reviews\ Nov 10, 2010 at 7:00 pm

DeathSpank (PC) review


When you boil many role-playing games down, the main hero (no matter what his destiny) is little more than a good-looking errand boy with a ridiculously large sword. Enter DeathSpank, Ron Gilbert's Diablo-lite game just ported to the PC, and the titular bumbling hero who can be described as the fantasy RPG version of The Tick.

From the very name of the title and protagonist onwards, DeathSpank strives to bring humor to a genre not generally known for it. While a good portion of the jokes fall flat, it tries something new with nearly every passing moment. Humor is an incredibly personal thing so your mileage may vary, but most people will eventually find something to chuckle at.

The game world is dotted with a variety of colorful and interesting characters that parody RPG staples. While most of them have their own distinct and unhinged personality (with the exception of the occasional Guy Who Got Robbed or what have you), the quests they offer are unfortunately lacking; the quests almost always come in the form of delivery, fetch, or kill-and-fetch quests. Fittingly, the section for side-quests in the quest log is titled “Unimportant stuff I need to do.”

However, they at least serve the purpose of leading you through the colorful world of DeathSpank. The game's art style is quite charming; foliage and buildings appear as cardboard cutouts, the enemies are varied and fit the environments nicely, and the world rolls along as you walk, similar to the giant planetoids from Super Mario Galaxy. Unfortunately, the camera angle means that some enemies can shoot at you without the player being able to target them back, but this doesn't last long.

So if the humor has its moments and the game world is charming, what about the combat? As far as hack-and-slash games go, it is somewhat shallow. There are no special skills, no attributes, and nothing beyond a strictly linear progression of armor and weapons. Then I realized that was the point. The game isn't about particularly deep and complex combat, it is about bashing your way through a colorful variety of strange and interesting monsters so you can get to the next joke. The weapons and armor riff on the kind of equipment sets you find in other RPGs, and they are dispensed at a decent pace. The combat does actually become more involved as the game progresses, with some weapons offering a special attack and rare “runestones” enabling unique attacks when you have certain combinations of weapons. It is nothing special, but it will at least keep you on your toes between adventures.

Again, everyone's sense of humor is different. DeathSpank is a true love-it-or-hate-it game through and through. If you appreciated the jokes in Ron Gilbert's earlier games (such as Monkey Island), and share an equal appreciation for Diablo-style games, it is worth a look.


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