Giant Bomb Review

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DeathSpank Review

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DeathSpank can be very charming, but it's rarely much more than that.


 DeathSpank's flat visual style makes it all look kind of quaint, like the entire game was shot on a soundstage.
DeathSpank is a quick and light little piece of action-RPG excitement from Hothead Games, the crew that developed the Penny Arcade Adventures series. While it's an uneven experience, the action works well enough and the game's sense of humor hits often enough to make it come together pretty well. Unfortunately, it also gets a bit monotonous, largely due to some repetitive quest design.

The game opens at what looks like the end of the titular hero's quest. DeathSpank has been looking for "The Artifact" for a very long time, and you essentially get it near the end of the game's first section. But that's, obviously, just the beginning. Before long you'll be on the hunt for missing orphans, chasing after the orcs that ganked your artifact, and generally side-questing your ass off as you go. DeathSpank is written as a comedy, and most of its best stuff comes from things like item descriptions or occasional lines of dialogue from the nondescript characters you'll encounter along the way. The game seems like it's always trying to slide something funny your way, but most of it didn't click with me at all... though I can always appreciate a good Usenet reference. 

The writing is wrapped around a fairly standard action-RPG framework with some extra streamlining done to keep things moving. You won't need to sell loot in towns--instead you can just toss any extra items you have into "the grinder," an item in your inventory that turns loot into cash that you can then spend on... well, I think I only bought like two things over the course of the game. There isn't necessarily a ton of different loot, either, so rather than poring over your slots to make sure you're properly equipped, it's more about finding gear that has a higher level requirement, since that'll automatically be better than lower level gear. It's telling that the game has an "always equip best armor" option and that it works quite well. When you level up, you'll also get to pick a "hero card" than enhances one of your traits, like melee damage or movement speed. This gives you ways to sort of customize your character, but by the end of the game you'll have just about all of them. Don't go in expecting a full skill tree or especially meaningful decisions about the development of your DeathSpank.

 DeathSpank is a champion of justice... and a serial chicken murderer.
You can equip four weapons at a time, and most of the weapons are melee-based. I kept one crossbow equipped at all times for ranged attacks, and then slotted my three most powerful weapons in the other spaces. These slots map to your face buttons, and the game has a combo system that makes having multiple weapons equipped meaningful. When you switch from one weapon to the next, a multiplier increases and a meter for your special attacks fills more rapidly. Some special attacks can be combined, provided you have the right weapons equipped. If you get the multiplier up to seven--not an especially challenging task--you'll knock enemies back, clearing some room. You can also queue up a few support items on the D-pad, giving you fast access to health potions, food, and other status effects.

All the while, you'll be taking on various quests. Some, like gathering up a bunch of missing orphans, are primary quests that must be completed. But there are plenty of optional quests, as well. Most of them feel like they boil down to "go here and get this item" or "go here and kill this thing." One particularly glaring bit of repetitiveness has you fetching items for a talking tree. While the quest dialogue is actually great for this entire chain, all of the items are found on a main road to the west of the tree. Since you'll have already cleared out most of this area, there are few enemies to fight... you just walk back and forth to grab items for five or 10 minutes. Maybe that's supposed to be part of the joke? If it were stretched out across a longer game, DeathSpank's quests and writing would work a bit better. But crammed into the five-and-a-half hours it took me to reach 100-percent completion, it's easier to recognize the same tricks being thrown at you again and again.

While the game is fine to play alone, there's also an asymmetrical co-op option in DeathSpank. A second player can play as a wizard named Sparkles, who can cast a few spells to help DeathSpank, but isn't really much of a character on his own. He doesn't advance in level or have his own inventory, but his spells automatically scale to match DeathSpank's current level. It feels like the sort of thing that's designed for parents who want to lend their kids a bit of a hand when playing through the game, like Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Even without an abundance of the "loot lust" that usually drives action-RPGs, DeathSpank has a hook that makes you want to keep playing it. But that alone doesn't make it a fantastic game. Its moments of brilliance are usually directly offset by its shortcomings. But if you aren't especially picky and you're on the hunt for something new to play during these slow summer months, DeathSpank's good enough to fit the bill. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
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Posted by The_Laughing_Man

So whats the final word on length? 

Posted by buzz_killington

Yeah, I felt this was more of a "Brad game".

Posted by FunExplosions
@The_Laughing_Man:
I beat it in two days. Definitely enjoyable and funny, but I never laughed out loud and there's a pretty definite point when you realize things are just gonna stay the same for the duration. Bummed out on the stale armor and weapon selection, as well as the weird and not-very-functional multiplier system. I think it was worth 15 bucks, but definitely not much more.
Posted by gingertastic_10

Yeah I haven't bought it yet. It hasn't interested. I love Hothead but it doesn't spark my interest.

