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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

And They Called It Rocktober – Thoughts on Brütal Legend

One week ago today, a video game called Brütal Legend was released in video game and electronic stores around the country. Six days ago, one week minus one day, for the first time in my life I sat down and played one video game for seven hours straight, from popping in the disc and enjoying the opening cinema straight on through the end credits. With the exception of short independent computer games, I don't think I'd ever "completed" a game in one sitting before. It speaks a great deal about the compelling story and presentation of Brütal Legend, though, that I did not want to put the controller down or stray away from the main story for seven straight hours. The script is superbly written, some of the most human and pleasant material I've ever experienced since the first time I watched Casablanca when I was thirteen years old. I also played the game on the "Gentle" difficulty setting because I quickly realized I was having more fun enjoying the story than struggling as demons killed me, so that probably shortened the play length as well.

Most importantly, though, I inadvertently skipped HUNDREDS of side-quests and collectibles. Sure, the game did tell you that black dots on the map represented secondary missions and that you could find MotorForges to purchase upgrades, and you did quickly notice that there were glowing slabs hidden around the map to learn new super-powered guitar solos, but nowhere does the game expressly inform you of the presence of thirteen Legends, thirty-two Landmarks, and one-hundred-twenty Bound Serpents to find that couple with the more obvious nine Solos, twenty-four Jumps, twenty-three Buried Metal and eleven MotorForges that add up to a 100% completed game. That's two-hundred twenty-two collectibles, plus all the missions and side missions. I guess Double Fine realized they couldn't fit 666 collectibles and decided to do one-third of that.

Shortly after finishing the main quest of the game I began to complain that the story seemed to be missing something. Observe, the story of the game goes like this: [SPOILERS FOLLOW THIS POINT]
Intro • Recruit Army • Battle Glams • Battle Goths • Sudden Final Boss • Outro

Playing the game, the relationship of the Metalheads to the rival factions of Glams and Goths was both incredibly thoughtful and impressively laughable (in a good way, the game is a comedy, after all), but the fact that you fought two tribes with a telegrammed intermission between made it feel as though the game was possibly missing a third act. The action was set up, then it escalated, and then it ended. The emotional/moral/whatever climax occurred pretty much one minute before the final boss fight, which only serves to support the claim that, unlike other forms of media, games typically lack a denouement, which is a shame in a game with such splendid care in its storytelling.

11:16 PM
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