The Baconing: promising sizzle, disappointing taste

September 11, 2011

The original DeathSpank had a lot of promise and, for the most part, it delivered with some solid writing, nice variety, and some real promise in what could be a big franchise for Hothead Games. Fast forward about a year later and we have The Baconing, the third entry in this fairly successful series. Unlike the original, this game focuses mostly on combat and nothing more, presenting us with a sequel that leaves a lot to be desired.

Easily the strongest thing about this series is the writing and humor. Good humor is something I really appreciate in games, and this series has been known for its sharp dialogue and witty jokes. The Baconing isn’t necessarily a slouch in this department; a lot of the jokes hit the right notes and you will find a good number of funny moments scattered throughout the adventure.

That might also be one of the biggest faults of this game. The humor, when good, is really good. However, more often than not, a lot of the jokes fall flat and you’re left scratching your head wondering if you’re supposed to laugh or not. Most of the callbacks to the earlier games seem less like clever references and more like opportunities to beat the player over the head with a pretty lame joke. Hey, remember that one character from the previous game? We’re going to bring them back and constantly remind you of why they were funny back then, thus ruining the entire setup for their character and this joke in the first place! It can be quite a mess.

There is a lot to do in The Baconing (even if a lot of it is the same). You’ll get a good 8-10 hours out of this adventure, which is more content than most downloadable titles offer. You can probably speed through the main quests in even less time than that, but you’ll often find a very good number of side quests to keep you busy.

Unlike the previous two games, The Baconing relies heavily on combat, which was far from this series’ greatest strength. The combat is, at its best, completely unsatisfying. You never feel like your attacks connect with the enemies, and half the time you will find yourself attack the air while also being massacred by the swarms of enemies that surround you. And while you are also provided with a large array of weapons, most of them don’t feel that different from one another, making combat even shallower.

The majority of the gameplay is combat, and thus the majority of the gameplay is either tedious or just plain frustrating. By moving the focus away from puzzles and other quests with a bit more variety, you’ll often find yourself just mashing random buttons in an attempt to speed through the next generic group of enemies. You can switch between melee combat and ranged weapons (assuming you have them equipped) on the fly, but the ranged combat is even less satisfying; you’re better off sticking with melee in the end.

One neat feature that every DeathSpank game has had is the ability to grind any item, weapon, and piece of equipment into currency right from the inventory screen. It’s still a very handy function here, especially as you find yourself trashing most of the weapons and items you pickup because of how unnecessary they are. Inventory management is still bothersome; you’ll often run over groups of stuff, unsure of half of what you pick up or why you should even keep it. Very little is done to communicate to the player which weapons are better than which without having to equip and unequip each one yourself to find out.

The Baconing might be a game you’ll enjoy if you really love DeathSpank and find the combat tolerable enough, although it’ll still inevitably let a lot of people down expecting a huge improvement over the previous two titles. By focusing on combat, the game loses a lot of what made it seem so fresh when the original DeathSpank was released. Instead, we’re left with a hollow shell of what could have been a great franchise.

Pros: The game has a good number of hilarious moments; 8-10 hour length gives you a lot of value for the price

Cons: The combat is generally awful and unsatisfying; inventory management is a chore; quests lack variety; the majority of the humor falls flat

Score: 2/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.