I have to say, I did not expect to see you again. We had a blast last summer, and even though you showed up again, almost completely by surprise, last fall, I figured it would be a couple of years before you graced us with your witty brand of hack ‘n slash. Still, having played completely through your newest adventure, The Baconing, I can't say I was unhappy to see you. Oh, sure, I wish you would have changed a little more - all people must change, DeathSpank, but there is some safety in being yourself, and there were certainly worse paths you could have gone down.
I was impressed with the focus of your new adventure. In Thongs of Virtue, your previous outing, I had complained that there were too many disconnected quests scattered about the land. The Baconing seemed to compartmentalize each collection of quests into designated "levels." Sure, this removed some of the interlaced open world-ness of the first two adventures, but I much preferred being able to put a bow on every quest neat and tidy before moving onto the next level. I was rarely at a loss for what to do, mostly thanks to those hint-providing fortune cookies, and that seemed to make the entire adventure go by quicker. Cutting the fat is always appreciated.
The narrative was also a bit more refined. Ending each section by burning your mighty thongs in the fires of bacon added to the "level" feel of every environment, but we all know your story focuses more around the journey than the conclusion. Each level having a particular theme was nice, but I have to say I enjoyed the colorful excursions more than those drab caves and aimless kill rooms. The Forest of Tomorrow was beautiful, and Valhalla wasn't too far behind in the looks department. The art is damn good for a downloadable title, and even though it's the third time we've seen it, the pop-up book style still has a nice charm to it.
But, DeathSpank, my god man, we have got to get you something new to do out there. Bashing foes with your shield and reflecting crap back at enemies is indeed new, but doesn't exactly qualify as a change. The whole time through I found myself defaulting to the usual alternating melee and long range weapons, working my way in and around leprechauns, cyborques, and lake people. It was near identical to your last two outings. It works, and it's fun enough, but c'mon man it's time for something different in the combat department. Yeah yeah, I know, you like it a lot, but you’re not fooling anyone into thinking you’ve got a new bag of tricks.
And, dude, the inventory is still incredibly bloated. I like that you can auto-equip the latest and greatest armor you pick up, but why can't you grind down the old stuff in the same breath? I had so many orbs of invulnerability, fire bolts, and potions in my inventory that every time I found new stuff I had to waste time locating my old equipment and grinding it out for money. It also would have been nice to see stats of weapons I am replacing after I have selected a seemingly better weapon. These things can be a huge drag three games in, when one would have expected, if not change, pure optimization of your chosen system.
Your health doesn't seem to have gotten any better. I appreciate the easier difficulty (which I switched to mid-way through), but I kept falling into the pattern on retreating and eating food before going back into battle. The timer on that is a drag and I don't see why I couldn't regain health by simply remaining idle, but I know you're stuck in your ways. I also didn't buy a single thing (outside of a few quest items) with the generous amount of money I received, but that was probably related to the difficulty I selected.
At least your sense of humor is intact. I thoroughly enjoyed making a fountain spray poop, evicting minor gods from their property, murdering cosplayers in a casino, and hacking off parts of clones. While the context was great the actual actions were kind of disappointing. Every hack n'slash RPG has their fair share of kill rooms, fetch quests, and marks to hit - but when did that become your primary occupation? I guess what I'm saying is, what was up with the lack of puzzles? Minor item combination puzzles were expected and appreciated, but The Baconing felt like you wanted to spend more time in combat than using your 'noggin. That bridge puzzle outside of Zimon’s Citadel was neat and assembling the Nuclear Family was clever enough, but there seemed to only be one well thought out puzzle for every level.
Your secret best feature remains your potential (and local-only) co-op companions, Bob from Marketing and Tankko. There is no way in hell these guys would have made it into any other game, so your dry wit and absolute refusal to take anything seriously works in your favor. It would have been neat to tag team them in for a single player experience, but I can see how that would have more or less broken the game. But maybe next time, please?
Even though I shouldn't, I like you DeathSpank. I typically celebrate change and risk in sequels, but what The Baconing plays it safe by delivering more of same, albeit with a higher focus on busting up your enemies. But it's time to move on, dude. You can't keep doing this forever. Those who pick you up for the first time with The Baconing will find a lot more to love, but you can't rely on your fans much longer, or else you'll be forgotten. At this point we've accepted you're not going to retire, but next time you show up bring a few new tricks, okay?