Monday, October 11, 2010

Deathspank & the Quest for Underpants

After many, many hours traversing a landscape destroyed by war, riddled with spooks, deserted by dinosaurs and guarded by robots, I finally finished the second Deathspank, Thongs of Virtue. And although I am 100% complete, I must admit that I am only about 87% pleased. To me, a sequel is something that improves upon the original after taking into account audience feedback and the cash acquired from the original. Since TOV was designed alongside the first game, the only changes made were in narrative and landscape. Now, if you loved the first one to tiny bits, like I did, this doesn’t sound like a problem-it sounds fantastic! But sadly, I found myself getting a little bored near the end with the dialogue and the quest monotony.

The same basic menu applied, with the ‘auto choose best armor’ option checked-if they would have asked, I would have recommended adding a second box entitled ‘destroy armor after removal’ to ensure that I wouldn’t spend a lot of pointless time putting discarded gloves and necklaces in the grinder (I suppose someone may want to keep the adorable lion headpiece as a novelty, but its totally impractical to wear if you are holding something superior). TOV indulged in the same irreverent dialogue, which was adorable in the first game but quickly got old partway through the second-not because it wasn’t funny, but because it was the same kind of funny the whole way through. Picture me laughing at first, then giggling softly, and then finally skipping the dialogue completely and reading the quest log instead and this would be a fairly accurate visual of me on my couch between 10pm and midnight for two weeks straight. Maybe it was because the new and shininess of the original had worn off or because the release dates were too close together, but I was definitely 13% less entertained by TOV than I was by Deathspank.

So now that I have said that, 87% of me was quite pleased. I loved the new landscapes-especially the North Pole, where you must visit a bitter and disenchanted Santa Claus and persuade him to give up his underpants for the greater good. Both games introduced you to some great characters, but my favorites are the pirates of Scurvyville (a homage to Monkey Island?) and Tina, the woman who runs the taco stand. Tina reminds me of the stereotypical customer service employee, asking you if you want fries with that in a monotonous and totally apathetic tone. This time around she is forced to sing a ridiculous birthday song for you, which cracked me up. Madam Primp, who I mentioned in my screenshot blog, is a lady of the night with a heart of gold…literally. Between the pirates and disgruntled service workers there are also robots, cannibals, orphans, monks, ghosts, aliens, bandits and of course, crazy chickens. Overall the NPC’s give you 100+ quests, taking you from a French Town to a Destroyed City, a dinosaur bone yard to the Blood Mountains, where you travel via outhouse to complete them all (if you want).

About three quarters into the game you acquire a pirate ship. I LOVED MY PIRATE SHIP. Now, admittedly, there isn't much to do with the ship once you have it because you are assumedly almost done with the game, but I probably spent about 150% longer than I should have sailing the curlique seas. With the Jolly Roger displayed proudly on the sails and Deathspank singing a variety of sea shanties, what's not to love? I found Hothead Island. It contained orques.

Beyond the pirate ship, though, I think one of the more entertaining elements of Deathspank is the monster killing. Although I bemoaned the item menu above, I actually found choosing weapons delightful. In the first game your ranged weapon was a crossbow, but in the second game its a gun. About halfway through I acquired a fairly powerful ray gun with unlimited ammo (unlike all of the other higher level choices) that required a brief cooldown after two shots. Combined with a giant ice tusk for those pesky fire immunities, a fire dagger for those irritating ice immuties and a giant level 20 axe, I was an unstoppable machine. My raygun killed space marines with one shot-they would float off into space with a tiny groan as I moved on to the next victim (insert maniacal laugh). The monsters are the true stars of the show here-mad pirates, swamp donkeys, dark forest lephrechans, ice's the biggest grab bag of creative characters I have seen in awhile (I did miss the unicorns). And choosing the right kind of weaponry for the slaughter is delicious fun. A small bit of grinding helps a lot in Deathspank-that way you get a lot of one shot kills instead of having to get close enough to pound away at them while still being far enough away to eat a plate of beans and rice. Learning how to effectively use the invincibility spheres and armor potions helped a lot. I was able to kill a few levels above mine due to creative itemwork.

I hope they make another Deathspank...but not for at least a year. Although the story of the thong may be over (or is it...) I am sure there are more tales to tell about our Vanquisher of Evil.

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