I’d also forgotten how much the leveling and loot system hurts Darksiders 2. Playing immediately after Darksiders 1 makes it really stick out.
Yes, it drives players with a numbers-go-up reward mentality. It feels like you get some new shiny to swap in every ten minutes. Every chest has meaning, because every chest gives you money and loot. You kill every enemy, because every enemy drops money and possibly loot. Even the junk you can sell, in order to save up and buy better weapons either directly or via Vulgrim’s random chests.
But it also destroys pacing. It destroys the value of rewards. It even destroys the value of the shops.
Yes, you can buy new, better equipment from shops. And you’ll be selling that same equipment one or two dungeons later, because you’ve found better than it from random drops. Even your higher rarity items will eventually get left behind because you’ll level up, which will start producing higher level random drops, which will have higher base stats than your lower level higher tier items. What’s the point?
It messes up quest reward and side exploration reward pacing. You complete a side quest that promises a new, useful piece of equipment, and you can’t even equip the item because it is two or three levels higher than you. You beat a boss that rewards a unique weapon, and again you can’t even equip it because you aren’t a high enough level. But to make matters worse, when you finally reach a high enough level to equip them, you realize they aren’t even that much better than the equipment you are already using. And even if you do still equip it, it will be outclassed before you finish your next dungeon. It is even worse if you’ve actually over-leveled for it, as you’ll get an item that is already outclassed by your current equipment. The devs tried to ameliorate this somewhat with giving some rewards and special items unique abilities, but you still get the out-leveling issue. In a worst case, you might even hold on to a piece of outdated equipment just because of its ability.
There are a bunch of different secondary weapon types, and it largely doesn’t matter, because you’ll be picking your secondary weapon based on general speed and DPS rather than specific weapon types. If you want a slow, powerful weapon, then you won’t really care whether it is an axe, a hammer, or a glaive, you’ll just be looking for the highest damage (and potentially useful random extra attributes) across them all.
Compare this to Darksiders 1. Yes, the dev team messed up by treating the secondary weapons as truly secondary, outclassed by War’s primary. But at least each weapon was its own thing. You could level up your weapons themselves, you could equip a modifying glyph to each (which were freely swappable), you could buy upgrades for some items… But they were all still the same item;you weren’t swapping out your existing gauntlets for new gauntlets that you found. And the items could all at least theoretically be balanced against each other. (The dev team didn’t necessarily do the greatest job here, but it was at least a possibility.) That feeling just isn’t in Darksiders 2.