By thatpinguino 23 Comments
Thanks to the recent Brutal Legend TNT I found myself with a hankering, a strong hankering to return to the metal fields of yore and tear through some daemons with an ax and a guitar. So I riffled through a box of old games and found my copy, with the intent to play through it in a week or so, but the metal got to me and sunk its molten teeth deep. Two days later I was done with the game and filled with both a deep respect for the game that was and a longing for the game it might have been. Brutal Legend just crushes when it comes to things like tone, open world design, esthetic, character personality, and unique rts gameplay, but it falls short in its pacing and its dialog delivery. As a result I want to examine what this game did terrifically, where it stumbled, and how it may have addressed its issues.
1. Esthetic Cohesiveness- Every locale in Brutal Legend was designed to look like a heavy metal album cover, and it shows. The landscape takes disparate parts of heavy metal lore and merges them into the natural elements of the world we know to create the world that heretofore was contained entirely in 80s high school composition books. The trees are made of exhaust pipes and the stones form natural ramps at every turn and the whole thing just feels right. This is accentuated by the fact that the player is always driving through the world in a sick hotrod that blasts nothing but metal music, the perfect tunes for running over razor porcupines and jumping gorges. On top of the obvious environmental touches there are also buried relics for the player to find which contain new songs to add to the already awesome radio; this buried metal takes what would be a boring collectable and makes it an element of the ambiance.
2. Open World Design- Brutal Legend is one of the rare open world games that I actually feel compelled to roam around in. This is due almost entirely to the fact that every street and road looks wildly different, and around every corner is some new solo or landmark to discover. By the end of the game I felt like I knew the world of Brutal Legend like the back of my hand because I had spent so long simply driving and enjoying the sites that I did.
3. Character Personality- Each of the characters in Brutal Legend has a unique and well established personality that really made them endearing. From the dim-witted bouncers to the horn-dog bassists I felt like I knew every member of my band by the end of the game. I liked them so much in fact that I felt compelled to talk to every one of them every opportunity that I got. The heroes are just as well-written as the common units and that added personality made the road trip story all the more potent.
4. Unique RTS Gameplay- This part of the game is the most derided, but I really enjoyed the stage battles. The interplay between the character action of the main hero unit and the army level battles that were taking place all around it made for as unique an rts experience as I have ever played. It tests the player’s micro and macro level skills at all times, so much so that foregoing one part of the game to embrace the other results almost certainly in defeat. The sheer range of gameplay experiences present in one stage battle is staggering and that versatility is what I love about the strategy in Brutal Legend, sometimes apms are not as valuable as a good ax-hand.
Now that I have covered what I loved I think it is time for some flaw exposure.
1. The Story is Set up for 3 Acts but only has 1.5- The story of Brutal legend is clearly set up for three campaign sections: Ironheade, Drowning Doom, and Tainted Coil. However, after hours of gameplay dedicated to Ironheade fighting Ironheade there are a scant few missions dedicated to fighting the other factions and learning about their mechanics and history. Each Ironheade unit is unveiled with an acquisition mission before joining your army permanently, yet both the Drowning Doom and the Tainted Coil simply spring fully formed from Zeus’s skull with little fanfare. Despite the fact that the player has little knowledge of these armies, and thus needs more experience fighting against them, each secondary army receives far fewer stage battles than the Ironheade army that preceded them. There are two stage battles against the Drowning Doom and only one stage battle against the Tainted Coil, leading the player to have a huge gap in their knowledge about either of those factions. This gameplay shortcoming bleeds into the story as both secondary factions have only one character with any dialog: their leaders. Thus, each secondary faction feels underdeveloped and the story ends without giving them anything resembling equal stage time.
The solution to this problem would be a longer story mode; however, I know that this is unrealistic given the time and monetary constraints the game was under.
2. Dialog Delivery- The dialog outside of battles is delivered by having the player run up to a character and pressing a button to prompt a character to speak. As the game goes on the band grows larger and the number of people to speak to grows unwieldy, resulting in unnecessary time being wasted trying to listen to every line of dialog from each character. This is especially true when characters have multiple lines, thus forcing the player to keep hitting the button prompt until a character repeats a line to know that they are done talking. It is not game breaking, but this dialog delivery system is mildly annoying.
A possible alternative would be to have characters display some sort of prompt over their heads when they have something new to say which goes away when they are done talking. This would limit the repeated dialog problem and inform he player of who to talk to before each battle.
I hope you all play this great, flawed game and enjoy the sheer ridiculous fun of it all.