A history of fighting.
While we have Super Smash Bros., Marvel vs. Capcom, and Street Fighter X Tekken to settle many nerd debates, we haven't yet had a game to answer the question, “Could William Wallace impale Vlad the Impaler?” Deadliest Warrior: Legends sets out to help us resolve those important, pseudo-educational questions in the form of an arena-styled fighting game. While the first title had fighters ranging from such diverse backgrounds such as Spartan, Pirate, or Samurai, its sequel ups the ante by letting you play as historical Legends (hence the title, see what they did?) like Joan of Arc or Alexander the Great. You can even play as Shaka Zulu.
The best example I can think to compare Deadliest Warrior to would probably be Bushido Blade, a Japanese-flavored 'make-one-mistake-and-you're-dead' fighter. If that doesn't do it for you, perhaps saying that it's kind of like a more violent, simplified Soul Calibur might suffice. Basically, it's a 3D weapons-based fighter that's primarily about snap decisions and reflexes. Landing the right strike can fell your opponent in a single hit, and breaking limbs will hinder your foe. Most matches I played lasted about ten to twenty seconds—my shortest was about three. This might be a bit underwhelming when padded between loading times, admittedly, but it can also lend more caution to how you actually play. I confess I found myself blocking much more pre-emptively and carefully than most fighters.
There's also a lot of customization involved—nowhere near the depths of Soul Calibur V, of course, but this is a much more affordable DLC release. That said, tweaking colors is a nice little detail, but changing armor and weapon loadouts that actually impact the gameplay is a good idea, and one that is certainly welcome for the genre. All characters utilize a close-range weapon (like swords), a long-range weapon (such as a halberd), and a projectile. Much of these options need to be unlocked as you play, which gives some incentive to try everyone out.
Mechanically, it's sound for a 3D fighter, with one button controlling horizontal attacks, another for vertical, one for projectiles, etc. You can switch between long and close-range weapons, assuming both of your arms are functioning. Your shield arm got busted? Have fun trying to block. Your stamina meter ran out? Say goodbye to 'reaction time'. Your leg's broken? Hope you can still fight hobbling around. Ring-outs, pushing, rock-paper-scissors grappling, parries, and feints are all here as well.
It's certainly ironic, given how quickly matches can end, that these features exist, but it does mean that there's more meat on its bones than a lot of other smaller scale fighters have. One such meatier mode is the Generals Mode, which plays as a strategy game of sorts that climaxes in the leading characters duking it out for possession of prominent land pieces.
Oh, right. I forgot to mention that the game's based on a television show—but really, the concept serves its function whether you watch the show or not. It does appear that this game, its prequel, and some episodes of said TV show are slated to be packed into a disc release later this spring. It's not going to be getting played at EVO 2K12, but for an audience who enjoys casual, easy-to-pick-up fighters for parties and social drinking, there's some simple, brutal fun to be had here. Although I couldn't seem to get William Wallace to fart out any lightning... I think a DLC patch should address this glaring issue.