The Frankenstein of gaming
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that's true, then Darksiders is flattering the hell out of some of gaming's biggest names. From The Legend of Zelda to God of War, Darksiders attempts to take the most tried and true gaming conventions around, and combine them all into one big package. This ends up simultaneously being the game's biggest strength and weakness, making Darksiders a game that should be appreciated by those who enjoy more of the same, but anyone looking for something fresh would be better served elsewhere.
Every single piece of Darksiders is something that has been done many, many times before. Perhaps the best way to describe the game is that it takes the dungeon and puzzle design of The Legend of Zelda, throws in some God of War-like combat, and then tops it all off with a portal gun just for kicks. Darksiders' biggest strength is simply the fact that all three of those sources are incredibly good games, and Darksiders does a decent job of replicating what makes them fun. In fact, I felt that the game's best moments were the ones that most directly referenced its influences. Whether I was using a boomerang to light torches or finishing off a foe with a cinematic quick time event, Darksiders really hit its stride when it felt like a Zelda or a God of War game. It just goes to show how strong those formulas still hold up today.
At some point however, the realization hits that Darksiders is not The Legend of Zelda or God of War, and it hits in a fairly negative way. Rather than take the core concepts of those games and do something new with them, Darksiders is content to rehash them in the most straightforward ways possible. As such, Darksiders builds its own identity as a game with no identity of its own. It has no new tricks to speak of, and perhaps worst of all, it doesn't even match the polish of the games it's imitating. While Darksiders is at its best when it feels like a Zelda or a God of War game, it's also at its worst when it feels like a cheap knock off of those same games. The puzzles are rarely as clever as they are in Zelda, the combat never feels a fluid as God of War, and even the portal gun never gets put to as good of use as it does in Portal. By doing nothing more than copying others, Darksiders immediately sets a limit to how good it can be. It's never going to surpass those games, and even then it only rarely matches them. More often it's content to operate in a realm of mundane familiarity, and loses a lot of appeal as a result.
In a way, Darksiders feels kind of like the Frankenstein of gaming. It's a strange entity, strictly composed of working parts from numerous other games. And while it all comes together to produce something functional and generally effective, it also never operates quite as well as its original sources. It might prove an endearing package to some, but Darksiders manages to be a little too "been there, done that" for its own good, making it a hard sell for anyone looking for a game they haven't played a dozen times before.
For additional information on my review style and scoring system, click here.