DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue Review
DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue. What a name.
ToV follows on from the first DeathSpank: After rescuing all of the orphans (the little brats that they are), recovering The Artifact and slaying the evil Lord Von Prong, DeathSpank discovers that the villain had a magical thong just like the one he wears. Shortly afterwards, he is captured and thrown into a PoW camp in a strange new land that is essentially Fantasy World War II. Whether this sounds absolutely stupid, or stupidly awesome, is up to you.
Like the first game, it is a simple hack-and-slash RPG that acts as a framing device for a parody of RPG conventions and tropes. While the music and much of the basic gameplay appears to have been recycled, the rest is completely new content; new characters, new enemies, new quests, and above all, a brand-new setting help to make this a great sequel. The first DeathSpank was set in a parody of generic western fantasy worlds, and occasionally got just as dry or boring as the games it was trying to satirize.
Things like the equipment, which as I mentioned in my review of the first Deathspank, progressed in a strictly linear fashion and were often too similar to their non-parody counterparts to stay entertaining. The same applied to the monsters. Whether you were fighting orques or orcs, it all felt like it came down to the same thing.
In Thongs of Virtue, you will still run across orques and the equipment still parodies what you will find in regular RPGs. However, the World War II-like setting (Weird War II?) goes a long way towards keeping the game's content fresh and interesting. It also helps to make the combat a hell of a lot more fun with the addition of pistols, submachine guns, grenades, and even bazookas; the weapons that come with WWII are far more interesting than the crappy crossbow the first DeathSpank saddled you with for most of the game.
The charming cardboard cutout-like aesthetic works well in a more modern setting, too. Mansions overrun by robots, gloomy not-French villages, exotic jungles and many other locations make Thongs of Virtue more interesting by distancing it from its standard fantasy routes.
It still shares plenty of the problems of its predecessor, though. While the introduction of firearms and less-generic equipment spice up the combat, it continuously feels like an ocean of padding between islands of interest. I was also disappointed to see that the multiplayer is restricted to hotseating with a game controller, and that the inventory screen is as clunky as ever.
For a quick sequel, Deathspank: Thongs of Virtue does a lot of things right. The change of setting gives the game far more charm and personality than the first DeathSpank, and the humor is still fairly good, if a little hit-and-miss. If you liked the original DeathSpank, Thongs of Virtue is definitely worth checking out, even if the bland fantasy setting turned you away the first time. Just remember that this is a game that gets by on charm and humor, not gameplay.