Posted by DarkPants

meh, I still need to finish up Torch Light before I dig into another crawler.

Posted by radioactivez0r

5 1/2 hours?  It sounds like you tried really hard to finish the game quickly, and forgot to enjoy it.  Maybe it's me, but I like to fully explore a game and take my time as opposed to seeing how quickly I can toot my horn for being finished.

Posted by toadstule
@radioactivez0r said:
" 5 1/2 hours?  It sounds like you tried really hard to finish the game quickly, and forgot to enjoy it.  Maybe it's me, but I like to fully explore a game and take my time as opposed to seeing how quickly I can toot my horn for being finished. "
It looks like 5-6 hrs is about the general time it takes most people to complete the game. Unless you really wanted to take your time by moving your character as slow as possible while pausing every so often to take in the environment.
Posted by Milkman
@radioactivez0r said:
" 5 1/2 hours?  It sounds like you tried really hard to finish the game quickly, and forgot to enjoy it.  Maybe it's me, but I like to fully explore a game and take my time as opposed to seeing how quickly I can toot my horn for being finished. "
If he got 100% completion, I doubt you can really say he "rushed" through the game.
 
Also, to say that Jeff is trying to "show off" by completing the game quickly is retarded.
Online
Posted by Vorbis

I loved the humour and the world, but the combat just doesn't do it for me. I felt the same way about Torchlight, not my kind of game I guess.

Posted by tactis

hmmm interesting review, some of the reaction here on giantbomb and the critics has been surprising I thought this game would be universally acclaimed kinda like torchlight was, but a lot of this game isn’t clicking with people. Ehh whatever, I love this game to death, long time Monkey Island fan, I hope to see a Deathspank 2!!!! My advice to everyone is try the demo and see if you like it.

   

Edited by ectoplasma

Don't trust Jeff! The game is hilarious! Maybe it's a result of me being not a native speaker but I love how the voice actor of deathspank pronounces the words. "Hello again, mayor of PLUCK-MUCKEL". The game is more about it's style and atmosphere than it's about the gameplay, that's for sure. But if you like games that exist for you to have mindless fun, don't scare back from buying it!

Posted by Yummylee

I think the humour is what defines its appeal and how much you'll get out of it. I like the sound of its goofy charm so I may hopefully find a little more enjoyment than Jeff did, once I eventually download it myself.

Posted by CrimsonClown

Harsh review, I really really enjoyed it.

Posted by LeBart

I finished the game in about 7 hours, though I used fortune cookies only two or three times, so I got stucked on a few puzzles. Also, I played on hard, which can be brutal if you don't use your block. 
So yeah, it's not a very long game, but I think it was worth the 15 bucks. The humor was probably the weakest part of the whole thing, though the fact that I was playing Sam & Max season 3 at the same time may color my judgment a bit. It's difficult to top a good Max line. 
I didn't find Deathspank's voice to be that bad though. Actualy I think it's the best voice acting in the game. The NPCs were for the most part kind of annoying to listen to.

Posted by Mysterysheep

I dunno. I really liked it but I agree that the Diablo aspect was very light. 

Posted by zacharai

It was all right.  I basically agree with the entire review, and I got 100% as well. 
 
Scratched my action-rpg (EXTREMELY light on the rpg part) itch, so I won't be picking up another unless it's rated well. 
 
The best part of the game is probably the art.  I loved the world that rolled back behind you, the two-dimensional trees hanging out in a 3-D world, and even the cutscenes were neat.

Posted by AndyS

This kind of lines up with my take as well.  I am maybe halfway in or a bit more.  It's got quality, but the combat is kind of uninteresting and the humor doesn't really hit that hard with me.  So it ends up being a fairly simple action RPG. 
 
If you're on the fence, I would say wait for the first sale.  I'd have felt better about my purchase at 800 pts.

Posted by EgoCheck616

....Brad should have written this. The game is great. 
Now all we'll get is people saying "yea I knew it would be bad". But if there was 1 more star they would be claiming victory.

Posted by spiceninja

I played the trial, got bored about 5 minutes in, and stopped. Not for me. I think I'll just go keep playing Torchlight.

Posted by Bluethunder35

Yeah, this game would have probably benefited from being $10, not $15. I'll wait for a sale or game share it on PSN. These kinds of games are fun during the first two hours but get really tedious as all you're doing is hacking tougher enemies.

Posted by Gearhead

From what I've played of it, I really agree with this review. I thought the humor was excellent but that damn voice actor is SO annoying that at times I just skip over the dialog. A shame.

