DeathSpank (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network)
Developer: Hothead Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
To be released: 2010
DeathSpank was raised with the knowledge of his destiny, which foretold of him becoming the ultimate hero of all the lands in order to be worthy of "The Artifact." DeathSpank dedicates his life to being the best hero ever, and he travels the land in search of people that need heroing (and of "The Artifact").
The game picks up just as DeathSpank finds the final clue in order to gain "The Artifact." The witch, Ms. Heybenstance, has magically sealed "The Artifact" away, but she's willing to help DeathSpank so long as the hero saves her pet dragons. From chickens. Yes, really.
DeathSpank is from the creator of Monkey Island, so you can expect a ton of humorous moments sprinkled throughout the game. Remember, DeathSpank started as a joke at the expense of the industry, so everything in the game is a satire of some sort. From the names of items (The Cleaver of Cleaving), to the silly missions -- are all presented in a funny way.
Talking with Ms. Heybenstance immediately reveals the Monkey Island aspect of DeathSpank, as every character you interact with will sprout up a dialogue tree. You'll be able to select what you say, and you'll get witty responses right back. You can cut straight to the point, but exploring all of the dialogue options will reveal more of the game to you. It's up to you just how immersed you want to get in the game.
The Diablo aspect comes from pretty much everything else. Really, think Diablo, except a cute, silly and not-super-emo version of the classic RPG. Enemies are all over the world, and DeathSpank starts off with a modest amount of equipment. Players will be able to map the face buttons and D-pad with whatever item or weapon they want. There's a wide assortment of weapons throughout the game, including axes, swords, bows & arrows, hammers, and health potions. Items and weapons that are better than your current selection will show up with a green background in the inventory to easily notify players that they should swap out. Weapons that are no longer useful can instantly be converted into cash within your inventory as well.
As you kill foes, you'll be leveling up DeathSpank. Every time you level up, you'll be given a special card along with your stat boosts. A max of six special cards can be assigned to DeathSpank; they will allow him to do an assortment of things such as moving faster and healing faster.
After DeathSpank saves Ms. Heybenstance's pet dragons, she helps him on his quest for "The Artifact." The witch needs special ingredients in order to break the magical seal, and that's when DeathSpank ventures off into the huge world presented in DeathSpank.
The world of DeathSpank has this pop-up book feel with its mix of 2D and 3D art; the world curves as you're moving about. The world is littered with treasure chests, barrels full of gold and outhouses. Yes, outhouses. Outhouses function as respawn points and act as a means of fast traveling to the places you've already visited. The world is persistent; the only penalty in place for dying is losing some coins. So anything you've killed before you get killed will remain dead.
I'm not much of a fan of hack-'n-slash games, but I did find DeathSpank to be enjoyable. The story, from what I saw, was pretty funny, and the game handled rather well during my hands-on time. Fans of classic adventure games will no doubt like the latest from Ron Gilbert.
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