On one hand Darksiders 3 wants to be a usual action-adventure "hack and slash" game very much like God of War or previous Darksiders , and on the other hand it also wants to be a "dark souls " like game. And I honestly think that these two aspects that the game tries to combine don't compliment each other very well.
The hack and slash part of the Darksiders 3 gives you a combat system that looks flashy , has a few fast and a few slow heavy weapons . It gives you a counter attack system to reward you dodging at the very last second. The game wants you to fight against enemies that are just as aggressive and have very fast attacks ( that are sometimes not well telegraphed ) as they did in the previous Darksiders games , with enemies attacking in groups and some even attacking from off screen. And the game wants you to look cool and badass and aggressive as you kill them.
But the dark souls part of the game , wants you to take it slow and fight methodically and gives you very limited number of combos ( for a hack and slash game ) , less than even the most basic action game . You can't fight more that one or two enemies both because the combat gives you very less crowd control moves , and the ones that are there are sometimes not even that effective. When you attack these fast aggressive enemies , they attack you right through your attack animations. You get a dodge that is slow and leaves you vulnerable after every single dodge for a second or two , during which enemy can attack anytime even if it's offscreen. This dodge system does not compliment well with the aggressiveness of the enemies and how some of their attacks can be very fast and poorly telegraphed. So you are fighting a bunch of enemies that keep attacking constantly and manage to even hit you as soon as your dodge iframes end. And to incentivize fighting only one enemy at a time , the enemies in this game deal massive damage no matter how many points you have in your HP , killing you in 2-3 hits and some even having attacks that kill you in a single hit. And I am taking about the normal enemies not even bosses. When fighting a bunch of enemies they can stun lock you to death and hit you right through your attack animations. The game also loves putting enemies in these gimmicky locations that you can't see and you take an unnecessary hit or two.
Even the camera in the previous Darksiders gams was zoomed out and gave you a better field of view with all the enemies around you ( much like any other action game ). But the camera in darksiders 3 is too close to your character , blocks the view and the game wants you to depend on this small damage indicator symbol that more often than not , you won't even notice during the heat of battle. And considering how some enemies have attacks that can one-two shot you , this becomes a huge problem.
And there are so many other mechanics that the game borrows from Dark Souls that are implemented in a very weird way. So much like Dark Souls , in Darksiders 3 you have limited healing consumables that are refilled every time you die. But in Dark Souls , everytime you find a bonfire , your healing resource is refilled. But not in Darksiders 3, you have to actually buy the healing refills. Yup buy them. Which is very odd , because then the only way of refiling them is then to get your self killed and respawn.
And you know how Dark Souls has an items like "homeward bone" to travel back to the last bonfire you rested at so that you can either refill your Estus or use your saved souls to upgrade your character. The way Darksiders 3 implements this feature is beyond stupid. Instead of giving you some in-game item , you have to pause the game -> go to options -> gameplay options -> and select "force respawn" at the very end. And it kills you. That's right , after selecting this option the game kills you and then teleports you to the last bonfire ( or Vulgrim stations ) you found. So you are going to loose all the souls you have anyway. It's only really useful , if you are low on your healing items and you are near a checkpoint or if you can't be bothered by going near the enemies and letting them kill you , then you can use it to get those refills. Hell even that would not be necessary if the checkpoints refilled your healing resource anyway.
It also introduces a leveling up system like Dark Souls where you use souls to level up your attributes. In Dark Souls it worked because there were multiple attributes that determined how you played the game. It determined your class , your build , the weapon of choice and all that stuff. Strength for heavy weapons , dex for short but fast weapons , a balanced build for using a bit of both, int for magic , faith for faith ,then there was also pyromancy. There were so many options. Darksiders 3 has only 3 attributes , yep just 3. Health , Strength and Arcane. Health is your HP , Strength your melee attack damage and Arcane your counter attack damage and Havoc form. And it doesn't matter if you level up all three or focus on only one , you end up using all three of them anyway. And it only determines you much damage you do , but no changes to how you play the game whatsoever.
Also there is no map. I am not sure if it's due to the Dark Souls influence or because it wanted to be a hardcore metroidvania. But instead of a map , you only get a compass that shows you the general direction you should be heading into. If you know what you are doing that it's not really that bad. But on your first playthrough it can leave you scratching your head , leading you to either dead ends or areas that are still inaccessible.
This also creates a major disconnect between story and gameplay. In the story , Fury is portrayed as this absolute badass who is even more feisty and addicted to combat than other horsemen. She constantly treats other bosses and NPCs like she can kill them ease. But during the gameplay , you are so fragile and die constantly ( sometimes it's fair sometimes it's not ) even to the most common enemies that are able to kill you a hit or two. You are constantly backing out when you see large groups of enemies and like a coward you are kitting them one by one like you do in Dark Souls. Sometimes you will even run past them to recover your souls. That works for Dark Souls because you are just a mere hollow that's trying to survive , but not in Darksiders where you are supposed to be this badass feared by many.
Now this part is just my personal rant , and probably not an issue for everybody , but oh boy. Darksiders 3 is handsdown the most unoptimized game that I ever played. So many micro stutters and freezes and that's on a pretty high end rig and I had the game installed on an SSD. And then there are crashes. My first playthrough took a little over 13 hours and I had 30+ crashes. God forbit if I play this game for more than 10 minutes and the game crashes. I tried every single fix online , but nothing really helped. The worst part is 1/3 of those crashes were when I was fighting bosses. Everytime I was almost about to kill a boss or I defeated the boss and started the cutscene , the game crashes and makes me redo the entire boss fight again. The checkpoints are near the boss so it's not that big of a deal but for the love of god how many times are you going to make me fight the bosses. Halfway through the game I literally started skipping cutscenes because I wanted the checkpoint and was afraid that the game would crash again.
Now that I have said all that , I still enjoyed the game a lot. When the game works it's actually pretty fun. Combat is fun and satisfying once you get used to it. And it always feels really good everytime you come out of a challenging fight or boss fight alive. The Art style is beautiful and the metroidvania level design encourages a lot of exploration. The game really hits the spot in when it comes to certain things. But it also completely misses the mark when it comes to others which makes Darksiders 3 a very weird game to recommend for me. By it's merit it's a good game that is fun and gives you enough options to beat the game without any issues. But I can't recommend Darksiders 3 as an "Action-Adventure" game because the previous games in my opinion did that whether it's hack and slash combat , platforming or puzzles , much better. But I also cannot recommend it as a "Souls Like" game because I would rather recommend Dark Souls , Nioh , The Surge , Jedi Fallen Order , Code Vein. Might be a controversial opinion , but I think even Lords of the Fallen understood and applied the souls like formula better than Darksiders 3.
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