Where to begin with the praises for this game? Let's begin with the lows: there aren't any. Yup, you read this correctly, this game doesn’t have anything bad going for it. Let me explain myself, this is not a review this is a love letter and there is nothing in Brütal Legend that displeases me so much that I will write about it in this public blog. As far as I'm concerned, this game is perfect.
I know a lot of you are going to cry foul right about now because the general consensus is that all games have flaws (especially the ones that have a Metacritic score lower than 100%) and they need to be listed and highlighted before any conversation about said game is to take place, but let me intervene for a second. I gloss over faults as much as possible because when I play a game I'm not trying to ruin my experience by fixating on them, I actually enjoy playing games. Every game offers something unique and/or interesting and that is what I'm looking for. I don't care about technical difficulties, missed opportunities and bad design decisions. I notice them and then adjust my play style to accommodate them. To me there are no bad games, there are only games that I like and games that I dislike. And I absolutely love Brütal Legend.
Now that we have this out of the way, let’s talk about the game. There’s a lot to love about it, but I would like to focus on two of my favorite things: the dynamic game world and the stage battles.
Brütal Legend has an open world which you are free to roam on foot or in the Druid Plow (your kickass hotrod). The world is overflowing with epic landmarks like an oversized and rusted down internal combustion engine half buried on a beach or the huge tree in the jungle which is reminiscent of old school Squaresoft game art like the cover of Secret of Mana. But the open world is not a static collage of scenery, it’s overflowing with life. As you start the game, you will only notice a handful of wild animals inhabiting the land. Animals like a porcupine which after a zap-o-electricity becomes a powerful hand grenade or the wild boar that you can ride like a motorcycle, only the damn thing just goes so you’re stuck riding this wild animal until you jump off or fall off (both of these animals are involved in meta mini-games which will earn you achievements). As you progress through the game and meet new people you will notice that the world comes alive with countless packs of ‘wild’ Head Bangers, Razor Girls and Thunderdogs roaming around and getting into skirmishes with warring factions. You can always jump out of the Druid Plow (or stay in it) and join the action to earn some extra fire tributes, which you can use to upgrade your weapons and the Druid Plow.
By the end of the game the world is brimming with life as just about every character that you meet in the game can be found running around kicking ass. This makes coming back to the game an absolute blast. The open world is only half of the game however, as you can not only drive around the world in the Druid Plow and get into random axe fights, you can also gather up your heavy metal army and wage epic stage battles, RTS style!
It's very fortunate that stage battles are such a significant portion of Brütal Legend's core gameplay, because quite frankly, they’re the most exciting, most fun, and most polished part of the game (nah, the open world is quite polished actually). Here is how they unfold. You have a stage which serves as your base, loose it and its game over. You have fan geysers scattered across the map which serve as your resource with which you can upgrade your stage and build your army. Finally, you have yourself. A fearless warrior who has an axe to vanquish your foes, a guitar which can be used as a weapon and as a musical instrument to play wicked guitar solos that can do just about anything, from building merch booths, which harness the power of the fans, to chaining your opponent to the ground for a short time. And you also have wings, which allow you travel to any part of the map whenever the need arises within seconds. At any given moment you can fly over anywhere on the map to do some reconnaissance or to wage a battle with your enemies, you are in control. The wings are intoxicating with freedom that they give you, a feeling only rivaled by your ability to jump into the thick of it all and double team with any one of your soldiers to unleash devastation on your opponent.
Every single one of your soldiers (except for one, which apparently doesn’t take orders from anyone) can be teamed up with to access special abilities and attacks. These attacks range from a massive moshpit to summoning lightning bolts to using your foot soldiers as suicide bombers and hurling them at your enemies. These abilities are game changers as you can turn around the outcome of just about any battle around by jumping into the action. The secret of victory is your ability to successfully utilize your battle axe, unleash face melting guitar solos and double teaming with your soldiers to bring your enemies to their knees. Put into consideration that there are 3 genuinely different fractions that you can play as, all with unique units/double teams and guitar solos and you have a very intricate game on your hands.
Let me tell you about a multiplayer match I had just the other day. The arena was The Feeding Ground. The layout is simple, the two stages are separated by the feeding ground which is inhabited by Miss Leaky, for those of you who played the demo. For those who haven’t Miss Leaky is a monster in the middle of a round feeding area which will emerge if disturbed by anyone and pound them with all her might, which is rather fearsome. The feeding are has 3 entrances, 2 leading to the opposing arenas and one leading to 2 fan geysers. However, you don’t need to go through the feeding area to get to your opponents stage, albeit that going around it will take a substantially longer amount of time.
The match began normally with skirmishes breaking out all around the map for the control of the fan geysers as we raced to arm ourselves to the teeth so that the taking over of the enemy stage is as painless as possible. Everything was going according to a plan, my opponents plan. I was being owned, big time. By the end of the match I controlled no fan geysers except for the ones by my stage that I started out with and my army was comprised of two packs of head bangers and two bouncers, a meager army at best. My opponent, after I killed all of his straggling demons wandering around the map was amassing a huge army by his stage with the biggest vehicles and the most fearful demons imaginable. My original plan was to wait for him to storm my stage as I put on my last stand by jumping on the stage and trying to delay my defeat by rolling out the smoke and destroying whoever I can by beaming stage lights at them. Yes, you can actually jump on your stage and do these things.
But as I see my opponent take the long way around the feeding area, I quickly devise a plan B. I wait for him and his army to get half way around the feeding area and gather all my remaining troops and send them to his stage through the feeding area as I divert Miss Leakys attention with the Druid Plow. Yes, you can summon the Druid Plow and cause all sorts of vehicular mayhem in stage battles as well. So as my stage is about to be attacked by the demons, my head bangers and bouncers are already half way to destroying their stage, which I Rock Blocked (a guitar solo which prevents my opponent from building new demons). To expedite my victory, I pick up a bouncer on my shoulders and launch him down to the ground to create an earth shattering quake.
And all of this was done effortlessly.
I know this sounds like a Korean Starcraft championship match, but I assure you it’s Brütal Legend that I’m talking about. Maybe comparing this game to Stracraft is a bit crass. Even though some of the gameplay elements in Brütal Legend are reminiscent of an RTS game, it’s without a doubt unlike any other game out there. With a living, breathing open world and incredibly satisfying, elaborate and above all accessible stage battles, this game truly is Double Fine. read