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Thursday, September 3, 2009

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DeathSpank Previewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 2 comments

1UP has posted a new preview of Hothead Games' DeathSpank, an upcoming game title based on Ron Gilbert's unconventional hero. Described as "Monkey Island meets Diablo", the game will feature Gilbert's unique style of humor and storytelling.

When Gilbert takes the controls for our tour, he starts by talking about the game's story, but it's hard for me to focus for the first few moments. I'm distracted by the game's art style, which is equal parts British children's show and fantasy novel watercolor, presented from an angle that makes it look like you are perpetually on the side of a small hill. He says they devised this "forced rolling perspective" to make the world feel intimate, and it works in conjunction with art designed to look 2D in a 3D space, and limited left/right camera control to preserve the view. DeathSpank's world is flat, but it looks like a giant pop-up map wrapped around a horizontal tree trunk, where you control an ant-sized DeathSpank as you crawl around it...using outhouses as a teleportation subway system.

Throughout the story, you'll discover main and side quests, listed as Important and Unimportant tasks in your Quest Log. As you might imagine, some of these feel much like classic adventure game puzzles. In one situation, you run across a farmer who wants to grow top vegetables, and in order to help, you have to track down different types of exotic manure, one being Unicorn Poop. In another situation, you want to get a sword from recurring character Eubrick the Retired, who requests a taco in trade, so you have to go to a taco stand and ask for the ingredients he wants, but the taco stand isn't allowed to make an "extra spicy" one because of a lawsuit, so you have to track down a special plant and combine it with the taco in your inventory. (And yes, there will be a hint system -- "certainly a more robust one than what you'd have in a classic adventure game," says Gilbert.)

But now I'm playing cut and paste with Gilbert's demonstration, because in-between the adventure game detailed above, there's an action-RPG where you spend time killing enemies like orcs and chickens, leveling-up, and collecting loot. The design goals for this half of the game seem centered around two concepts: making sure the combat requires strategy, and offering enough items so everyone who plays can customize their character as they choose.

The base mechanics work very simply -- you have direct control over your character, with a mix of melee and ranged attacks, and can lock-on if you want to attack someone specific. And as you kill enemies and complete quests, you earn XP to level up, which increases your health and strength, and allows access to certain level-locked weapons and pieces of armor.

Combat relies pretty heavily on what the game calls "abilities," which, should you be playing the game on a control pad, you can assign as you wish to any of the face buttons. These include the ability to put larger enemies to sleep temporarily while you fight their friends, or the ability to send the Flock of Chickens towards enemies as a low-damage, high-range attack (the latter you earn by killing "something like 100" chickens while playing).
Head over to the page below to read the rest of the preview.

1UP.com: DeathSpank Preview
Hothead Games

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