Review : DeathSpank


Greetings miscellaneous internet person!
I’ve been flowing DeathSpank ever since it was first annouced on Ron Gilbert’s blog GrumpyGamer so needless to say I was very excited when it was finally released. So does it live up to my hopes?

The First question you may ask is who or what is DeathSpank? DeathSpank is the protagonist from every RPG and Adventure game you have ever played, all of his life he has been destined to find “The Artifact” , he takes on all manner of tasks ordinary people give him without questioning why and he runs around cleaving everything in to a fine paste.

The gameplay itself sits between a hack and slash dungeon crawler like Torchlight and an old school adventure game. Generally the game is based around fetch quests, killing certain monsters or dialogue trees. Despite this the game for me at least had a good variety of quests to the point were I have completed all of them including all the side quests. DeathSpank also uses a similar hint system to the recently released monkey island special edition in that if you can’t figure out how to do a quest you can get progressively more obvious clues. You do this by using fortune cookies which you periodically pick up through general play and generally each quest has 3 clues however 75% of them you should be able to figure out without needing to use cookies.

The Dialogue and writing in general is top notch although I can understand it won’t be to everyones taste. It is constantly silly and fourth walling breaking, never forgetting to nod to all the clichés it adheres to. The voice acting is well executed, both DeathSpank himself and the non player characters really come alive. Even the shopkeepers and orphans are truely entertaining, I will certainly never think about felt in quite the same way again.

Combat is simple but I personally never found it boring, you can a equip a different a different weapon to each of your four main action buttons. Whenever you strike an enemy your justice meter fills a little bit. If you alternate your strikes between different weapons you get chain bonuses which give you more justice. When your justice meter is full you can unleash your weapon’s special ability, these include things like chain lightning and spinning whirlwind like attacks. There are also combination attacks later in the game where you can combine two special abilities together but generally i found these a bit too fiddly to pull off given the rapid pace of the combat. The blocking mechanics work surprisingly well, when you activate it you take no damage whilst the shield holds. However if you activate the shield just as a blow is about to hit you get a “Perfect Block” which instantly fills your justice meter, so there certainly is some depth of skill available if you want to explorer it. If you are feeling cowardly (which DeathSpank never does) you can just hold your shield are barge enemies out to way.

The world itself is a well realised mixture of 2D and 3D. The floor rolls round almost as if the world is tight cylinder and most objects are 2D cut outs which gives the game a unique Pop-up book like effect. I have actually had a graphics glitch whilst running around in PluckMuckle where the trees became all garbled, then after about a minute the system froze completely. I couldn’t say if this was the game itself or my PS3 though. Over all the game is visually a treat although it does obviously lean towards a stylised look given with its cartoon visuals and often low resolution textures, however this is never an issue given its subject matter and downloadable nature.

There is probably around 10 hours worth of content here and not a huge amount of re-playability however due to its budget price I think its still great value. DeathSpank was originally going to be episodic, at one point Ron even made a blog post singing the praises of episodic content and explaining why most of the time it failed (in short most people would prefer to to wait until the discounted complete end package is released before buying it). At some point in the design process I think they did a U turn on this, I would like to see the world of DeathSpank expanded however realistically I don’t see it happening now that Ron has left hothead at the end of his contract for DeathSpank as per their original arrangement. This is one of those situations where the game is best remembered as a standalone Masterpiece.

Masterpiece? Yes I think it is, I haven’t enjoyed a game this much for a long time, to the point where I have finished it 100% I don’t think however that everyone will like it. I would say if you like the look of the game and comedy from the trailers you will love the game, if you don’t then you won’t. Simple

Oh and calling the bad guys Orques? Genius

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