral sword-slinger. There's no "monster design" for me to discuss here, but once again an interesting personality twist, in that this entity's "lust" manifests as a lust for sheer power and control over others, laying on the charm and sweet-talking opponents into giving in to the desire for glory. Again, I would absolutely not have seen this subversion coming from a game that throws a pair of metal boobsocks at you the second you load it up.
As a sin typically themed around eating, Gluttony almost always ends up the most beastly and gruesome of the deadly sins, and they don't break from tradition this time. I can't say I'm especially impressed by the humanoid body here; I feel like it's a kind of fangly beasty guy I've seen about a thousand times before. It is, however, mighty cool that what we see here is actually only the bioluminescent antennae or illicium of a colossal sea-monster.
The true Gluttony is another rather conventional jaggedy beastie design, but it's the overall principle here that's interesting. A tentacled anglerfish-kraken is a cool choice for Gluttony, and I've always liked when one of the sin demons is just absurdly vaster in proportion to the rest.
The final boss of the game and (of course self-appointed) leader of the deadly sins, Pride interestingly enough seems to be a fallen angel who didn't quite get the memo and still just thinks she's a righteous angelic being with way better ideas for how the universe should be run, and even thinks it's everyone else who has too much pride if they're so stubbornly refusing to do exactly what she wants. This angle doesn't feel too surprising or creatively fresh, but I'd say in this case, it still works pretty well.
Appropriately, Pride wears that snazzy mask because she's horribly ashamed of a relatively trivial imperfection, a lidless right eyeball.
GREAT BIG OLD SPOILER!
So I'd obviously prefer to think that Envy's really real true form was, at least at some point, that cutie-patoot vulture granny, and that may well be the case, because Envy is still stated to have once been the lowliest and weakest of the deadly sins, and was easily defeated by the horsemen many centuries prior. That was when she decided to take on the form we see here, which is actually just a pastiche of all four horsemen. She may not be an adorable, filthy bird, but it's definitely rare to see a female character with such an imposing body and wickedly masked face, even if she did just flat-out plagiarize that mask from another character, along with wielding each of their signature weapons in each of her four arms.
THE REAL ENVY
To put it another way...Envy was so bitter and, well, envious of those stronger than her that she decided to start LARPing as her Definitely Creative, Very Original Character (Do Not Steal!!!) she Totally Didn't Rip Off from the same people who just kicked her ass. If you just showed me the design without any context or explanation, I'd probably find it forgettable, but the reasoning behind it is just so charming. I love her. I love her and I want her to be happy and I do not accept any version of the story in which the player wins. You're all wrong, and bad, and mean to her, and you should be ashamed of those things.
I'm also happy to say, there's another pretty cool and interesting story twist and even more to Envy's character that I can still actually leave unspoiled.
All in all, this game has a visual aesthetic and writing style that both feel like cheesy as hell throwbacks to some sort of early pseudo-Todd-Mcfarlane superhero comic, but...I think we've reached a point where that's charming enough to just enjoy again at face value, and there's definitely a fair bit of creativity on display here.
As far as Seven Deadly Sins go at least, I only found one of these seven completely boring, and I'd say 6/7 is a pretty solid final score.
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