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03/17/2020 19:21:06 •••

Good, But Unpolished (On More Than One Front)

My view of Darksiders III, the first installment of the franchise released after THQ went under, was...mixed: I was glad to be brought back into the world I enjoyed so much and liked having an "easier" version of the Soulsborne experience to play, but the plot, (new) characters, designs, and dialogue didn't live up to the version of the setting I'd come to love as of Darksiders II. This latest entry remedies some of that and left a much better taste in my mouth, but there's still considerable room for improvement.

Let's hit the story first. I wasn't expecting Strife's game to be 1. a prequel or 2. a "shared" narrative with one of his siblings, but both aspects work pretty well in bringing Genesis close to the tone and style of Darksiders I and II. Set very shortly after the dawn of mankind and the fall of Eden at the hands of the Nephilim, Strife and his brother War are tasked by the Council to enter Hell and stop Lucifer from enacting a mysterious conspiracy that's likely to upset the Balance. It's pretty cool to get to explore Hell and, briefly, Eden rather than Earth all over again, and some of the dialogue references The Abomination Vault, which is a nice demonstration that the new people working on these games do care about what came before; as for the story itself, it has a pretty surprising conclusion and does feel appropriately larger-scope for two Horsemen of the Apocalypse to be embroiled in. Speaking of which, Strife is to me the most polarizing part of this game: I like that he's got a return to form for Darksiders protagonists in that he doesn't undergo character development so much as he gradually reveals facets of his character over the course of the game until we've got the full picture, but his dialogue just...doesn't make sense sometimes (it's at least 3000 years before the events of the first game, why are you mentioning seeing movies?) War, on the other hand, is just about what you'd expect after playing the first game with a bit of extra characterization thrown in that's related to what he experiences over the course of the story, and with Liam O'Brien back, he's a good time all around, so it's not all mixed bag. Though I was playing by myself the whole time due to not having PS+ for online play, it still felt like a road trip with two brothers, and that was fun. Oh yeah, and my boy Samael making his return in his most prominent role yet was excellent, even if most of his lines fell victim to an issue mentioned below.

Onto gameplay. Of the four Darksiders games released so far, Genesis has been the only one to revolve around a gameplay style/genre I haven't experienced before, that being Diablo-style dungeon crawling - as such, I don't really have anything to compare it against in terms of how well it executes that style. That being said, while probably my least favorite of the four styles presented so far due to the zoomed-out combat and exploration, it's more than playable and sometimes even challenging; the devs take advantage of the wide environment shots more than once for platforming segments, and it's as satisfying as ever to get all the collectables and max out the characters' stats and powers. The creature orb system is interesting, but I feel like around a quarter of the offered buffs are just not worth using, so really the only point of getting them all is the trophy/challenge. Also, as far as the elemental enhancements go, War with Vampiric and Strife with Electricity objectively reign supreme, good lord.

What deserves a paragraph of its own, though, is the...unpolished nature of the game. The previous three entries weren't perfect as far as polish went (the Unreal engine glitch being a prime example for all three), but this is on a different level. I'm talking the wrong character sprites being used for dialogue boxes, lines being played at the wrong time, a constant echo for lines spoken in the Void area that made dialogue all but unintelligible without subtitles, a bizarre lack of a player indicator on the area maps, an enemy I needed to beat in order to get past a barrier teleporting BEHIND said barrier and staying put just out of reach, forcing me to leave and come back before it would teleport again...multiple times, I "completed" challenges before I'd properly met the conditions for them, or even after the game had already told me I'd failed them. It boggles my mind that this is the version of the game I got when it came out 3 months AFTER the first release of the game. It's far from unplayable, but it doesn't spark confidence that this is what we're getting, and I'm really hoping the next entry doesn't come out for at least two more years so they can iron out this sort of crap.

Overall, Darksiders Genesis hits a middle ground between III and the original two entries for me: it feels more authentic to the spirit and aesthetic of the series than Fury's adventure did, but it's not quite at the level of their content either. Progress, but not enough. Would still recommend it nonetheless, because there's so much worse out there.

03/16/2020 00:00:00

...Purely based on what I’ve read and seen of it, I would actually say III was a ‘‘harder’’ version of the traditional Soulsbourne, thanks to overall poor design, but I freely admit I do not speak from experience there.

As to your review, I think it could also use a bit of polish, fittingly, in terms of the odd run-on sentence and big paragraphs, but I applaud the content. Especially your willingness to admit the limits of your experience. It means I believe you’re being straight with me, and that I can trust your assessments as a result.

03/17/2020 00:00:00

With clarification that I\'ve only played Bloodborne (which is at least held up as one of the best entries), III was an easier Soulsborne game by virtue of not requiring super-precise combat, locking lost souls into enemies upon dying, or having the traditional 7-10 stat upgrade system (it\'s only got 3, actually), as well as maintaining a focus on platforming. All that, and the enemies aren\'t Soulsborne-level hard to kill. But I agree that it\'s got some poor design choices.

Yeah, I maaaaay have typed this one up at 3 in the morning so it deserves some revision, which I think I\'ll make once I finish platinuming the game - but I\'m glad my stance comes across as reasonable, especially after all the pushback I got for criticizing III.

03/17/2020 00:00:00

Well, my own review of Bloodborne goes into further detail about that game's accessibility issues, but I guess my perspective is that the biggest problem with Bloodborne is that, like all FROMsoft games, it's really, really, really bad at teaching you how to play if you've never played one of their games before, but once you've got the hang of the basics (or have a friend around who can help hold onto the back of the bike while you mount it for the first bits of the game), it's actually not that hard and never unfair, and only has five stats anyway.

Whereas from what I've heard about Darksiders III and seen of it in motion while being played (and apparently they've patched in alternate control schemes since so maybe my point of view is also dated on top of being fundamentally unfair since it comes from the perspective of someone who hasn't played it at all), its problems will be an issue no matter how much work you've put into getting the hang of it, since having loads of quick annoying enemies that swarm you from offscreen, a camera that's waaaaay too zoomed in so you can't easily spot them while they're running around, feeling like your comboes are off, the way they tried to clone Souls-style death mechanics without fully understanding why those games have them, with the result that there are many perverse incentives, etc., are all problems that no amount of experience can fix.

And again, it's all good points... just, well, good points that could stand to be split into smaller chunks via more paragraphs and sentences.

03/17/2020 00:00:00

Honestly, from what I can recall, combat was never my biggest gripe about III (though it did get frustrating during a couple boss battles) - it was more the characters, dialogue, story, and setting. But I fully agree that it\'s Soulsborne lite, if anything.

Also, I tried to revise the review now that I\'ve 100%\'d the game and the site won\'t let me! Great coding.

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