I am wondering whether the fact that this is the first DeathSpank game I have played is a good thing or a bad thing. Sure, I have no clue as to what may have gone on in the previous two games; but then again, coming into the game completely fresh may help the game fair better.
The story isn’t exactly taxing on the old gray matter. Taking its cue right out of Conan the Destroyer, the game opens with a very bored DeathSpank sitting on his throne. However, things don’t stay to quiet for long! In his infinite wisdom, Deathspank decided to put all five Thongs of Virtue on at the same time, something that is forbidden. By doing so he has created an evil version of himself, the AntiSpank, hell bent on destroying Spanktopia. The only chance DeathSpank has of defeating the AntiSpank is to travel to the Fires of Bacon and throw the thongs in. It all sounds a little trippy, and that would be because it is!
The game is essentially a hack ’n’ slash. Mix in some RPG elements and a whole lot of looting and you can get the idea. I am sure that anyone who has already played DeathSpank or Thongs of Virtue will probably know how the core gameplay works. Each of the face buttons can be mapped to a different weapon, and there are an awful lot to choose from; melee, ranged, explosive. The further you progress, the more you will find. Most of the weapons are elemental, such as fire, ice and natural, and each type of enemy will be immune to different elements. This means that it is in your best interest to vary your available weapons where possible.
However, this can also cause a few problems; early on in the game I needed to take out some ghosts in order to complete a mission. Ghosts can only be damaged by natural weapons, but at the time I hadn’t got any. This meant buying the only natural weapon I could from a local vendor, which happened to be grenades. These were expensive and meant I had to go back to other areas of the map to try and find enemies to loot. The whole thing took about 45 minutes and frustrated me somewhat.
Deathspank’s shield also comes in handy this time round, as not only does it protect you from attack, but can also be charged up to execute a bash move. This stuns any enemies in its path, making crowd control slightly more manageable.
In addition to the main quest, there are a huge amount of optional side quests to complete. These will range from helping Green Alien to defeat other aliens to finding objects scattered around the map for other NPC’s. These missions can be avoided, but by completing them you will gain more XP, which in turn will help you level up faster and unlock perks.
By doing the side quests, you will also unlock a wealth of humorous conversations between DeathSpank and other characters. DeathSpank is very much a character with an inflated sense of self worth, very much reminding me of Captain Quark from the Ratchet and Clank franchise. Sure, he did save the world once or twice, but boy does he like to remind people. DeathSpank is the main attraction here and the dialogue created for the game is superb, very much in the same vein as a Double Fine game. It’s not surprising given the connection between them and Hothead Games. There were several times that I found myself chuckling away at some of the one liners and quips. It makes the game more enjoyable and helps you see past some of the games flaws.
One of the games biggest problems is the combat. Being a hack ’n’ slash, the least you expect is for the combat to feel meaty, so that you really feel it every time Deathspank’s sword lands a blow. This isn’t the case; no matter which weapon I used, it always felt like he might as well have been carrying around a cardboard sword. It also isn’t helped by the fact that when swarmed by enemies, the combat feels sluggish, and often resulted in me using up endless amounts of health potions just to stay alive. Sure, you could say that maybe I’m just not good at this game, but in truth, the combat could have and should have felt more satisfying. I also found that the combat became repetitive rather quickly. Even with a massive range of weapons on offer, because they made no real difference to how it played out, and the fact that there are no combos to gain or learn, the combat soon felt stale.
One other issue I was annoyed by was that, for some strange reason, Deathspank was able to walk through treasure chests. I’m not sure if this is a glitch or a design flaw, but it made it difficult to line up DeathSpank in order to open the chests, and there is a hell of a lot in the game! Something simple like that can easily be ironed out, and it was a surprise to see it in the game.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom; an excellent art style will brighten up your telly and even I had to chuckle at the voice work on the game. Although, do all you Americans really think us Brits sound like cock-er-ney chimney sweeps?
The Baconing also offers a co-op option. As with Thongs of Virtue, you can team up with another person and tackle the adventure together. This can be a real lifesaver when it comes to some of the trickier areas in the game. The co-op works extremely well and can be great fun. The second player doesn’t have a health bar and, as such, will never die; great for those big boss fights. The game is also full of various references, most of which strike the right chord (I loved the TRON area).
Overall the quirky storyline and the witty dialogue help push The Baconing above the label of ’Another boring button masher’. Those that played the first two games may feel that they have had their fill of Spanktopia; but as a first time visitor, I found it to be a very enjoyable game.
Review copy provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.