Dec 1, 2010

The DeathSpank PC Review

Back during the desperate times when Ron Gilbert was failing to find a publisher for his Diablo meets Monkey Island game, the skies were dark, gamers were gloomy and gnomes disappointed. Nowadays DeathSpank has not only been published, but after much delay even ported to the PC, the one platform one would think would have been ideal for the game's launch. Anyway; we might be going through the deepest and most savage recession capitalism has ever known, multinationals might be teeming up with nationalists in preparing the bombs that will help the system flourish once again and the police might just be the only facet of the welfare state that's going stronger, but we gamers can be happy, for DeathSpank is a great little game indeed. And we can even play it with a mouse and keyboard.

In our times of barbarism and boring mainstream games DeathSpank is a wacky splash of colour. It looks surreal and lovely, can at times be really funny, plays well, and -more importantly- actually does what it was supposed to do. It's a shiny Diablo-clone that effortlessly though sporadically manages to do a pretty decent impersonation of Monkey Island, what with its simple puzzles and dialog trees. Interestingly and despite the fact that only a handful of puzzles made it into the game, they are all quite varied and smart.

The hack-and-slash CRPG aspect of the game is on the other hand extremely rich. There are tons of different and outrageously named weapons, bits of armor and objects to collect, dozens of quest and side-quests, a rich selection of silly baddies, two kinds of chicken, a ridiculous amount of  loot, many locations and a rather big world to explore. Combat itself is close to perfect and always satisfying, making great use of the keyboard-mouse combo, but also allowing the traitorous among PC gamers to use a joypad. Disgusting, I know, but that's what kids seem to enjoy these. Unfortunately joysticks have been wholly ignored. Oh, and what I really thought was brilliant in the mechanics were the ways in which all the tedious bits of Diablo-clones have been eradicated: players can teleport around the map, store their weapons in a variety of chests, access a handy quest journal, consult a variety of helpful maps and -above all- use the brilliant grinder to turn loot into gold pieces.

What though actually helps raise DeathSpank above the soup of mediocrity that are Diablo-clones, for let's face it that's what it really is, is the combination of a unique presentation and a generous helping of humour. DeathSpank features truly beautiful graphics that create a unique, colorful world not entirely dissimilar to a pop-up book, excellent voice-overs and so many and varied jokes you are bound to both constantly chuckle and at times properly laugh. Apparently, it also features a plot, but this being a review on a blog, it really shouldn't be much longer than it already is. Let me just add that beating DeathSpank took me 12 hours.

Verdict: If you either love Ron Gilbert's work or care for humorous RPGs, you really can't go wrong with DeathSpank. It's a great game and it's already available on Steam. If only its Monkey Island elements were more apparent, this would have been a true classic.

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16 comments:

  1. Agreed, it's a great little game, and the dialogues really take it to the next level. It took me 10 hours to get all the Steam achievements by the way, on the easy setting (I always play my games on the easiest setting available, since I play to have fun, not to be unnecessarily challenged :).

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  2. Well, as for me dear Haggis, I did stick with the medium setting and got all achievements too in just a bit over 12 hours. Think you'll be getting the sequel? Guess I'l wait for a price drop first.

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  3. Yeah, I already pre-ordered it. I couldn't help myself. :) DeathSpank is one of very few games that got me excited enough to buy recently - I find myself revisiting old games again and again. Currently I'm playing OpenTTD on and off, but I guess I'll be working my way through Thongs of Virtue in the coming week or so!

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  4. I always play games on the hardest difficulty available, except for online browser games. I play them at this setting because while challenge is not necessary for fun it can add a lot of fun to the type of games that would include a difficulty setting.

    And lately all the commercial games have been very easy on any setting.

    I have been interested in DS for awhile now, will have to give it a go eventually, but their is always another game to play.

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  5. @ Haggis: OpenTTD eh? That's something I've been meaning to try for quite some time. Hope to finally get around to it. As for DeathSpank TOV, I'd love to hear what you thought of it.

    @ Jonathon: I do agree when it comes to adventures with more than one settings. I do like my action games and FPSs mostly medium, but still love the ultra difficult VVVVVV and -of course- Manic Miner. Mind you, DeathSpank, even on medium, can be quite tough at certain points.

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  6. I'm planning on writing a review of TOV for Cultural Zest, so you can probably read my thoughts there then. :) And OpenTTD really makes Transport Tycoon a lot more fun (and that's saying a lot, since TT is already great fun by itself).

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  7. I liked the first one and had my fill. Didn't feel like I need to play the second one, got what I liked from the first. maybe change my mind if it drops in price and I'm in a spendy mood.

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  8. @ Haggis: Excellent. I'll be waiting for it then. As for OpenTTD I'd also like to see its scientific principles. After all, that's part of my field.

    @ Blake: Can't say i disagree with you there Blake, though I do know I'll be grabbing DS TOV as soon as it drops below 5 euros.

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  9. I dunno, although I was pumped for it, most reviewers pointed out that it is somewhat repetitive and humour is a little forced. If I had more time, I'd give it a try, if only because of Ron Gilbert's name. But since I have problems finding time for any gaming at all, I think it will have to wait for its turn.

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  10. No time eh? Infuriating, isn't it dear Barts? Hope things do lighten up. Anyway, the humour doesn't really feel forced, but the combat -as you might expect from all Diablo clones and 90% of all CRPGs - is indeed quite repetitive.

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  11. I have just gotten this recently and am playing my way through it. It is rather repetitive, and thus I have been playing it in small doses rather than trying to finish it all in a few sittings.

    The humour does make up for the repetitiveness of the combat, thankfully, and it manages to be quite charming and amusing.

    Oh, and really, you ought to try OpenTTD. I am a most dedicated fan to the original Transport Tycoon and urge you to spend some of your time on it, my friend. Especially with your interest in model trains!

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  12. Admittedly dear Ben it's less repetitive than Diablo, but you are right. DS combat is repetitive, though quite enjoyable. Glad you also like the humour.

    As for OpenTTD, it's not only model trains. I'm an urban planner/geographer, meaning I'm always interested in relevant games.

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  13. Although I have tried Diablo (and the sequel), Sacred, Dungeon Siege and various other hack and slashers, I much prefer the more strategic RPGs. Arcanum is probably as close as I have gotten to a less tactical RPG that I really love.

    If my joyous times with SimCity 4 are anything to go by, being an urban planner must be a splendid thing indeed!

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  14. Well, yes, provided you have a job of course and can handle your average cretinous mayor, one must admit it's incredibly interesting.

    Definitely agree on the RPG tastes front and happily have recently grabbed Arcanum from gog.com.

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  15. I have been that cretinous mayor myself in SimCity 4!

    Arcanum is a most brilliant purchase, I mourn for Troika's passing more than probably any other company.

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