Posted by glitznglam_style

Way underrated. This and the Limbo scores should be switched. That's a shitty, repetitive platformer with a bland art style, and only 2-3 hours of gameplay, to boot.
 
And it took me around 15 hours to do anything. 
 
How did you do it in a little over 5 hours?    
Posted by nail1080
@glitznglam_style said:
" Way underrated. This and the Limbo scores should be switched. That's a shitty, repetitive platformer with a bland art style, and only 2-3 hours of gameplay, to boot. And it took me around 15 hours to do anything.  How did you do it in a little over 5 hours?     "
this
Posted by ztiworoh

I just S-Ranked it tonight and I really liked Death Spank. Is it a bit mashy? Yes. Is the humor trying a bit too hard sometimes? Yes. But I got some good laughs and I thought the pacing of the quests was really good, I was never at a loss for something to do and I was constantly being rewarded by the game.

Posted by CanuckEh

Great review, as always.
 
I liked the game more, though I can see why there's a backlash. I equate the game as a good purchase for anyone who thinks you should play Diablo as The Tick.

Posted by JMartNWA
@glitznglam_style:  I highly disagree... not on DeathSpank... but on Limbo.  It deserves every bit of the praise it's getting.  I haven't been able to get the puzzle I stopped on earlier out of my head.  I have yet to play DS, but on Limbo, Brad is dead right.
Posted by 88Fingers

This review can be very charming, but it's rarely much more than that. 

Edited by Fjordson
@88Fingers said:

" This review can be very charming, but it's rarely much more than that.  "

Lmao. Alright, that was actually pretty good.
 
Well written review, Jeff, as always, but I am a bit saddened. I absolutely love this game. The Diablo-lite gameplay is surprisingly addicting, there's piles and piles of loot (you can't ever have enough loot), and I find the humour and visuals extremely refreshing. This generation of games seems to consist almost entirely of brown and gray colored shooters with gravelly-voiced protagonists. The lighthearted and sarcastic nature of this game is a welcome change I think.
 
But I don't want to prattle on too much. 3 stars isn't a bad score.
Posted by SpaceInsomniac

For the record, I got a solid 10 or 11 hours out of the game before I hit 100%.  I don't see how it would even be possible in 5, but then again, I'm not a game reviewer who can't afford to take his time with a game.

Posted by SJSchmidt93

I really like this game.
 
Probably deserving of four stars.

Posted by dudeglove

Yeah, it's not too bad. I wouldn't recommend it to others, though. Captain Qwark didn't seem the right choice of voice actor, though.

Edited by kingando420

When on the bombcast they were talking about what a crappy name Deathspank was I knew they were totally missing the point of this game, Deathspank is ridiculous and that's the point. 
 
The humour is extremely similar to the Monkey Island games which are universally acknowledged to be the funniest games going. Although I didn't laugh out loud much I thought the dialogue was witty and clever.
 
Orphan: "Are you going to rescue me mister?" Deathspank: "Get in the bag future criminal!"

The combat gameplay is solid and tough enough to make item selction important, it reminded me of castle crashers which I loved. The adventure elements work well and expand the fantastic dialogue. The graphics are above average and the art style adds to the charm.
 
This is up there with the best xbla / psn games. For me this is closer to 5 stars than 3, and I cant help but think that Gerstmann is losing the plot, the only game he seems interested in lately is track mania?! For a more accurate review of the game I recommend joystiq.

Edited by Fribain

Guys, just because you thought it was fantastic doesn't mean Jeff is wrong with this review; then again, he could be. Though if you even READ the review you would notice that he thought it was a decent experience but it had problems.
Three stars means the game is decent, four stars would have overdone it in my opinion. But that's my opinion and it is also Jeff's apparently.

@kingando420

said:

" 3 stars is just wrong, this is up there with the best xbla / psn games. "


Oh, wow. That's saying a lot about this game. 
/sarcasm
Posted by kingando420
@Fribain:  No sarcasm required, unless you think that games like braid, shadow complex, castle crashers, pixel junk shooter, bf 1943 and joe danger are all terrible games.
Posted by foggel

A fair score, but I would still recommend it. 

Posted by Tordah

There have been some very conflicting reports regarding the length of this game. Some say 10, other 15, and now Jeff says just over 5? I don't know what to believe anymore.

Edited by Fribain
@kingando420 said:

" @Fribain:  No sarcasm required, unless you think that games like braid, shadow complex, castle crashers, pixel junk shooter, bf 1943 and joe danger are all terrible games. "

Actually, to be quite honest, I hated most of those games save Braid.
I know I'm in the severe minority for most of them though.
I apologize as well. I shouldn't have spoken with such contempt towards your opinion seeing as the point I was trying to make was that everyone has their own. I tend to be quite hypocritical without realizing it. :(
Edited by floodiastus

Seems like the community is divided between those that love the game and think the humour is funny and "whack" and those who dont. 
 
