The more things change, the more things stay the same.
The Baconing, the third title in the ongoing DeathSpank saga from HotHead Games, will please the many fans of the series, and of action RPGs in general, as on the surface it seems that very little has changed. But is this a good thing? Do we really just want more of the same? or would we rather that our favorite series evolve with us and try to do something new? Well, I don’t know. But I do know that the hero DeathSpank has some thongs to destroy. So, onwards to the Bacon fires…
After proving victorious in the last two games, DeathSpank is at a loose end. Evil has been vanquished and Justice dispensed. The six mystical thongs are now in his possession and all is good in the world. But this has left DeathSpank bored and in an attempt to entertain himself he decides to put on all six Thongs of Virtue at once, something that I am sure we have all done in moments of boredom. The result of this uncomfortable underwear situation is the creation of the AntiSpank, an evil copy of DeathSpank who immediately begins to lay waste to the city of Spanktopia. Again, something that we can all relate to.
So once again, DeathSpank must set out on a journey to vanquish evil and dispense justice, and also fix the mess that he has created. To do this, DeathSpank must travel to the fabled Bacon Fires and cast into them the thongs which have caused all of this trouble. This will be a long and arduous journey in which DeathSpank will come across a whole cast of strange characters, some new and some returning, travel to many different lands, take on a whole bunch of seemingly menial side-quests and, to DeathSpank’s dismay, deal with more orphans.
Players of the previous games will already know what to expect, as very little has changed here. The highlight of all the DeathSpank games is the humour which, once again, is here by the bucketload. Everything is once again scripted to perfection, with some classic one-liners to be found throughout, poking fun at anything and everything. The new characters fit really well into this “out of time” world, but then they couldn’t realistically fit in anywhere else, and the returning characters give a quick wink and nod to players of the previous games, with my favorite corrupt Mayor making a welcome reappearance demanding that DeathSpank take some “publicity photos” of him in dangerous places, once DeathSpank has removed all of the danger of course.
The story, which makes about as much sense as a bag of ferrets, and the endless humour are the highlight of this game, without which would leave a rather bland and uninteresting, combat-focused experience.
Which is perhaps where the biggest change can be found. Not only have there been a few tweaks to the combat system in The Baconing, but the game feels much more centred around combat and fighting the never ending hordes of enemies. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make the game feel more action and less RPG. By way of tweaks, projectile weapons can now be charged to create a much more impressive shot, a shield-bash ability has been included allowing the hero to push back and sometimes stun the enemy, whilst also giving the chance to rebound enemy projectiles. Also, the introduction of new different types of barrels, which can be destroyed for different effects, adds a certain level of strategy to proceedings, especially when playing in co-op and your partner has the unerring ability to destroy these barrels when you are standing right next to them. They have a variety of different effects, such as explosive or poison, and the correct use of these barrels can turn the tide of battle. Incorrect use is just frustrating.
But for those that enjoy the co-op experience, the newly added Bob from Marketing will be of interest. This new side-kick has some pretty impressive skills, such as eating the corpses of enemies to heal DeathSpank, shooting lasers from his eyes and even diving underground and bursting forth amongst the enemies. Sadly, the co-op game is still rather weak in that the side-kick is still very much a supporting character and cannot open chests, talk with anyone, use equipment or earn any type of achievements for the player. This is perhaps the one area of the game that I would most like to see expanded, maybe in DeathSpank’s next outing.
One thing I did notice in The Baconing was the frequency with which I was dying and launched back to the last outhouse I passed. The increased emphasis on combat has, I think, made the game a bit more difficult, with some boss encounters being especially drawn out and frustrating. It could well be that a lot of people will relish the extra challenge of the game, but if you are in it more for the story than anything else, this will break up the flow.
Fans of the previous games will likely lap up the further adventures of DeathSpank, but I think many will yearn for bigger changes. The changes that have been made are few and perhaps don’t impact upon the game in a positive way. But with all that being said, The Baconing is still an absolute hoot to play and worth checking out if you have even a passing interest in action RPGs.