Earlier this year a hero emerged. Standing proudly atop a mountain with adoring orphans cheering at his feet, bards singing his praises, his bejewelled thong glinting in the midday sun, Deathspank proved himself to be a true vanquisher of evil, defender of justice and protector of the downtrodden. More importantly, he made me laugh.
With Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert at the helm, it’s not surprising that Deathspank’s world is one filled with charm, snappy dialogue and crazy quests, as you go on an epic search for the fabled Artifact. Adopting a Diablo-esque action RPG format, Deathspank wears its console heritage on its sleeve. Rather than limiting your enjoyment, however, these influences have resulted in a wonderfully streamlined experience. While gamepads are supported, that’s not why you play games on a PC so I’ll be focusing on the standard keyboard and mouse controls. The WASD setup is more clunky than it should be, but navigating with the mouse is an absolute joy – either button works for movement and you can assign up to four unique attacks using TAB as a modifier.
This interface overhaul also addresses one of the biggest issues that plagued the earlier console iterations. Swapping items and weapons in the inventory is now as simple as it should have always been and with the addition of a comparison tool (an essential in RPGs), kitting Deathspank out in the deadliest fashions is hassle free, leaving time to enjoy the more exciting parts of the game.
The combat itself is the standard fare – you have melee and ranged attacks as well as special powers that activate after you’ve slain enough foes to fill up the Justice Meter. Variety is rewarded with attack bonuses and you can build up your Justice levels with carefully timed blocking, but the action-oriented elements are kept simple to allow you to enjoy the world itself.
However, this does result in some repetitive gameplay – fetch quests are abundant and, at around six hours long to reach full completion, the shortcomings are more obvious than would have been when slogging through a twenty-hour campaign. For a game designed by a legendary adventure game developer, the complete lack of puzzles is a great disappointment as well. No mission goes beyond the simple “find this, kill that, run over there” format and they do tend to drag after a while.
Deathspank’s practical simplicity extends to the visuals, presenting a world of 2D scenery filled with 3D actors. It made me feel like I was wandering around a brightly coloured stage set and, with areas ranging from a haunted riverbed to a technicolour forest filled with unicorns, pixies and talking trees (none of which I’ll ever trust again), exploring every part of the map never felt like a chore.
Unfortunately, there are still a few bugbears to mention before a final verdict can be made. The game is screaming for a decent cooperative mode but all you get is a simplified local multiplayer that provides a temporary companion who has no impact whatsoever on the world itself, instead only providing assistance in combat. Some dialogue between the two at the very least would have been nice.
Thankfully, Deathspank makes up for its failings with plenty of what Gilbert and his team at Hothead are best known for – humour. With self-deprecating references, fourth-wall breaking quips and some questionable shenanigans involving an orphan, a sack and some candy, Deathspank had me chuckling along from beginning to end. The voice acting is superb and, while I caught myself reading ahead much of the time, I still loved hearing what every villager and beast had to say.
At £9.99 on Steam, Deathspank is perfectly suited for those looking for some light relief with some familiar gameplay and a great story. It’s also a guaranteed essential if it’s ever included in one of Steam’s legendary sales. If you’ve already played through it on console, however, there isn’t enough new material here to make it worth your while.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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