war, carnage, a game flying high on borrowed wings.
"borrowed wings" does not necessarily mean ripoff. there are a lot of themes in darksiders that seem to have been drawn from other games, but it works to achieve the desired intent.
way before earth, heaven and hell were in all-out war, with angels and demons constantly killing each other. a third faction, a group of "old ones" known as the charred council, sent their agents to quell the violence - the four horsemen. the horsemen succeeded in getting both sides to lay down their arms. in case this hasn't set in yet, i will repeat myself in a slightly different manner - the charred council and the horsemen are crazy enough to scare heaven and hell into a cease-fire. word.
the council sees a third kingdom arising - the kingdom of man - and only know that they will be weak, cunning, and have a part to play in a three-way endgame between angels, demons, and men. as is the case with most apocalypse-themed media, when the 7th seal is broken, the horsemen will ride out and own all.
so apocalypse comes, and as war you ride out to start regulating, but you're missing 75% of your project team. turns out the seventh seal wasn't broken, and charred council HR wants to have some words with you for jumping the gun. you get them to agree to let you find out who's behind it all, as long as they send a watcher with you to keep tabs, and completely gimp your skills.
why that last part is awful - right before your skills are gimped, you play, as the horseman war, through the prologue, with ridiculous skills and the ability to change into a huge demon-like monster tearing any being in front of you limb from limb. that's not to say the gameplay still isn't interesting. you start with a giant zweihander called chaoseater (justified, trust me) and basic genre melee skills. in addition to this your options evolve into a multitude of combos with both swordplay and gunplay, a berserking chaos form, and some help from war's fiery warhorse (his name is ruin, and he's a pretty little pony). along with the devil may cry like sword/gun attack combination, the game also employs god of war like finishers. when an enemy is near death, war can grab his hapless victim and end them with a brutal deathblow. enemies yield souls (orbs) that restore health or wrath (mana) or souls that can be used for currency. another god of war draw are certain fights that require button sequencing for success.
the puzzle portions of the game might remind you of ocarina of time and other zelda games - as in you can drop every clown in your path, but you better be able to dogde, time, and find non-combat methods of doing very mundane things - like opening a damn door. haydn dalton, the lead developer, said that the game was designed to be about 40% puzzle.
the GUI ain't bad either. wrath powers (think magic spells) are programmed one per button for the 4 main buttons, and triggered by, well, a trigger button. as opposed to some console games that have trouble making alternate forms of attacks work fluidly, darksiders' wrath system fits in well with the basic gameplay, and adds a definite fun factor to doing what war does best.
i mentioned similarities between darksiders and games like god of war and devil may cry but a straight comparison isn't really fair. there's a major difference in play feel - where GoW and DMC's fight styles were highly stylized and elegant, darksiders doesn't bother. it is pure straightforward fight, all day, everyday. vigil put together a solid game. but konami had their hands in this too...
overall: 8/10. very good.