Darksiders: "ENTER CLEVER PUN HERE"
Darksiders may borrow heavily from many other popular games, like The Legend of Zelda, Portal, the God of War series, Panzer Dragoon, with some 3rd person shooter elements thrown in, but it's completely unabashed in that fact, and manages to make it all feel fresh and engaging with a strong, focused art direction.
The game has you play from the perspective of War, one of the fabled Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and drops you in to a premature battle between the forces of Heaven and Hell, with your fellow brethren nowhere to be found. So, what seemed inevitable, you get blamed for the extinction of the human race, and are charged with putting things right by those who keep the balance, accompanied by the Watcher, a sinister little bastard voiced by the ever prolific Mark Hamill. It pretty much takes the Book of Revelations and makes it more relevant and cool, than just wank material for doomsday wackjobs.
The fundamental structure of the game is most similar to the Legend of Zelda series, in that you trek your way through a series of dungeons with the goal of claiming whatever magical MacGuffin awaits at the end. Along with the help of whatever item you found in the dungeon, like a hookshot, a shuriken very similar to Zelda's boomerang, or a glove that shoots inter-dimensional portals, the puzzles and enemy- based puzzles make for a fun challenge, regardless of how derivative some of them may be. The overworld isn't as open, and seemingly vast like The Wind Waker or any of the other entries in that it's a little more restricted in size and linear, leaving some sections barren of items to collect or chests to discover.
The combat system is relatively mash heavy, yet doesn't discriminate against those who attempt to make sense of it all. There are three weapons to upgrade, your default sword, the Chaoseater, a wicked looking scythe, and a sluggish gauntlet, all of which come with their own set of combos available for purchase. Each seem to have a certain tactic in mind, the sword is most likely the weapon you'll use the most, the scythe is for quick successive hits, and the gauntlet is good for crowd control, clearing the immediate area of baddies and stunning the bigger ones. There are also a multitude of enhancements for them scattered throughout the game which give boosts to experience gained, or imbue a weapon with fire, and some are deemed with the powers of the other horsemen, with excessive boosts like drastically increased souls collected leeching properties, though they are harder to track down. The combat overall is loose enough to allow for quick changes in strategy, perhaps trigger a finishing kill, which comes in handy when a nearby enemy launches into an unavoidable attack, saving you precious health. My only beefs with the combat is that the objects that are scattered throughout the environments have the pesky habit of getting in your way, and tend to leave you vulnerable for some devastating hits. I also found the Panzer Dragoon-inspired level to feel tacked on, and very much an afterthought.
Above all else for me though, the characters and art style are what really make this game stand out. The characters all exude strength and badassery in ample amounts, yet retain wide spectrums of color, where Joe Madueira's brilliant artwork shines. War comes across as stoic, and a "no- b.s." kind of guy, who always seems on the verge of bursting into a legion of soldiers, but always manages to keep his cool, perhaps realizing the true cataclysm that would ensue, or with the help of an epic prescription of valium. Even more recurrent than the Watcher, is the psycophantic, pandering dealer of souls and otherworldly cutlery, Vulgrim. A deformed demon, with his wings sloppily hacked off, Vulgrim seems to have fallen farther from grace than his brethren, no longer concerned with anything than the sustenance gained from souls.Upon every visit to him, he never fails to praise you for your most recent conquest, and excellent taste in upgrades. Coming off as completely unconcerned with the situation, Vulgrim retains plenty of mystery, yet makes no effort to disguise his motives.
My personal favorite character, with his inverted wings, and civilized, yet threatening demeanor is Samael. He promises you a way to the Destroyer, the one who is responsible for what's happened, though in turn, he wants those magical MacGuffins to regain his strength. The Watcher advises against it, though I found myself as reluctant to believe him as War was, though the same applies to Samael. Samael uses his rather eloquent linguistic skills to persuade you, bellowing out his reasons, his voice bottoming out like a furnace kicking on. There's a certain tragic quality to him, that in the end leaves me hoping he becomes a recurring character in one way or another. That is something the game does very well, is setting up a cast of characters for further development, adding a certain depth that I didn't expect at all.
The developers at Vigil Games seemed to have a clear vision in mind for this game; give people a more brutal, epic Zelda game, by utilizing the best qualities from the genre, and adding the best elements from others. Though it may not fully utilize all the tricks in its bag, it's definitely a game you shouldn't miss out on, and should definitely work forward to future iterations.