You know, I was not really interested in Brutal Legend at first. Granted, Tim Schafer is a brilliant game designer, having made games the defy genres and are considered among the best made, even if they did not sell well. It’s just that I am not a fan of Jack Black. Sure, he can be funny when he is reigned in, but he often is not, and I figured with the game being M Rated, he would be allowed to run free. Still, I decided to give it a chance.
In the end, I am glad I did. This game is one not to be missed.
A world ruled by Heavy Metal
So let me get one thing straight from the very beginning: this game is weird. Now that may not be too much of a surprise when you consider who created the game. You enter the twisted world of Brutal Legend as Eddie Riggs, the best roadie in the world stuck in a dead end job working for what passes as a metal band. A stage accident draws you into a world run by metal music ruled by Doviculus, Emperor of the Tainted Coil and his Glam Rock minion General Lionwhyte. Opposing them are Lars and Lita Halford and Ophelia, who meets Eddie when he first appears in this new world. Working alongside this motley crew (pun fully intended), Eddie forms Ironheade, a rag tag army of head banging youth forced to work in the mines, rocker girls with long distance arsenal, bass playing healers riding hogs and numerous other “warriors” taken from a metal motif.
Schafer has created an entire world based on Heavy Metal…as only he can.
If you think the storyline is twisted, wait till you play the game itself. Brutal Legend is primarily an open world brawler akin to God of War. You control Eddie, whose primary weapons are his enchanted axe and his guitar, which, when played in combat, can create various effects combining lightning and fire and allows for some rather serious combos. There’s more to it, however. Add in part rhythm game as you come across different “sacred solos” to play on the guitar, doing anything from raising relics to rallying the troops in battle. Another one of the solos calls forth the Druid Plow, and upgradable hot rod that not only allows you to traverse the the open world areas more quickly but also get involved in races and vehicular combat. Then come the stage battles: a mixture of brawler and real time strategy in which you and your army must complete the task at hand, be it just survive the battle or take down an enemy stronghold. To power your army, you draw energy from “fans,” geysers of spirits in the earth. You draw this energy from them by “Playing to the Fans,” a solo that erects a merch booth that becomes both your source of power and your weakest point in battle. Basically, Tim has attempted to bring several game play styles together on on package.
Does it work?
Brutal Legend is a kind of a hard game to score. On the one hand, it is a rather brilliant amalgam of gaming styles. The combat is strong, and though the real time strategy elements are simplistic, they are well done. On top of that, Schafer has constructed an impressive world around this unusual game. The storyline runs deep. with plenty of back story to be found by the curious. Then there is the humor in the game, something that really sets Schafer apart as a game designer. Brutal Legend contains a dry wit that, while it rarely gets you to laugh at loud, keeps you in a bemused state that makes the game rather enjoyable. Everything from the cloaking roadies, who hide in the shadows and tend not to be seen, to the Lord of Metal from whom you can buy upgrades, voiced rather appropriately by Ozzy Osbourne, just seems to fit within the twisted yet ultimately clever design.
On the other hand, the game is not all fun. As the saying goes, jack of all trades, master of none, and Brutal Legend suffers from thisat points. While the combination of styles is well done, none of them feel quite fully fleshed out. The open world is nice, but as often happens in these kind of games, you start to run out of things to do. The game starts to take on a little bit of the “Been there, done that” feeling. On top of that, Schafer seems to fall prey to to some of the trappings of games of this ilk, including really bad escort missions and some rather poor side quests.
Most gamers will find themselves enjoying the game despite its flaws.
It’s still worth it
In the end, Brutal Legend is neither as good as many people have said it is or as bad some of my criticism may lead you to believe. Most gamers will enjoy this game, which is a departure from the norm, something Schafer is known for doing well. Add to that the rather nice feature of built in censors for those of us who would rather not see all the gore or hear all the foul language, dealt with in a rather humorous flair worthy of the famous game designer, and you have a game I can recommend in spite of its flaws. Brutal Legend gets a 4 out of 5.