I’ve finally started on Darksiders III. It is… I’m still fairly early into the game, but it is somewhat hard to classify.
What do you call a game that is clearly aping the surface appearance and feel of a different style, but isn’t actually trying to knock off that style? That is what Darksiders III is to Dark Souls. I can’t (at least at this point) call it a failed Dark Souls knock-off because it doesn’t feel like it was ever really trying to be Dark Souls. In that regard, it really isn’t that much different to Darksiders 2, which itself was aping general ideas from open world games and looters. I can somewhat understand why the DS3 devs were surprised by the level of fan backlash.
At the same time, I can understand fan complaints. It isn’t just that Darksiders III is different from the style of DS1 and DS2, it is that the changes feel like downgrades. Downgrades that were not really story or gameplay driven, but which occurred simply because the devs wanted to perform a surface copy a different popular genre.
The senior designer claimed that Darksiders 3 doesn’t have a mini-map because players don’t like them, and because they wanted players to be able to explore and to get lost. There may be a grain of truth in the senior designer’s statement, but I believe it takes the form of an after-the-fact justification. I feel it is a safe bet that the reason Darksiders 3 doesn’t have a map is because Dark Souls didn’t have one.
The lack of a map affected the world design, particularly coming off the overlarge open world of DS2. The effect is further hampered by the tendency of Darksiders to gate sections behind upgrades. And hurt even more by the world of Darksiders looking kind of dull and unmemorable by this point.
Similar goes for other new elements. Nephilim’s Respite is not a natural evolution of healing in Darksiders. Dark Souls had the Estus Flask, so Darksiders III had to have something similar. The result is a new mechanic that functionally is a direct downgrade from the Lifestone system of the original Darksiders. Within the game itself, it leads to a probably unintended consequence. Since Fury cannot directly heal from killing, and Respite has a chance to refill from killing, and Respite recovers less than a full bar of health, there is no reason to horde Respite charges. Instead, you are best served to burn Respite charges whenever you take a few hits, there is no risk/reward to holding onto charges. DS3 took an already streamlined process and inserted a clunky and less effective middleman into it.
Since Dark Souls only respawns enemies on character death, of course Darksiders III has to do the same. It doesn’t matter that Darksiders III is not Dark Souls. Dark Souls as a design needed enemies to not respawn in order to not wear down the player. As much as people complained, while DS3 combat isn’t quite the button-mashing attack-cancelling power fantasy of the previous games, it isn’t Dark Souls combat. From what I’ve seen so far, DS3 doesn’t need to block enemy respawns. It apparently doesn’t even function as a real anti-grinding mechanic; DS3 is rather lenient about death, making it easy to farm for souls by killing yourself to force enemies to respawn. (DS3 of course also copies the idea that you drop your collected souls upon death, but those souls apparently remain even if you die again before collecting them.)