Darksiders 3, game design analysis (1/2) – mechanics, systems and interface. Newbie game designer plays games #4

Darksiders 3, game design analysis (1/2) – mechanics, systems and interface. Newbie game designer plays games #4

Darksiders 3 game analysis

Darksiders 3 is a game about Fury – the protagonist which is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. But the story, art, and the experience will be covered in the next article. In this one, I want to focus on a few elements of the game, like mechanics, systems, interface, and unique features. I’ll make some conclusions from time to time. 

Gameplay loops

Like in almost every game there are multiple gameplay loops. 

Fight

Fury has a few options in battle. Normal attack with the whip, dodge, another attack with the second weapon, special attack, using potion and the last one is to become pure fury by activating havoc form. There are a lot of options like you see, but the core is to just hit, dodge and counter. Dodging is extremely important in Darksiders 3 as with good timing you will be able to hit the enemy with a powerful counter. It’s the essence of the fight here and it’s not easy to master as enemies’ attacks aren’t visually obvious to the player and if you are impatient you can miss the opportunity to dodge and receive punishment instead. There are also some attack combinations to learn and master, but they aren’t really required to be successful. 

Puzzles

Another loop is about puzzles. Puzzles are more important in the second part of the game, but anyway, the loop looks like this: figure out what you have to do, change the stance or actually essence for a correct one and use the essence’s special property or ability. It’s quite interesting and works well with not so difficult puzzles in Darksiders 3. 

 

Exploration and secrets

The third loop is about exploration. The game is linear, but there are a lot of minor secrets hidden in the game world. A lot of things are also blocked at the beginning when you haven’t all of the essences. There are a lot of checkpoints and shortcuts to unlock just like in Dark Souls, but here it isn’t that important. It’s probably because the game is less difficult on normal difficulty than Dark Souls and checkpoints are too often to make shortcuts meaningful. 

Progress and upgrades

In the game, you can also upgrade your weapons if you find or buy enough ingredients. You can buy armor and equip it to boost your parameters. There are also weapon enhancements in the form of stones. Each weapon can contain only one enhancement and those stones can also be upgraded.

When I talk about the progress I can’t omit levels. Similar to Dark Souls when you beat enemies you receive souls. Souls can be used to buy potions, upgrade materials, relicts, and armor, but they are mainly used to level up your character. After leveling up you can spend a point and boost your strength, magic, or health. Strength boosts normal attacks, magic boosts special attacks and counters. Health is obvious, right? It’s not a deep system. Oh, and when you die, your souls stay at the place of your death so you have to get them back. 

Now we understand basic concepts in the game, Let’s move on and talk about some features and interface. 

Difficulty

I’ll start with difficulty settings. So, the game shares some concepts with a souls-like game like I already said, but still, the game proposes to the player a lot of difficulty options. Exactly five! It’s a lot and by default, the player starts at the second one and it’s not easy. You can also choose to enable nightmare mode and with that when you die, your save file is deleted. Who is brave enough to turn it on? 

Replayability

I think here we can stop and make some conclusions. So each point till now is going into one main direction: replayability. Difficulty settings, locked secrets, progress systems, hard to master fights, and one more thing: new game plus. It’s actually called apocalyptic mode and as far as I know, you can play a new game plus at least a few times, and your level, items, and essences pass on to this new game. 

Counter attacks and havoc mode

What makes a game fun? Wow, that’s a hard question. But at least two things make the fight really exciting. Counter attacks and havoc mode. So when you dodge in the right moment, everything slows. It looks extremely satisfying and it also gives you time to make a counter-attack. Havoc mode changes Fury into some big, red demon, with greater attack speed and power. Attacks are now healing Fury and I think you are actually invincible for a moment. Pure fury. Great design as it fits the protagonist and the player can really feel powerful.

 

A grey circle?

Simple details can make a big difference in any game. Darksiders 3 has one really nice feature. When you are attacked and you don’t see your enemy, a grey circle near your character will be shown and you see an arrow with the direction where the opponent is and if they are close to hurt you this arrow will be red. It’s a really nice feature that makes the game fairer and prevents the player to be surprised in a bad way.

The interface

Another thing that has to be discussed in any game is an interface. The heads-up display is really well made. It’s clean, quite minimalistic and the positions of the icons are great. The player can see, souls counter, potions chooser, health, special ability bar, havoc bar, and current essence. 

The main interface is quite nice too, but I suppose it could be improved a bit by making some numbers a bit more important than descriptions. 

 

Flaws

In the end, let’s talk a little about flaws.

First one. There is some kind of potions that refill after you die and they don’t refile when you find a new checkpoint. It’s not too good, because after encountering a new checkpoint I started to do a funny thing sometimes: I was securing my souls and then I just taunted a random enemy and waited for my death so I can respawn nearby with potions. 

Another flaw is that I got lost at least two times. I mean I got really lost. There isn’t any map and that’s understandable in this kind of game with a lot of secrets. Anyway, there isn’t a good way to check what to do next. You just have a compass, but it wasn’t too useful for me. You could say that’s my fault that I got lost, but after learning some stuff about the game and level design I think it’s the game fault and it shouldn’t happen. I think I lost about an hour overall and it’s not a long game so that’s a lot.

See you soon

Okay, that’s enough for this article. I hope you enjoyed it. The next one will be more about the art, story, and experience. 

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