The Baconing is the third installment in the DeathSpank series, and is also the first game to not have the main character’s name, DeathSpank, in the title. I played this game with a blank slate. Unlike most review outlets, and gamers in general, I have had no prior experience with the DeathSpank series of games. That being said, I have had lots of experience with games in this style, and consider myself to be a very big fan of RPGs. My opinions, however, may differ from other sources, as they are not formed with knowledge of the series already in tow. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with The Baconing. First of all, it was not quite what I was expecting, which is not necessarily a bad thing, it did not take itself seriously, which is also not necessarily a bad thing, and it provided a good amount of loot-grabbing RPG fun. It is not perfect, however.
To summarize the story, the game tanks place as DeathSpank has already acquired all of the thongs (of which I assume are from the previous game(s) and gets bored from being so awesome and having defeated everyone. So, out of curiosity, he decides to try on all of the Thongs of Virtue at one time and accidentally creates an evil version of himself, the AntiSpank. This is the setup for the game, and the plot is pretty much devoid of any major twists or compelling moments. Overall, it is enough to get you by without wondering why you are doing something.
Which leads me to my next point: what would an RPG be without a solid amount of quests to partake in? The game has lots of really interesting and unique sidequests and even main quests to do. The writing in the game is of a particularly high quality, as the majority of everything the characters say is truly hilarious. Most of it is family-friendly, but also has an extra layer of humor for the older crowd. It reminds me of Captain Underpants a little bit, which is a good thing in my book. There are lots of really funny situations, so I will not spoil any of them here.
The graphical style of the game fits the mood and the setting very well. That being said, I do think there is a lot of room for improvement. The character models are very well done, all of the NPCs have a very unique look and the player looks really good. It is great to see DeathSpank’s style evolve over the course of the game as you come across new items and armor. The environments, specifically the terrain, look pretty bad in most areas. They all look very blurry and textures are reused quite a bit. I am also not a fan of how the draw distance is arbitrarily cut off by the terrain having the silly “curved” look off in the distance. Instead of allowing you to see farther, the game tries to go for a lame curving effect. Overall you probably cannot really expect a whole lot more out of a downloadable action-RPG, and it is not too bad by any means. The areas are also very varied, which is great, so you never get too tired of seeing the same tileset for very long.
The gameplay works fine, and once you get used to the combat things can get pretty intense. It is not a hard game, per se, but some of the controls make certain sections a bit more difficult than they probably should be. For example, the button you press to bring up your shield a block, if held down for a certain while, charges up a shield swing/bash. This mechanic is intuitive and works well, for the most part. The problem arises when you want to simply hold your shield to block a few attacks, drop it to swing for a second, then raise it again. If the shield bash is charged, you will bash the enemy (which is great when you want it to do that) but then it also knocks them out of melee range, which can be frustrating. It is really fun, however, to use the targeting system to circle strafe enemies, darting in for a few quick slices before backing off again. And fighting ranged enemies has a nice tennis match/fighting Ganondorf feel as you try and bounce back attacks (called “reflecting”.) The game is pretty generous in that it allows you to equip four different weapons to the face buttons, plus four different items (which can be potions, status effect items, or even grenades) to the directional pad. This allows combat to get really frantic when you mix and match attack strategies.
Things can get even more interesting if you have a buddy jump into the game for a little coop action! There are multiple characters the second player can take control of from a quirky little wizard, to a knight riding a magical unicorn. All of the minor characters are features without inventories, stats, or any items, but simply possess a set of 4 powers that can be used. These usually include some type of melee, ranged, special and heal powers. This is really handy because some of the characters are more attuend to different fighting styles, and your partner can drop in and drop out with different characters as they like, allowing for lots of variety when playing. Be careful, however, as the two of you share the same health bar. After you get used to the strategies and less than thrilling amount of true enemy types, the game will begin to get very repetitive as far as combat goes. The same strategy pretty much works on every enemy in the game (duck in, swipe, back off/block, repeat) and there is no reason to change your strategy really. Things start to taste a bit overused (overcooked, get it?) after a while.
All of the dialogue in the game is fully voice acted, which is great because a lot of the moments would probably lose most of their humor if they were simply read. The music is pretty good and varied for the different areas, which is great for a downloadable game like this.
I did have a few big gripes with this adventure, however. In addition to the things I have stated already, the game does get very repetitive. As is the case with most loot-heavy action RPGs like this, you will very quickly fall into a rhythm of doing the same thing over and over. Quests for the most part sort of blend together, you will forget where landmarks are because it all sort of just feels the same, and most of the stuff that happens you will have trouble really feeling connected to or like you should care at all. The game is a fun experience, especially if you like DeathSpank or if you like action RPGs, but besides that, I do not know if this will appeal to a wider audience.
Overall the game is a pretty nice value for the buck, so give it a try if that last paragraph above sounds okay. Personally, I had a pretty decent time, having not played a DeathSpank game before, and I will be keeping my eye on this series. If you have played this or other DeathSpank games, let us know what you think in the comments below!
The game is available for PlayStation Network, Steam, Mac ($14.99 for each) and Xbox Live Arcade (1200 MS Points.) If anything, check out the demo and see what you think!
This review was based on a retail download copy of the game for the PlayStation 3 provided by Valcon Games.