24 September 2013

Brütal Legend

When I first heard about Brütal Legend a few years back, I was pretty intrigued. However, the demo wasn't quite impressive enough for me to pay a lot of money for the game when it came out. But I eventually picked it up for the PS3, when I ran into it at a bargain price. It's been lying around waiting for quite some time, until a few days ago I finally decided to give it a try. (It was also included in the latest Humble Indie Bundle, so I actually own it twice, now. But the console is always the first choice for me.)

Brütal Legend is a game for metal fans. The story is about Eddie Riggs, the world's greatest roadie, who after an accident on stage finds himself in a strange, post-apocalyptic-ish world filled with heavy metal clichés, where a small group of humans is fighting a rebellion against their demon overlords. Eddie, with his knack for organising and building things, quickly finds himself in a leading role in the coming war, and it turns out music has special power in this world... There are of course tons of references and tributes to metal bands and culture, some of which I'm sure went over my head, as I'm not that familiar with oldschool heavy metal.

The game itself is a rather eccentric mix of hack and slash, real time strategy, driving and open world exploration. You can roam the world freely, either by foot or in your fancy hotrod. There's the typical plot and secondary missions, typically involving getting from point A to B while killing stuff in your way, escorting a character or vehicle, or whatever. You'll earn points to buy upgrades, search for hidden items that tell you some backstory or provide new abilities, etc. Pretty standard hack and slash fare. However, many of the most important missions are what are called 'stage battles'. You square off against an enemy over a battlefield, with a 'stage' at each end. You'll have to buy and command units to fight enemy units, capture energy sources, which allow you to buy more units, upgrade your stage to get better units etc. You can still fight yourself, in the usual way, and also team up with your units for unique special attacks...

It's a pretty interesting system, with a surprising amount of depth, for a game which at first glance may appear like just another hack and slash title. And, for someone like me with very little RTS experience, it can also be a little overwhelming. I played the game on the easiest setting, and for most of it I had very little trouble (in fact some parts felt almost too easy, but I never got around to changing difficulty). However, the last couple stage battles turned out to be pretty tough, and just wiped me out first time I tried them. I must admit I succumbed to reading hints from a walkthrough, something that always hurts my pride. Dying a few times would be no problem, it's to be expected (and you don't want a game to be too easy), but when you're wiped out after the end of a long, intense battle and have to start all over again, it can be pretty stressful...

So, you have an open world to explore, but this certainly ain't no Skyrim. You can beat the single player campaign in less than ten hours. Maybe a few more if you spend a lot of time exploring. However, with the relatively robust real time strategy system, it comes as no surprise that there's also a multiplayer mode that allows you to play these stage battles online against other players, or practise against an AI opponent. You can choose from three factions (one of them being the one you control in the single player game, the other two enemies from the game). I don't see myself spending too much time playing that, though, since RTS has never really been my thing, and I have little interest in playing online...

The game is a few years old already, and visually it's probably not the most detailed around. The graphics do the job well enough, though, and the environments look pretty unique and interesting. However, on the sound side, as might expected, Brütal Legend, well, rocks... There's a soundtrack made up of dozens of classic metal songs, from a variety of sub-genres. And talk about a star-studded cast. Eddie himself is voiced by Jack Black, while the demon emperor is none other than Tim Curry. And several metal stars make an appearance, including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy Kilmister, Rob Halford and Lita Ford.

Both as a metal fan and a gamer I found Brütal Legend quite fun and interesting, despite the slight stressfulness of the final battles. The variety of different gameplay elements was quite interesting, and, though I'm still no huge fan of RTS games, I'm kinda glad this game 'made' me try out that style of playing, for a change. (Interestingly, this comes just after my previous blog post where I wrote about how I find eSports style games boring.) The only real complaint would be the short length of the game. But then again you can probably get it pretty cheap these days. (Actually, as I write this, you've still got a day or so to get the PC version really cheap at Humble Bundle, and support charity while doing so.)

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