What 'Darksiders 3' Teaches Us About Gaming's Weirdest Company, THQ Nordic


#1

There are a few constants in life. Every day, the sun will rise, there will be a Trump tweet, and THQ Nordic will buy a new game franchise, to the complete bewilderment of yours truly. That includes yesterday, naturally. THQ Nordic now owns Carmageddon, calling the purchase “the start of a new chapter in the story of one of the world’s most anarchic game brands.” It remains unclear what THQ Nordic will do with Carmageddon. Unimportant! They own it.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/yw75bb/what-darksiders-3-teaches-us-about-gamings-weirdest-company-thq-nordic

#2

Without getting too deep into it, no amount of money would have saved this project, the issues were rooted in management issues rather than budgetary ones. THQ Nordic wasn’t blameless in choosing to take a hands-off approach, but this game’s failure was a unique case.


#3

Reading Klepek’s initial paragraph, this is the thought that came to mind:

Blumhouse’s movies are made cheaply, but don’t feel cheap because they’re conceived within the scope of their available budget.

Making Darksiders 3 might catch the attention of Darksiders fans (for whatever size that group is), but it sets an expectation of the $50 million game. If you can’t put the company resources behind delivering on that pedigree, maybe you don’t put that numeral on there and set that expectation.

If THQ Nordic wants to get the attention on its products and resurrect discarded IPs, perhaps focusing on rereleases or, potentially, interquels/sidestories might be a good way of exploring a game’s design space while leveraging the corporate assets.

@miscu Could you go into it a little more, if you could? That sounds like an interesting thing to mention.


#4

I think that really nails what went wrong at the beginning. (Edit: Unless, of course, there is a tale of other kinds of terrible management to tell. ) If this was always supposed to be a lower budget, contracted out project, maybe it needed to be Fury: A Darksiders Adventure, and been explicitly smaller in scope and ambition.


#5

I remember thinking to myself awhile ago, “putting a 3 on this is not setting expectations correctly, it should be something like Darksiders: Fury and maybe go for $40”.

To put the situation as succinctly as possible: the past two games leaned very heavily on both their large team sizes and nasty crunch culture, due to incredibly messy production planning and constant feature creep.

Once the leadership moved to their own studio (after the Vigil closure and the couple years at Crytek Austin) and shipped a few okay-to-mediocre VR games, they made the right call in establishing a no/minimal crunch policy, but didn’t rethink their existing production planning process, even with the smaller team size.

Crunch and ballooning staff sizes are often a crutch for poor management and direction.

Also, a lot of the staff from Vigil went off to form Airship Syndicate to make that Battlechasers RPG which, from what I’ve played of it, speaks to far better scoping and project vision.


#6

I have thought during both this piece and during the podcast is that I don’t think this game is indicative of what THQ Nordic is OR that this isn’t enough of a sample size in this different direction to tell. Right now they are a game that produces a lot of remasters and I think they do a fine job at that? Doing it for those unrecognized games with some cult followings. It is dope. Darksiders III was their big “new” game and it is flat. The whole Koch Media / Deep Silver thing makes my head spin. Do we give the THQ Nordic BRAND credit for Metro? Biomutant is the game that I think will tell us what type of Publisher they are. Looks NEAT, original, and made by former Avalanche devs which will lead me to starting a narrative that THQ Nordic can be home for cool projects from new teams from smaller studios.


#7

I’m having fun with Darksiders 3. I like Fury, the world is pretty, the combat is fun, it’s enjoyable to just run around exploring. Basically all I wanted out of a Darksiders. I think it’s fine.


#8

I’m still confused as to why it somehow looks worse than Darksiders 1, which came out in 2010.


#9

It looks fine? It’s stylized and cartoony because that’s the aesthetic.


#10

No, I mean the quality of character animation is lower, the cutscene direction and lighting is far more plain, and actual environmental design feels completely barren. I looked at all three games back to back within a span of a week, and 3 just feels much more unrefined.

But then I noticed someone mentioned the terrible management of the project and that sort of answers the question.


#11

Bugs. Bugs and pointless grind.

(Bitter, moi? No…)


#12

The texture quality and environment detail is higher than DS 1 and 2, but nothing “pops” the same way as the visuals in those games (especially compared against the first major area in DS2). It’s just very drab and melts together.

To refer back to Battlechasers again, that game has much darker environments, but the characters and details stand out better. Joe Mad wasn’t really involved in DS3 but was (to my knowledge) heavily involved with Battlechasers. It might just be an art direction thing.


#13

I agree with you! Every Darksiders is always a little different. I feel like this one is their take on a Dark Souls. I think in that they succeeded. It’s not sprawling and grand, its constricting and compact. As for the graphics, it makes sense that it’s very much in the line of the original because it takes place at the same time.


#14

Does that really make sense though? RDR2 is a prequel, so it should have OG Xbox level graphics?


#15

But Jet Set Radio Future is an OG Xbox game and it looks better than RDR2. :smiley:

I agree with you though, there’s a thin line (especially when a few years pass between installments) between keeping a series “house style” intact vs. the graphics just falling flat to people. That said, Darksiders and Darksiders II especially both have graphics that could be seen as kind of janky for their time, but they fully committed to their look and they both look really nice because of it.

To that end I do think it was a mistake to keep the game’s areas more constrained than the last two because it makes that jankiness a lot more obvious. This game was never going to have graphics on par with something from 2K or SquareEnix, and it might have been wiser to keep the structure of the world closer to the first two games even if it meant even worse graphics overall. You’d have graphics people are unhappy with either way but at least it’d fit in better with the series.