Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Double Fine Studios
by: Jason Love
Brütal Legend is, simply put, Tim Schafer’s love letter to metal music and all things typically associated with that particular genre (i.e., studded leather, Norse mythos, and muscle cars). Like any love letter, it generally gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling, but, occasionally, it also makes your stomach churn.
For the most part, Brütal Legend is quite impressive. The world that protagonist Eddie Riggs finds himself hurtled into is quite breath-taking, filled with rolling landscapes, monolithic stone monuments, and trees that grow metal exhaust pipes. The story itself is well told, filled with quite a few laugh-out-loud
moments, and the voice actors do a great job of bringing the characters to life. Really, the only parts of Brütal Legend that fall flat are the “Stage Battle” portions, which mix RTS and action elements in a way that is neither fully one nor the other, and pretty much fail to successfully implement either. This would be the part in the love letter where Mr. Schafer decides to talk about those times he cheated on you with that other girl, but it’s ok, he still loves you.
You can make your way through most of the campaign “Stage Battles” by just hacking and slashing through the enemy forces without having to direct your support forces too much. However, towards the end of the game, many of the enemy units are too powerful for Eddie to take on alone, and a little more strategy is needed in order to succeed. This wouldn’t be too hard if it was more obvious what units you should be using, or even how to use them properly, but neither is the case. It’s somewhat telling that Tim and the folks at Double Fine made a news post about how this game that uses RTS elements shouldn’t be played as an RTS. While I’m all for new game mechanics, a game that uses even a few elements from other genres should ensure those elements are absolutely spot-on in order to successfully create something different.
In the end, Brütal Legend makes for a good game; the characters are well written, the dialogue is funny and never feels forced, and the environments are beautiful. It would have been a great game if Double Fine could have decided whether or not it wanted action-based or RTS-based battles and stuck with it, or created a new mechanic that actually works.