DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue Review

DeathSpank is back! Well, he was hardly gone at all. Heck, his seat is still warm. Just a few weeks after the release of DeathSpank the next game in the series is already available, DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue. You can't really call it a sequel – there's not much of a tie-in between the storylines, the game mechanics are identical, and you can pretty much play the two games in any order that you'd like. You can't import anything from the original game in the way of equipment, stats, or hero cards, either, so the two games are basically standalone episodes in the DeathSpank saga or DeathSpank adventures in parallel universes or whatever you'd like to call them. Enough of that, you get the idea, let's move on…

Public Enemy #1

If you did play the first game, then you'll probably remember (it may have been a long few weeks for you) that while there was a story in that game it was about important to the experience as plot is to a Monty Python movie. The game was having too much fun with humorous conversations, quirky characters, and poking fun at RPG conventions to worry itself too much with story. The tradition continues in Thongs of Virtue which is loosely (very loosely) based on The Lord of the Rings saga but lets itself get distracted from its tale at just about every turn. And Thongs of Virtue doesn't feel constrained by the world of high fantasy either – your quest for the thongs begins in a POW camp set in the middle of a jungle war that's more Mekong Delta than Minas Tirith. From there, well, the war will take you through ravaged battlefields, across oceans, and even to the North Pole as you battle skeletons, robots, and a demonically corrupted Santa Claus, to mention just a few of the menagerie arrayed against you. It sounds like a bit of a mess on paper, but the writing is pretty sharp and if you just let yourself go with the flow you'll probably have almost as much fun watching it all unfold as the writers did coming up with it in the first place.

Gameplay mirrors the first game in that you assign a weapon to each of the face buttons and then hack away at the multitudes that will attack you along your quest. There are some enemies that will require you to change up your tactics a bit, but for the most part it's button-mashing hack ‘n slash at its finest – or worst, depending on how you view things. As you kill enemies you'll gain Justice power and once your Justice meter is full you'll be able to unleash the secondary attack of any Justice weapon that you've got equipped (DeathSpank likes to say the word "Justice" , capital "J" included, a lot). Killing enemies also earns you experience, but leveling-up is not as involved as it is in RPGs or even action-RPGs. You earn the right to equip higher level weapons and armor and your choice of a "hero card" which translate into some sort of stat boost such as a weapon damage modifier, faster run speed, or richer dollar drops from fallen foes. One change over the original that you will find in all of this is that Thongs of Virtue has embraced anachronisity to the point where guns are added to your arsenal. If you ever wanted to blow a pesky skeleton to smithereens with a bazooka, well, now's your chance.

Thongs of Virtue loves keeping your quest plate full, although this has the invariable side effect that there are plenty of FedEx and slay X number of monster Y quests. Quest management is not the easiest thing in the world to do if you actually try and keep track of everything going on, especially when it comes to figuring out where you need to go to complete a quest or remembering who to return to once you're done. It's best just to go down new roads and occasionally circle back since you'll have so many active quests you'll be sure to stumble upon something that needs doing sooner rather than later.

Thongs of Virtue has the same 2D in 3D look as its predecessor, and I love the game's art style and pop-up comic book look. If you take a look at the gameplay in isolation, it's not really outstanding in any way so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone looking for a serious action RPG. I enjoyed playing the game because a lot of the humor appealed to me (the writing is actually clever when it doesn't take the easy route with the straight-up thong jokes) and because I was always curious to see what awaited me in each new area. This is certainly a game best enjoyed for its story, but only if you can appreciate Terry Goodkind or Monty Python as well as J.R.R. Tolkien.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 85%. The story's the thing in DeathSpank 1.1, and it's a silly thing indeed.


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