Deathspank Hands-on Preview

Written by Joe Martin

May 22, 2010 | 10:00

Tags: #adventure #deathspank #diablo #monkey-island #rpg

Companies: #electronic-arts #hothead-games #ron-gilbert

You Know When You've Been Deathspanked

The comedy is only one side of Deathspank though. There’s the action to consider too – and there’s plenty of it at that. Deathspank really is one ludicrously violent game and if our experience with the preview build was any indication of what the full game will be like then any time not spent giggling will be spent wincing at on-screen executions or umming about which weapon to use.

It’s here that the Diablo influence of the much used ‘Diablo meets Monkey Island’ description starts to creep in, but it’s worth pointing out first and foremost that Deathspank’s art style is a lot closer to Torchlight than Diablo. As such, while it’s definitely an extraordinarily violent title in some regards (i.e. you kill a lot of chickens), it’s also quite tame in others (it’s very cartoony).

In fact, one of our first thoughts when we sat down to play Deathspank was that it’d make an easy and firm addition to our Games to Play with Children list, despite the gore.

Presentation aside though, there’s no denying that the core gameplay sits firmly within the action RPG genre and combines stat-tracking and button-mashing in equal measures.

Deathspank Hands-on Preview You Know When You've Been Deathspanked
Day 2: Monkey Island isn't all I hoped it could be

Along your way you pick up plenty of gear that Deathspank can equip, most of it with a humorous twist, including armour, weapons, potions and ingredients. Each bit of armour changes your look and has a unique ability, stat or buff, so there’s lots of room for customisation on both a visual and mechanical level. You can have up to four different load-outs set at any one time too, flicking between your different weapons on the D-pad, so you can move between tactics seamlessly.

Among the usual day-to-day loots, like four-bladed swords and chicken lips, are some special, more powerful weapons too. Called ‘Justice Weapons’, they tend to have some specific downside, such as being slower or dealing less damage, but they come with the advantage of powering special attacks. A meter at the bottom of the screen keeps track of how much Justice you’ve accrued and, when you’re fully charged, you can unleash a more powerful move – huge hammer slams that damage multiple enemies at once, for example. You can kill a lot of chickens that way.

Kill enough baddies and you get to level up and improve your skills – that’s one of the other conventions of the RPG genre and one which Deathspank adheres to as well… kind of, anyway. Instead of giving you a selection of new abilities to choose from or a certain number of skillpoints to dump into your character sheet, Deathspank’s level up system is almost entirely random. A selection of ‘Hero Cards’ appear face down on the screen and you choose one – then whatever’s on the other side becomes your reward.

Deathspank Hands-on Preview You Know When You've Been Deathspanked
The Justice, it burns!

The hero card might not always offer the bonus you were after – you might hope you get an increase to attack damage and end up with a faster walking speed, but nobody ever said life in Deathspank was fair. Frankly, in a world where chickens have lips and souls, it’s pretty clear that fate isn’t on your side anyway – but at least you get an all round stat-boost to compensate. Deathspank boasts about a 15 hour long campaign too (which is available in two-player as well) and over the course of that you pick up all the hero cards anyway, so it’s not something worth worrying about too much if you don’t get the perfect bonus first time.

Electronic Arts showed us a lot of other games on the same day we saw Deathspank – it was part of a showcase event that featured all their biggest and best titles. Crysis 2, Dead Space 2, Medal of Honour and APB were just some of the games on show and some of the games had very elaborate exhibitions, especially Star Wars: The Old Republic. All those games were up on the top floors, with Deathspank relegated to the ground level with just a single Xbox 360 for people to crowd around. It shared a space with a Sims 3 expansion pack and was overshadowed by a nearby Bad Company 2 tournament.

And despite all of that, Deathspank was still the title that we most wanted to take home with us and play straight away – we can find ‘cinematic’ shooters and ‘epic’ MMOs anywhere, but games about chicken lips and fool heroes? Those are rare, wonderful treasures.

Deathspank will be published by Electronic Arts on the PS3 and Xbox 360 later this year.
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