For Honor, Glory, and Bacon!
“Greetings, peasants! It is I, DeathSpank. I have traveled these lands far and wide, experienced horrors you can only imagine in your worst nightmares, bested the most evil of fiendish foes, and now I have returned to the glorious lands of PlayStatia and Xboxenshire to do it all over again for a third time. Oh, but worry not, my friends, this quest will not require brains nor quick wits. Nay! This quest will be a test of endurance as the entirety of my journey will be governed by how hard one can hammer on thine attack button. Who goeth with me?”
It doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun when put that way, does it?
The Baconing is the third game in the DeathSpank franchise, a series of loot-driven hack-and-slash RPGs with a humorous twist. Previous entries in the series have been criticized as having clunky controls, horrible menu systems, and a general lack of pacing, but the absolute hilarious writing (poop jokes and all) made up for it. Well, The Baconing was supposed to fix all that. In fact, that is why the game doesn’t carry the DeathSpank title. Developer Hothead wanted to show that this game was different from previous DeathSpanks in order to bring in new players and assure old players that all the old problems with the game had been fixed. Unfortunately, they spent so much time coming up with a witty title that they actually forgot to fix the game.
In The Baconing, you once again play as DeathSpank, the heavily armed medieval hero who slices through panty-wearing orcs like butter. When the game starts, DeathSpank is bored. Vanquishing evil has become too easy for him after grabbing up all of the mythical loot from the previous two games. As a result, he decides to wear all the Thongs of Virtue (powerful mystical items from the previous game) at once, giving birth to the Anti-spank, an evil version of DeathSpank that looks to destroy the world. It’s up to DeathSpank to throw the thongs into the Fires of Bacon in order to unmake the Anti-spank and save the world.
Obviously, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. But that’s a good thing. The great writing and wonderful humor from the previous games travel over intact. DeathSpank will talk to nameless NPCs, horrible lords of evil, aliens, robots, orcs, wise old cows, and tons of over-masculine video game stereotypes. Every quest in the game lampoons something about traditional loot-grind RPGs. If you were to just watch The Baconing, it would be a knee-slappin’, thong-wearin’ good time.
Unfortunately, someone has to be playing the game. If that someone is you, well, tough luck, buddy. Everything that made prior DeathSpank games fun to play is gone. All the interesting little puzzle elements have been taken out. Instead, most of the quests are now “kill X number of enemy Y” or “bring Z number of item A to person B.” It’s the same old MMO schlock that we have done time and time again, and it’s no more interesting now than it has been in the bazillion other games that have used it.
Granted, the prior DeathSpank games were criticized as mindless button mashers. The Baconing, on the other hand, isn’t so much a mindless button masher as it is a fathomless frustration machine. On any difficulty you will find yourself dying a lot. Heck, I’ve seen five people play this game, and each of them died on the third quest, no matter what they were equipped with and what difficulty they were on. Sometimes you can simply walk through enemies while blindly swinging your sword, while other times you find that a group of ranged enemies randomly show up out of nowhere and shoot you to death before you can chug a health potion. I’m sure the developers have upped the difficulty in order to make you block more and button mash less, but this isn’t helping. The game doesn’t feel fun, or even excessively hard, it just feels unfair. There is no difficulty curve. There are just insane difficulty spikes that seem to come at you for no apparent reason.
Frankly, the biggest problem with this game is that the combat isn’t very fun. Ranged weapons are useless (even though you can now charge them all for bigger blasts). Your powerful Justice special attack is your primary means of death-dealing, and every other attack just has you running around blindly and hoping you won’t die. Combat is the majority of the game, and as a result there are numerous areas that either frustrate you or bore you so much you just want to put the game down. You can bring a buddy along for the ride, but it doesn’t really help. In the end, it just means two people get frustrated instead of one.
Then there are the inventory and leveling systems, which haven’t been changed at all from the previous DeathSpank games. Once again, leveling up just gets you a level card, and while you can choose from multiple cards each level, you’ll see and unlock them all eventually anyway. The inventory is still just a massive grid of spaces that you’ll have to shuffle around items in. You can sort your items, but that doesn’t really help anything. You can assign a weapon to each of the four face buttons on your controller, an item to each direction on the d-pad, and a piece of equipment to each of DeathSpank’s body parts. However, there is an “equip strongest armor” function, and weapon choice rarely comes down to anything else other than “equip the strongest four things you have.”
Now, that’s not to say the game is all bad. It looks absolutely amazing. DeathSpank will visit areas such as an idyllic town, a world straight out of The Godfather , mad science laboratories, forests of the dead, and more. The hand-drawn pop-up book style environments continue to be a visual treat; that much hasn’t changed.
In addition, the voice acting is just as good as it ever was, and DeathSpank and his cohorts have impeccable comedic timing. The music is pretty generic for a fantasy action RPG, but it has an almost cartoonish twist to it. Overall, the sound quality hasn’t dropped at all.
I’m not usually angry at a developer for giving us more of the same, but The Baconing somehow manages to be less of the same. It’s a DeathSpank that just isn’t as enjoyable as the previous DeathSpank titles. It’s tedious, unfair, and just not very much fun for any reason other than its humor. Perhaps DeathSpank has worn out its welcome. I mean, there are only so many poop jokes you can hear before they stop being funny. Still, as a personal fan of DeathSpank and DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue, I was disappointed in The Baconing. Sure, it’s only $15, but I expected a bit more for my money.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.2 Graphics
The pop-up book-style environments are only outdone by the game’s uncanny ability to render chickens you don’t care about. 2.4 Control
It’s pretty much all about swinging weapons randomly at a crowd of orcs. 2.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
At least the game got its comedy right. 2.4 Play Value
It doesn’t live up to previous DeathSpank games. 2.7 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best