DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue is the second game in the DeathSpank Series and is a sequel to the first game, continuing from where the first game left off. Monkey Islands’ Ron Gilbert and Hothead Games bring this new part to the series just a few short months after the first. The reasons behind it being released so quickly after the first is that they were intended to be one game but the size would have been too big for the distribution platforms so it was split into two games with a convenient natural break.
Starting from where the original finished, DeathSpank finds himself in a WW2 style war-torn battlefield where he is attacked and captured by Orques. Fed up with peeling potatoes in a Vietnamese looking prison camp DeathSpank works with fellow inmates to escape. After taking part in a few quests in preparation for the daring escape our hero finds himself fleeing through a military camp full of Orques equipped with modern weapons such as guns and flamethrowers as well as the usual melee enemies.
Following your daring escape you find yourself in a battlefield which you must fight across to reach the first town in the game. Upon reaching the town you will find the red haired woman who fills you in on your new quest. You have to reunite the six Thongs of Virtue so that they can be destroyed; but you are only tasked with finding three of them: the Thong of Compassion, the Thong of Cuisine and the Thong of Generosity. After wondering around town talking to other people you will come across a General who tasks you with some more primary quest which lead to the final push for the war against an aggressor who lives in the North Pole.
Graphically it is the same as the original with there being the same pop-up book style backgrounds with painted floors. The enemies return from the original with some changes; mainly in their equipment and clothing as it now incorporates machineguns, flamethrowers and gas masks etc. The first section of the game has the gritty realism of a brown and grey palette with dark green plants and lots of dark red blood. After passing those militaristic areas though the colour soon bursts forth in jungles, deserts and some nice looking (but less colourful) mountain ranges. Again the same problems arise from this style with text being very small outside of conversations and the graphic style becoming blurry over distance which is particularly bad during the battlefield areas during the beginning as everything blurs. Sitting within 1.5 metres will help solve this and it should not be an issue for pc gamers at all.
The game revolves around the same gameplay as the first; with weapons and items being mapped to different buttons and keeps things generally the same as before but with the inclusion of guns some interesting additions to boss fights and a second co-op character (third if you own the DLC for it) to make up for lack of change. There seems to be a smaller amount of non-elemental weapons this time round with elemental weapons coming in groups of loot when you reach certain points of the game. The game seems to have more length to its predecessor as well as being more challenging throughout most of the game. It takes far longer to level up than the original and with the larger map nut once you reach the level cap you should find that the game becomes much less challenging. One thing that feels like a major change is the inclusion of more explosives which do in excess of 1,000 damage meaning instant death to DeathSpank if he is within range when it detonates and as a special surprise when you finally have enough health to survive an explosion you a greeted by a high damage burn that will damage you greatly over a few seconds and make you grab for your health potions.
The new co-op character Steve is a ninja who rides a tiny unicorn. He acts as a close range DPS (damage per second) character opposing Sparkles’ ranged DPS. His moves include a fast hitting sword swipe which can be performed rapidly in succession, a grapple which can be thrown at an enemy to bring them into range and an area of affect attack which sees Steve constantly throwing shuriken stars around himself in a circle for a short duration. His last move to put him on par with Sparkles as a support character is his unicorn’s ability to drop a rainbow which lets him heal you up when you go close to it but it heals for more than Sparkles’ spell but has a longer cooldown to balance the fact. Also on a button press (LB on Xbox 360) he sings his name as Steve appears in giant text above his head.
Again the soundtrack for DeathSpank is interesting and varied with it changing per environment and situation. The voice acting has improved by a small amount and DeathSpank is just as vibrant and full of vigour as in the previous game.
The story takes a few liberties with fairy tales and pre-existing “lore” and puts a modern battlefield twist on it for the most part of the game but then seems to ricochet around time a bit with different themes for areas like a pirate area and a western area. The story is more interesting than the first, involves more interesting main characters and the writing is on par if not better than the originals.
The pop-up book presentation stays and is just as beautiful as before though the beginning of the game suffers from greys and browns to look more militaristic which suits the theme but can look a little murky and washed-out at times. It also suffers from the same screen distance problems at first made more of a problem with the battlefield areas being so murky.
Again the sound is very good with the wonderful DeathSpank and the reasonable voice acting for the npcs. The music is also very good and goes well with each of the themes in the areas with some particularly interesting music in areas like the desert.
The game plays exactly the same as the first which is brilliant news as the simple combat still is enjoyable and the co-op character choice gives a bit more variety. The boss fights have been made more interesting too.
The game is definitely more difficult than the first and it spans a much wider area. It will take longer to complete this game than the previous one and with the inclusion on another co-op character and the chance to actually receive some more DLC this should last a couple hours more than the first game at least.
The game improves on the original in a few ways: length, more varied gameplay, a possibly funnier script, new co-op character(s) and some interesting new items to play around with. On the whole it is a better game than the original but all of these improvements are neither ground breaking nor huge improvements; they add to the experience from the first but don’t really make it an alternative for the original game. If you aren’t bothered about the story too much then you can take a dive into this game rather than the original but if you enjoy story and funny dialogue then buy both.
As with the first game it is simple and fun to play and keeps you very much amused along the way with all of the dialogue. I did find myself not noticing explosives on the battlefield areas until I hit them and died; which happened much more frequently then I would have liked, which I found excruciatingly painful but sitting closer to the screen helped with that if only slightly. It does improve on the first and it is longer and funnier; you really can’t go wrong in buying it especially at the price it is but playing though the first is recommended if not only to get more enjoyment from the entire experience. One bug i have found (Xbox 360) is that I cannot play the game offline as it always says it’s the trial game.
Tankko the Warrior:
If Sparkles is the mage and Steve is the DPS then Tankko is the tank co-op character; half man half spider he has some nice moves to complement DeathSpank’s. His main attack does sizable damage to enemies as a close range slash with his claws which has a long cooldown compared to the other characters’ main attacks, he has a web that he can shoot at an enemy that constricts them an stops them from moving or attacking but when combined with his main attack it drains health and gives it directly back to you. He can spread an area of affect poison and he can also give birth to 5 spider pets. If you play co-op often then he may be something to interest you, otherwise give him a miss.
Snowy Mountain Dungeon:
A short late game dungeon found in the snowy region of the game, it also raises the level cap to 21. It has high level monsters and the best armour in the game lurks inside but while the dungeon itself is longer than the others in the game it lacks variety in enemies and the lacklustre boss make it miss-able if you don’t aim for 100% completion or an achievement/ trophy.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.