What We Already Know:
Even if you don’t know Ron Gilbert’s name you probably know his games, with Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island and Total Annihilation being three notables. Gilbert’s back to his game-making ways with Deathspank, which might best be described as Monkey Island meets Diablo. Or maybe Diablo with giggles. Or Monkey Island with bloodletting. One of those.
What We're Seeing Now:
After a long and taxing development, Deathspank is nearly complete. As a handy producer at E3 explained, the creators are hoping to combine the best elements from World of Warcraft, Diablo and classic adventure games (you know, the funny ones). The worst elements will presumably be mulched.
Deathspank, the game’s protagonist, is a fellow who has always just known that he should be a hero. He lives in a world of incredibly lazy people, who, as they notice Deathspank lending a hand, are happy to take more and more advantage of him. There’s also some grander plot involving a hunt for The MacG ... err, Artifact. The devs are promising something in the way of meaningful storytelling, though this wasn’t apparent from the E3 demo.
Deathspank may look lightweight but the creators promise over 15 hours of action. Indeed, the overworld map looks massive. You view the game from a downward-tilted, elevated viewpoint, and the world rotates as you run Deathspank around.
The inspirations are apparent. Anyone who’s ever come within 100 yards of WoW will recognize the quest-giving NPCs, whose branching, Lucas-style dialogue trees might prove a better reward than whatever junk their quests yield. Deathspank sounds exactly like Captain Qwark from Ratchet & Clank, and some of the dialogues are indeed pretty funny. Gaming could use more one-sided conversations with cows.
As for the hack ‘n’ slash, Deathspank isn’t as hardcore as Diablo but it still has solid-looking combat and itemization - upgrading your gear and equipment will be a huge part of the fun. The level-up system is unusual; you get to choose one power-up card and put it in a slot. You only get six slots and can only add or change one card each level-up, so you’ll want to at least try to avoid being a bonehead here.
I guess “don’t be a bonehead” is good advice in general. So is “check out Deathspank,” assuming you like funny things made by Ron Gilbert.