When you idolise someone so much that you begin to dress, move and act exactly like them, how do you have a personality of your own? That's Darksiders' dilemma. Half the time it's like playing God Of War. For the rest of the game, Darksiders apes Legend of Zelda, with dungeons to explore and puzzles to solve. The only thing missing is the green tunic. And while you might think that fusing such distinct games would be enough to give Darksiders its own character, it isn't.
Forget the story - it's very much end-of-the-world-style nonsense, and just an excuse to let War (of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) hit loads of demons with a big sword. There are lots of weapons, and if you go on a murderous enough rampage your wrath bar will fill and you can adopt War's 'chaos form' for a while. Here, War increases in size and is engulfed in flame, allowing you to run amok for 30 seconds or so. Sound familiar? Yes, it's like GOW's Rage of the Gods mode, of course. But this is far from the only similarity to Kratos' adventures.
In fact, you can't move without spotting something inspired by GOW - kill a demon, and its soul is absorbed into War, allowing him to level-up later. There are colour-coded chests, offering souls that increase health or add to War's wrath bar. Kratos has the Blades of Chaos, War has his sword - The Chaoseater. Of course, none of this would be a problem were Darksiders' combat as fluid, responsive or satisfying as GOW's but, while it's decent enough, fighting in this game is clunky and far too reliant on mashing square.
It's like playing a version of GOW created in a parallel universe, one where it hasn't had quite the same level of talent - and cash - thrown at it. War himself, by the way, is a disappointment. He's just like all the other pissed-off 'anti-heroes' that rule gaming, from Cole of inFamous to that Jet Brody bloke from Fracture. The only thing differentiating him from them is the chunky armour and the hoodie. War, being the embodiment of war, should radiate fury and charisma but here, he's got less personality than plate of floppy lettuce.
So to the Zelda-style dungeon bits. These require a good deal of thought, and you're often left scratching your head and wondering how the hell you're going to reach the other side of this chasm, or hit that switch a million miles away. But these parts are so inspired by Zelda it's untrue. For instance, you get a new weapon shortly into each 'dungeon', and you'll need to master it to progress. Just like in Zelda. The first one, the Crossblade, is a giant shuriken - but one that comes straight back to you. Like Zelda's boomerang. And you'll use it to hit multiple enemies or switches at once. Like in Zelda. There are even bombs growing out of leafy pods on the ground. Like in Zelda. And there's always a big boss battle after each dungeon. Like in Zelda.
Actually, these are pretty impressive, from giant she-bat Tiamat to screeching multi-legged demon The Griever, and are certainly among the game's high points. Later on, you'll be able to get your horse, Ruin, and ride him across the game's map. Like in Shadow Of The Colossus. Oh, and Zelda. Sadly, Darksiders does none of these things anywhere near as well as Zelda - the puzzles aren't as in-depth, the locations are less inspiring (a flooded subway station? Really?) and the sense of awe and discovery pales in comparison to Link's adventures.
Darksiders' similarities to Zelda and God Of War certainly aren't a bad thing - there are far worse games to be inspired by - but the best titles transcend their inspirations, and this is something Darksiders fails to do. God Of War could loosely be described as Devil May Cry in ancient Greece, but you never notice when you're playing it. When a game is worse than its source material, this feels jarring. Resi 5 was, understandably, almost a carbon copy of Resi 4, but it lacked the magic and freshness of its predecessor.