Meet DeathSpank: Hero of the Downtrodden, Dispenser of Justice and Vanquisher of Evil! Not to mention a few sticks short of a bundle. In an adventure both familiar and surreal, the titular hero sets out in search of “The Artifact”, an item both strange and mysterious, its power only outmatched by its mystery. Too bad no one really knows what it is. Not even DeathSpank. He only knows it’s his destiny to have it.
DeathSpank is the brainchild of Ron Gilbert, previously known for helming quirky and very funny adventure games for Lucas Arts. Fans of the Monkey Island games will undoubtedly be nodding their heads right now. In developing the game Gilbert has teamed up with Hothead Games, developer of Penny Arcade Adventures, which Gilbert served as advisor on.
Diablo meets Monkey Island in DeathSpank as you defeat enemies, gather loot by the mass, rescue orphans and do your best to recover The Artifact. The resemblances to Diablo are easy to see, as pretty much any NPC you can talk to have at least one quest for you to complete, rewarding you with new gear or other items you can use in your journey through the world.
If you’re a completionist, there are over 100 quests to complete, most of which boil down to “go here, kill this, bring back X amount of item Y”. And while slaying chickens, orques, greems and unicorns can both be fun and fulfilling, the game does skirt the edge of tedium from time to time. The amount of gear and customisation does help break up the monotony, however.
The amount of loot present within the game is staggering, and you’re constantly switching out your weapons and armour for something bigger, better, sharper or pointier. You can customise DeathSpank however you’d like, but the game comes with a “equip best armour” button in case you wish to simply gather loot and focus on switching out your weapons.
Certain weapons are “weapons of justice”, which you can use to unleash a special attack once DeathSpank’s “justice meter” has been filled. These attacks do huge amounts of damage and can sometimes make or break a battle. Some weapon combinations unlock even more special attacks, which lets DeathSpank cut an epic swathe through his enemies. Said attacks look absolutely awesome and are fun to experiment with.
You’ll find the RPG elements within the game evolve the customisation somewhat, but it doesn’t go much beyond tweaking a few stats here and there. Said tweaks can seem a bit insignificant when viewed as standalone stat boosts, but serves with pushing DeathSpank in the direction suited to your style of play. There’s no multiplayer though, so you can’t pit your custom DeathSpank against a friend’s.
Ron Gilbert’s humour permeates the entire world of DeathSpank. This is a game where you can literally beat the crap out of demons with a hammer; a salesman asks you if you want to get felt; and a young girl teaches DeathSpank how to lure children into a burlap sack. There are a lot of chuckle worthy moments, so fans of Ron Gilbert know what to expect. DeathSpank as a character is basically like Guybrush Threepwood, only dumber, yet at the same time more competent at what he does.
The music does not have a lot to write home about. It sets the mood, but doesn’t really stick in your mind once you stop playing. What you will notice is the game’s aesthetic. DeathSpank is filled with lots of colour and variations thereof. Things like graveyards are dark and foreboding, whilst the Demon Mines are red and fiery. The Enchanted Forest, pink and girly, has to be seen to be believed. I wonder what they were smoking when they came up with that.
DeathSpank’s cylindrical game world is rendered seamlessly without loading screens, which makes it feel much bigger than it actually is. The scenery takes on the look of a pop-up book, rendering houses, trees and rocks completely flat. It’s a unique appearance that separates DeathSpank from other Diablo knock-offs.
Overall DeathSpank is a fun little game that should take you about 8 or so hours to complete. The script is fun, and it offers up a lot of customisation. Unfortunately the constant questing and slaying can get a bit tedious in the long run. Thankfully the steady influx of new weapons and armour helps break up the tedium somewhat, but more varied quests and more puzzle elements would be welcome. There are worse things you can spend $15 on, and DeathSpank is well worth the time and money spent.