"The Ron Gilbert-less DeathSpank"
In 2010, Ron Gilbert came up with a classic hero named DeathSpank who starred in a game of the same name. DeathSpank (the game) was a hilarious, well written, action-RPG mixed with a good dose of adventure gaming. Now, just over a year later, we receive another entry in the franchise simply titled The Baconing. Though the name DeathSpank has been dropped from the title (even though the game is an official third installment), Hothead Games assures us it has nothing to do with Ron Gilbert leaving the company. Well, even if that is so, something drastically sour has happened to the series since the first iteration.
The DeathSpank series has always had a few things going for it: great style, great characters, and incredibly great humor. The Baconing attempts to keep on track with what the series is known for; however, it falls extremely flat. Why?
- A few new features don't do enough to set this third installment apart -
Well, to begin with, while DeathSpank was sort of a mix between action-RPG and adventure gaming with a fresh outlook in its design and script (birthed and shaped in the hands of game designer/comedy genius Ron Gilbert), The Baconing forgets its roots and becomes nothing more than an underwhelming hack n’ slash. This would be fine if it even made that aspect of the game fun; however, it does nothing for the genre.
While the gameplay hasn’t changed much from its predecessors, with only a few mild additions, somehow the game seems frustratingly tough and oftentimes cheap. Call it bad level design, or call it less focus on adventure gaming and more on action, but for some reason, most of The Baconing becomes unbearable and mind-numbingly painful to play through. There is nothing slick, tight, or fun about the combat in this game. Again, this wouldn’t matter so much if the game's focus was on adventuring – but without the guiding hand of adventure gaming guru Ron Gilbert, our hero DeathSpank is thrown into a game and a world that nobody knows what to do with.
The writing and humor are always the biggest parts of the DeathSpank games. I’ll attempt to describe how the humor lacks craft in The Baconing with the following example. If you remember The Ren & Stimpy Show, you may may know that the first two seasons were creatively controlled by creator John Kricfalusi – however, after the first two seasons and a lot of disagreement, John was fired and Nickelodeon executives took over the show - making a milder, less strange, and directionless show. The new writers were attempting to live in a world only John could live in. The Baconing suffers the same way.
Gone is the Ron Gilbert-styled humor which enriched and saturated the first games. DeathSpank 1 and 2 were the paragon of Gilbert’s comedic writing. The Baconing was picked up by writers who may have been close to Gilbert personally and creatively, but they will never be Gilbert. That’s not to say The Baconing is not funny, because it is - but Gilbert fanboys will be disappointed. What heavy, concentrated doses of the Monkey Island creator could be seen in the first DeathSpank games are relegated to a vague, whispering spirit in The Baconing.
- Gameplay is sorely lacking, and the humour isn't up to snuff -
It is funny and it can be clever, but mostly it just seems different or off. However, even with comedic value, there’s not much aside from the dialogue that will keep you playing The Baconing. There’s very little to love about the missions, as they become repetitive and lack variety (running over there, killing that, returning, going off to kill something else). Controls don’t help this game either, since they feel floaty, and menu screens aren’t too slick to navigate through either.
At the end of the day, The Baconing seemed like an attempt to get players back into the world of DeathSpank and bring new gamers to the series. However, without our pal Ron Gilbert, Hothead seems to have dropped the ball. Not having Ron on the team wasn’t completely a signed death warrant for the developers - it was forgetting what made the first game great that really did The Baconing in.
GameDynamo's Score for The Baconing (X360)
Three things describe Rando: Good beer, good food, and video games. On occasion, Rando flies a zeppelin through time seeking power crystals.
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