Brutal Legend

19 11 2009

I hate not being able to say incredible things about Brutal Legend considering how much I’ve enjoyed Tim Schaefer’s previous work. On top of my love for Tim I actually applied to DoubleFine about 2 months ago which makes it somewhat awkward that I have to be overly critical about Brutal Legend. I was very careful to not buy into the hype but after playing through the demo I bit into this adventure. Unfortunately, the first 15 minutes of Brutal Legend put on display in the demo were the highlight of the experience for me.

Brutal Legend is and open world game which is very hard to pull off convincingly. Despite the great artistic direction and some interesting set pieces the world is not overly interesting to explore. Sure there are collectibles to encourage exploration but these all blend into the environment making them a chore to find. Side quests can help a lot but Brutal Legend’s are repetitive and vastly inferior to anything going on in the main campaign. Although the set pieces can be interesting to look at there’s no way to interact with them making the world feel like a landscape from an MMO. The dungeons where you’ll be performing quests are much more interesting to explore and fit perfectly to the accompanying music.

Gameplay wise the basic combat feels a tad bit slow but it’s sufficient. The hack and slash combat slowly builds into streamlined RTS stage battles that have rightly been the most criticized aspect of Brutal Legend. There are just too many units for a console controller to give orders to in any other way than just a large mass. I kept thinking of so many better ways to simplify this (Overlord, DOTA, DOW2). Near the end of the game I was starting to do much better after figuring out rally flags, grouping all units together, and playing more defensively. Although there is a video tutorial for the basics of the stage battles Brutal Legend does a terrible job of telling the player… anything. There is something to be said for allowing the player to figure things out on their own and another to tell them next to nothing. For exampled: I didn’t know I could use the Deuce in stage battle mode until the very end of the game. There is some average vehicular combat that manages to be somewhat engaging during the escort mansions. All of the simplified game systems in Brutal Legend just don’t mesh well or add up to something that is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Brutal Legend is really short. I’m often in disagreeance with the amount of focus reviwers put on story lengths (mainly the Call of Duty series) but I have to agree in this case. The single player took me just over to 5 hours to complete. Everything felt rushed. Big plot points that I would consider to be act turning points happened right in the middle of the act not giving them the weight they deserved. There are some interesting characters and dialogue here but this a 5 hour game that feels like it should be a 10 hour game.

In the end the lack of cohesion from the gameplay department and short single player experience hampers a game that has a lot of potential. If you’re a fan of Tim Schaefer, like myself, you buy the game to support DoubleFine but if not give this one a rental.

score: 80% | metacritic: 82

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