October 26, 2009

Everyone has so much dialog. It’s wonderful.

Even though I am being good and renting games, I bought Brutal Legend. It was purely out of a love for Tim Schafer and wanting to support Double Fine in its endeavors. I had to give them money and the small boost in first week sales that I could. So, you know, I bought it. I paid my $60. I think I got what I was expecting out of the game, but honestly, I would have a difficult time suggesting you buy the game for full price. A long rental, or maybe when it drops to $30 or something. So much of the game is fantastic, and something you should see, but the actual gameplay just isn’t there.

Seriously, everything you would hope for on the visual and storytelling sides? Fucking fantastic. Jack Black does an excellent job as Eddie Riggs, though it probably helps that the role was pretty much written exactly for him. But he has tons, and tons, and tons of dialog. You do eventually hear repeats, especially if you do all the side missions, (Which I did, for some reason. I can’t really recommend them. They lack variety.) but still, there’s just so much, and there’s so much love put into those lines, that you can’t help but smile. Even the armies in the multiplayer, which you don’t use at all in the single player, all have tons of lines of dialog that they say while they fight. It’s amazing. The visuals, similarly, are fantastic. Tim Schafer had said that his plan was to make it so that, no matter where you are in the game world, it looks like a Metal Album cover, and it totally, totally does. The designs are incredibly strong.

Still, the gameplay doesn’t really hold up. Psychonauts was weak in parts: You could tell they focused more on the look, story, and whatnot than the gameplay. At the same time, it was competent all the way through. Brutal Legend is not nearly as much. You have this huge world with no Fast Travel which, honestly, there is just no excuse for not having in single player games these days. It makes certainly missions really quite annoying.
The combat, when one on one, is very simplistic, and doesn’t offer the strong feel of something like a God of War. When it’s brought out into the Stage Battles, it’s like an RTS, sort of, but not really, but it expects it to be played like one while at the same time telling you not to play it like one? It’s very confusing, and not very intuitive, and it just flat out doesn’t work at times. You either just trounce your opponent with little resistance, or you are totally destroyed because the computer is doing multitasking that is nearly impossible for you to do as an actual human player. It’s just rarely any fun at all.

Overall, though, it’s charm won out for me. I love charm and storytelling in games, and this is, by far, some of the best around. It’s a shame the game underneath it was just a little sub-par. It’s worth experiencing, and playing, but it’s unfortunately not a full-price experience. Sorry, Tim! That’s just what I think. It was a riskily ambitious game that crashed a bit.
Still, it does show that Double Fine has some excellent people working for it. Hopefully they’ll be able to rein in their ambitions a bit more on the next project they undertake and really make a gaming classic. I know they have it in them.

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