Darksiders treads in very familiar footsteps, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
But you're not entirely at fault, and in a way you were just doing what's expected of you. As War, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, it's kind of a given that you're not sent out to document the fauna and flora of Earth. Your name implies numerous casualties, your title infers the end of everything.
And you did end everything. Sort of. When the tenuous truce between Heaven and Hell - a surrender of arms until mankind would be strong enough to meddle in the conflict - is suddenly nullified, angels and demons resurface on Earth to beat the ever-living crap out of each other, with all of mankind crossfired into oblivion as they go at it. Of course, the untimely demise of our species upsets the balance as it was imposed by the Charred Council, an entity overseeing the celestial feud who believed that humans would one day be of great importance. All humans dead, Hell rules Earth and you, as the sole Horseman that strode across the pan-terra theatre of war, get blamed for unleashing the Apocalypse too early. Why your brethren kept their mighty steeds stabled is a question you get to entertain yourself with as you're sent back to Earth to clear your name and find the ones truly responsible for the end of the world, or die trying.
Okay, so the game plays it loose with its lore. I'll admit that my knowledge on the Bible is limited to the bigger names and events only, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't mention three giant stone skulls with flaming breath, leashing their penalised subordinates with six-eyed demons. Then again, historical accuracy never was the Bible's strong point either, making it easy for developer Vigil to graft the concept of the Endwar and an interesting "what if"-hook into set dressing for an action game. It's a premise that despite its flat characters is still a cut above your average action propellant, even if it takes a while for the story to truly kick into gear.
Saying that Darksiders took a leaf out of The Legend of Zelda's book is a painful understatement. It would be more accurate to say that Darksiders simply wrapped its own cover around the quires of Ocarina of Time and called it a day, and it does so unabashed; you get a mount that has six temporary speed boosts, collectible skull fragments that give you an extra life upon gathering a quartet and there's a semi-open world connecting the dungeons, each one dressed in a classic theme like fire and water.
The dungeon design is very reminiscent of Zelda as well with small keys, boss keys and dungeon maps, puzzles that require you to ricochet your boomerang from open flame to out-of-reach bomb plants or lighting all the torches in the room to make an invisible chest appear, and a piece of equipment (like a hookshot or a portal gun) you'll need to defeat the dungeon boss with as well as reach new paths in the overworld.
You'll need more than fancy gadgets to cross the plethora of decrepit architectures and ethereal plains though, which is where War's deftness comes in handy. Despite his hulking nature, War has no trouble crossing a pipe hand over hand, jumping between ledges or wallrunning Prince of Persia-style. The environment is designed with his agility in mind, especially when it comes to the many hidden collectibles; wrath cores and skull fragments to extend their respective bars, a diversity of tokens you can sell to your friendly neighbourhood armsdealing demon Vulgrim for a good amount of souls to upgrade your arsenal or moves list, the scattered pieces of the Abyssal Armor (the only thing you can bring into a consecutive game) and collectible Enhancements that add passive abilities, such as boosting weapon damage or harvesting more souls for smashing up the environment.
The rest of the gameplay is traditional action-adventure-y; you'll be jumping and double-jumping across floating platforms, pushing blocks into position to form bridges and stepping stones, and activating switches to open doors at the other side of the room. There's the odd turret sequence on top of an energybeam-exhaling gryphon, backtracking and collection quests to disappoint you and consumables to top your health, chaos and wrath.
It wouldn't be an action adventure game without plenty of action, although the combat is a mindless and shallow one-two punch of light and heavy attack. A diet Ninja Gaiden, if you will, utilising a basic combo system that's very easy to get to grips with although I never quite figured out what the rewards for a high combo are. You can also use the environment to your advantage, picking up parking meters to use at batons and car wrecks to fling at adversaries. When the enemy is on the cusp of death, you can perform a finishing grab that usually ends with at least one body part coming off. Weapons get damage upgrades by raking in kills with them (up to a total of four ranks) and slaying enough monsters you'll fill your Chaos meter, allowing you to transform into a formidable damage-dealing beast for a short while.
As you progress, you'll sporadically unlock a new Wrath Ability (essentially your magic attacks) which let you summon a circle of blades from out of the ground or turn yourself into a human torch burning anyone that gets within melee range, although I found myself barely using these abilities.
Presentation-wise, the game turns the awesome-amp all the way to eleven. You get a bunch of bulky, armour-clad warriors with fists the size of truck engines and deep, growling voices that would make a bass guitar weep in shame, all rendered in an artstyle that any 15-year-old male aspires to draw over his math notes. Not that I'm impartial this game's attempted appeals to my inner teenager. On the contrary, I got a serious kick out of the entire package, and the ending especially got both my blood and my fist pumped.
If you play this on the PC, you'll be sorry to hear that there is little to no optimisation: you can change the resolution, the refresh rate and toggle V-sync but that's where your options end. The lack thereof is sweetened somewhat by the addition of the soundtrack and a 24-page comic explaining a little bit of the backstory.
Playing through Darksiders' fifteen-hour single player is a familiar matter, like you've gone through these motions before. Yet, for all of its blatant copy-pasta, it's polished to a T, showing a confident commitment and dedication from Vigil to make the game they wanted to make. If the end result is an excellent carbon copy of one of the most heralded games of all time, then who are we to stare this gift steed in the gums?