So, the last review was rather late from when I stopped playing King Kong, and in the mean time, I played Brutal Legend, which was the next game I got out of the box. I recently beat Brutal Legend, so will now review that.
So I’m a big fan of Tim Schafer. I love his writing style and the creativity and fun he brings to the games he works on. I loved Psychonauts. So I was looking forward to Brutal Legend. However, I became worried when the reviews started coming out saying that the game pretty much becomes a bad console RTS. So it took a while to finally go out and get the game. However, I still wanted to play it and form my own opinion, and here it is:
First of all, let me answer my own questions I had going in. Is Brutal Legend awesome? Yes, it is most definitely awesome. Do the RTS bits suck? Oh, yes, they do most definitely suck. Usually I’ve done these reviews talking about the good bits first, followed with my problems with the game, but to really understand this game, I think I need to flip that around. I’ll start by saying what’s wrong with the RTS bits, then say why the game is awesome anyway.
First of all, the RTS segments work like this: You have a stage. You’re opponent (except in the early battles) does as well. From your stage, you can turn your abstract “fans” into whatever units you currently have available to you. While you can make units from anywhere on the map, they’ll spawn in front of the stage. You can capture fan geysers and build merchandise booths on them in order to produce more fans. You can then give your troops commands such as to follow you, guard a location, attack in a direction, or go to a specific point. You also have demon wings which allow you to fly around and command the battlefield from the air.
The problem, like with most console RTSs, is the lack of fine control. Most commands effect units in a close range, and all of your units spawn at your stage. This means it’s difficult to split your units into separate troops. You can give orders to only a specific unit type, but it’s a rather difficult thing to do and generally not worth it. The biggest problem, though, is the lack of minimap to allow you to keep track of the overall battle. Often it’s difficult to keep track of the battle and easy to loose track of where your units are and whether or not they’re dead. Despite the control issues, the RTS segments would have been many times more playable had they added a minimap with unit locations on it.
However, the game was still awesome. First of all, the world that’s created in this game is incredible. So many diverse environments and landscapes, all with that distinctly heavy metal influence. Lighting and other sorts of ambiance add to the effect. This is one of the most creative worlds I’ve seen in a video game. And this world is filled with great characters. Tim Schafer’s writing is excellent as always. Characters are really entertaining and charming. Even minor characters in side quests are given that charm and personality, and the voice acting is excellent. A comedic game like this needs good line delivery, and this game has plenty of that.
The soundtrack, of course, is also excellent. There is a wide selection of various sub-genres of Metal. Music which is meant to match a certain scene is always picked really well and really adds to the experience. Without giving too many spoilers, the scene with “Mr. Crowley” by Ozzy Osbourne is made even more effective and memorable by it’s inclusion of that piece of music.
Now, on to gameplay. My issue with King Kong had been the lack of variety. This game is filled with variety. There is hack ‘n’ slash style action-adventure, driving, turret based shooting, squad based combat, short Guitar Hero style rhythm sequences, exploration, and, of course, RTS. The RTS sections are the only parts of the game that really incorporate all of these, although you’ll rarely use them all in the RTS segments, as you’re too busy commanding your army. However, the sections that use one or two of them individually are excellent.
While I can understand the desire to have these epic Metal battles in the game, and I can understand the thought behind making those segments RTS sections, I would have preferred if they had not made the player have to micromanage the overall war so much, so that they could focus on their individual character actions. There should have been ways to select a general overall strategy, and have your units act on their own initiative within those guidelines. The RTS sections have so many options available to you as a single combatant in the fray. You can fight, play guitar solos to buff your guys and damage your opponents, you can ride in vehicles, shoot from turrets attached to some of those vehicles, and you can do double team moves with your allies. But most of these are ignored because the most important place for you to be is in the air keeping track of your overall battle.
That being said, I did have quite a bit of fun playing Brutal Legend. Everything outside the RTS sections was masterfully done, and even the RTS sections had their moments, despite the frustration caused by the difficulty of controlling an entire battle from the 3rd person perspective of one character. The story was compelling, the dialogue was humorous and, at times, extremely bad-ass and awesome. This game tried it’s own thing, and in some ways it failed, but in some ways it succeeded. It got less attention than it should have, and, yes, part of that was it’s own fault. But this game is definitely worth playing, especially if you’re a fan of Tim Schafer’s style of game writing, and the glory of it’s Metal.Stumble it!