PSN Review – DeathSpank

July 22, 2010Written by Adam Wolfe

DeathSpank combines the comedic styles of Ron Gilbert, the man behind Tales of Monkey Island, and the Diablo-styled action RPG. Alongside Gilbert, the title has been developed by the team who created the Penny Arcade Adventures series, Hothead Games. Does this particular downloadable action role-playing game live up to its hype as well as promising potential?

The story follows the protagonist DeathSpank, and his quest to find an artifact known as… well… the “Artifact”. He has spent his whole life doing good deeds and helping those less fortunate, so that he may be worthy of possessing the “Artifact”. His journey will take him through the likes of haunted forests and demon minds, encountering countless enemies in order to complete his goal.

There is an abundance of comedy thrown into the game – from missions that require you to hit demons with a hammer to make them poop, to rescuing orphans so the mayor can win an election – DeathSpank keeps the laughter flowing. The dialogue is very funny with many choices on how to answer questions and get info, very similar to Monkey Island. Each character is wonderfully voiced and does a great job at immersing you in DeathSpank’s fictional world.

DeathSpank is an action RPG that takes many cues from Diablo. The majority of the game you’ll be hacking and slashing through countless waves of enemies. The games mission structure is broken down to 33 “Important Things I Need to Do” (Story missions) and 79 “Unimportant Things I Need to Do” (side quests). With that many missions it can get pretty repetitive, especially since many of the quests are simple “fetch this” quests. However, there are a few unique missions that really stand out, and make grinding through the more bland missions worth it.

Where the game really shines is with the “loot”, and boy is there a lot. You get “loot” for everything: killing enemies, raiding treasure chests and completing missions. Mid-way through your journey, you will have hundreds of weapons, armor pieces and magic spells to choose from.

You can customize your character armor from head-to-toe. There armor is quite varied, ranging in some that are very durable, to some that defend against certain elements such as fire, snow and nature. With this many options it can get quite daunting if you let it. You’re almost better off just auto-equipping and going on about your journey, rather than paying too much attention to what armor DeathSpank dons. Hitting R2 in your inventory will automatically suit you in the best defense possible. This is a wonderful aid and really helps the game from becoming too overbearing. Of course if you’re into that level of customization, you can always do it all yourself.

The game also features a plethora of weapons: giant fists, swords, axes and crossbows. Customizing your weapon load out also helps to add depth to the combat. By assigning weapons to any of the face buttons or to the D-pad you can have many combinations at your immediate disposal.

DeathSpank also does a good job of encouraging you to use different weapons. As you progress further in the game each weapon you pick up slowly becomes more powerful, so you will constantly be going through your inventory swapping out weapons. They also have a combo system that rewards you for switching between each weapon. Every time you switch between weapons your multiplier goes up. This really helps you when going up against big creatures.

Rounding out the combat, there is also blocking and a very useful “Justice” meter. A well timed block can be the difference between defeating an enemy or getting your butt kicked. Filling your Justice meter will allow DeathSpank to deliver an uber powerful blow. This blow, depending on what kind of weapon you have equipped, will add a unique effect to the attack.

DeathSpank also gets many magic spells and potions to aid on his journey. Calling in fire from the heavens or raising the dead to aid you can really help when your in a pinch. There is also potions that can turn you invisible or increase your speed so getting through crowded areas becomes easier.

The enemies you come across are quite varied and most of the time are quite humorous. From swamp donkeys to mobster leprechauns there is always something new you will encounter that will make you chuckle. The amount of diversity and sheer amount of enemies is just one more feature that helps set DeathSpank apart from other games.

DeathSpank’s graphics are taken in a different art direction and works very well with this type of game. Don’t expect super high-quality graphics, instead you’re greeted with cartoony, vibrant and colorful visuals that really fit not only the world, but the tone of the game. The cut scenes are done in more still frame animations, but with DeathSpank it just works. As stated above the voice acting is excellent with most of it being fairly comical.

There are a few negatives, though. For one, DeathSpank does offer some co-op which is nice, but it is pretty lacking. The second player can be local only (no online), and is only able to choose a few magical powers. Very depressing considering how excellent multiplayer would fit into the combat and art style.

DeathSpank is an absolute blast, a ton of fun to play, and thanks to a well-written script and befitting voice acting, it’s comedic gold. The combat is pretty deep and looting is always a blast. Although there are some negative aspects in the game, the positives far out-weigh them. For a game that offers approximately 8 – 12 hours of gameplay and only costs $15, this is one role-playing game that every PlayStation 3 owner should rush to the PlayStation Store and get to downloading, now.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

Gameplay, although repetitive at times, is entertaining

Loot Whoring at its finest

The finely presented dialogue is hilarious

9 out of 10