So far, for me, the humour is totally boring and bland. I mean really, trying to get a monkey island type of humour into a game in this day and age? That is like trying to make a modern day movie with Police Academy style jokes, it just doesnt work. Humour is changing rapidly in these times, im sorry to say but "rainbow poop".... come on.  I bet there is farting down the line too....

Posted by MjHealy

After playing the trial, I got bored before the time was up and quit. The humour did not make me laugh at all during the trial, none of it was funny. I played Sam & Max the next day and I was laughing straight away. The humour and dialouge in DeathSpank really bored and I just skipped most of it.
 
And I was excited for this game...

Posted by AndrewW

I'm currently playing through this game - and am absolutely loving it! In fact I'd consider it one of my favourite games of the year so far, simply because of the pure FUN I'm having playing it. 
 
I think the humour is great - love the goofiness. The name DeathSpank, the dialogue, the descriptions - all of it. Maybe it's because I'm British and (flame shield on) we know life doesn't have to be serious 100% of the time....... 
 
Oh btw, I've been playing for about 6 hours so far and still have a full log of quests to complete.

Posted by veganwa

I've followed Ron Gilbert's blog for quite some time but unfortunately have to agree with all the people who didn't find this particularly funny at all. On the 'ugh' to 'lol' funnyness-scale the game is planted firmly at ugh.
 
However what I find jarring about Jeff's review is that it doesn't mention the games great music and brilliant art style at all. Granted, the game might have been marketed as  "Monkey Island meets Diablo", which I guess makes it a logical choice to focus on the (unfortunate lack of) humour and the game play, but still I find it strange to completely ignore the two things that arguably turns out to be the game's biggest strengths. I feel that those two factors should at least be mentioned. In the end this was also what made the game playable for me, just running around and experiencing the various colorful locations while enjoying the soundtrack and constantly bashing the weapon buttons.

Posted by eloj

The final word on length seems to be that people who don't really like it can 100% it (not sure what that means in practice here) can walk through it in 5 hours, while the rest of us can't.
 
To me five hours sounds like a first attempt at a speedrun. You can't possibly be listening through the dialogue, you probably must line up all the quests correctly on the first attempt and you fast-travel everywhere.

Posted by Webby

I didn't find it funny (apart from one thing near the end of the game). But it is a really fun game. I hope people still check it out regardless of this review as I am sure you will enjoy it too.

Posted by stoodspoon

Why does the GB crew hate DeathSpank. It is a fantastic game with great humor

Posted by stoodspoon
@kingando420:  DeathSpank "I can pay a drunk to be your daddy" 
Posted by ex_machina
@kingando420 said:
" When on the bombcast they were talking about what a crappy name Deathspank was I knew they were totally missing the point of this game, Deathspank is ridiculous and that's the point.   The humour is extremely similar to the Monkey Island games which are universally acknowledged to be the funniest games going. Although I didn't laugh out loud much I thought the dialogue was witty and clever.  Orphan: "Are you going to rescue me mister?" Deathspank: "Get in the bag future criminal!" The combat gameplay is solid and tough enough to make item selction important, it reminded me of castle crashers which I loved. The adventure elements work well and expand the fantastic dialogue. The graphics are above average and the art style adds to the charm. This is up there with the best xbla / psn games. For me this is closer to 5 stars than 3, and I cant help but think that Gerstmann is losing the plot, the only game he seems interested in lately is track mania?! For a more accurate review of the game I recommend joystiq. "
Yeah. I have to agree with this as if I said it myself. Sorry GB staffers. Every so often one of your reviews really makes me wonder. This is one of them. It's obvious that a lot of people on this site enjoyed the game and feel passionate about it.  It's just kind of a shame that as much as I talked up this little indy game to my friends trying to get them to give it a play, They'll come on here now and read this review and never bother to give it a chance.
Posted by sins_of_mosin

I've been hearing its a 10-15hr game and you do it at 5.5?  I don't think you took the time to enjoy the game and the review reflects that.  No mention of the death system?
Posted by ex_machina

 I'm about 7 hours in with TONS of quests still. I believe it's possible to not pick up side quests if you just completely ignore all the characters with "!" over their heads and just finish the main quests.

Posted by Beaudman

Am i the only one who is surprised that he didn't mention the game is fully voiced? That's kinda impressive for a 15 dollar game.

Posted by 88Fingers
@Fjordson: 
lol, I'm glad someone noticed that.
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