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Brutal Legend Day#5: Run to the Hills

Day 5 on Brutal Legend is a couple of huge story moments with a lot of little secondary stuff in between. I’m pretty sure I’ve made up my mind here. The stage battles are not fun. I’m playing for the story. I think this will get me through the whole game, mainly because the story made some quite shocking twists this time that I for one did not see coming. That said, this game simply refuses to teach you how to play it, and the stage mechanic is just not friendly enough to make me think of it as anything less than a chore. The last battle today is especially painful. We’ll see. Spoilers within.

So I’m coming back into the tunnel, but the loading screen explains to me how the isolated unit selection works. You HOLD DOWN Y WHILE you issue commands to give them to a single unit. Okay, this is just plain bad design. This is NOT the instruction I got last session. There is NO WAY I could have figured out that control from the mis-written tip that game gave me, and there is NO excuse for making me reload the game to figure this out. FAIL.

But now that I know this, I get past the tower and that ends the mission. Riggs and Ophelia CS see a banner over the exit insulting Lars. Ophelia says they should take it down because it will break Lars’s heart, and Lita replies with a quip about Ophelia breaking it first. Ophelia reveals to Riggs that her parents were part of the Black Tear Rebellion, and the reason why she’s not trusted is that they think she’s going to be a tear-breaker.  Would like to know what these things mean, but that’s fine — I’m used to being in the dark in this game.  Riggs tells her he will always trust her, and gives her a necklace his gave him to prove it.

I go right on to the next stage because I feel some momentum here. Lionwhite CS appears to explain that all he was trying to do was show that humans could be pretty and profitable in order to protect them from the demons. Lars counter-speeches, accusing Lionwhite of selling out humanity and promises to destroy him. This begins the next stage battle.

I do okay this time at the beginning and I reclaim some towers, but the battle is still confusing, and it ends with more of those attack towers. I still cannot isolate my roadies in an effective way, so I literally send three waves of my entire army to their deaths trying to get my speakers in by themselves. The fourth time I try, I finally get it right, but I guess the speaker guys had some serious initiative, because they somehow won the level after defeating the tower and while I wasn’t looking. No fooling — I was running down a flight of stairs to rally my troops, and I suddenly get a Brutal Victory card. Oh well, not complaining. It got me out of the near-painful stage battle.

Lionwhite then CS sees all of his people running, and he screams for them to stop. A mirror collapses off of a tower towards Lionwhite. He screams a spell to shatter it, but the glass shards fall on him instead and kill him. A little cheap that I didn’t get to do that, but sadly, I’m a little happy that I didn’t have to go through another fight.  Lita says that they can now live in peace, but Lars says that the battle won’t be finished until Doviculous (sp?) is dead. Lita wants to hide, but Lars says to go on.

Again, this seems like a good spot to do some clean-up, so I go on a secondary mission binge here. I do something like fifteen in a row to earn a bunch of fire tributes, and here’s the summary.

  • Ambush Uno: These are the secondary missions where you lead a small squad of troops against a small squad of enemies. I die once, but then defeat them by myself
  • Ambush Dos: Do it right this time — I actually lead my troops to beat them
  • Ambush Tres: Totally kick their asses — I think I have the rhythm of this now.
  • Ambush Cuatro: Yup, I got it. More total name taking.
  • Hunting Quest Uno: I have to hunt these little porcupine things that are lying around the landscape to beat this funny hunter’s score. I am sure I recognize this actor from the Sarah Silverman show.  It takes me a while to find the buggers (they procedurally appear in the landscape) and it’s trivial. Pretty boring.
  • Hunting Quest Dos: Same as above, except with these larger and tougher deer-things. This time, I catch the tiny tip that I can do this quest while doing other things this time. That makes it much less boring.
  • Beer Delivery: I have to drive some beer to a location on the map before a time limit runs out. It starts with a great intro with a funny headbanger.  The mission itself is maybe too hard, because there’s no indicator of the route while you’re driving (you have to check the map constantly) and if you get hit too much, the beer falls off the car and you lose. I have to do it something like 20 times to win.
  • Help Ironheade Score: There’s a headbanger who wants to score with a razorgirl, and I need to keep the overly-suave thunderhogs (healers) away until he completes his play. Funny premise. The game is a top-down minigame where I hit Y to form a mob to beat away hogs and keep them from getting in a circle where the couple is. You’re too slow when you’re in a mosh group to get around, so you need to constantly switch in and out of mobs. It’s a good mechanic, but the game does not show you what you’re supposed to protect when you start, and so I lose three times before I figure it out. WHY DOES THIS GAME REFUSE TO SHOW YOU WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW?!?
  • Race Against Frog Guy: The toad guys returns for a new race which I correctly presume will take me back where I started. I beat him on the first try.
  • Tainted Elk Hunt: There’s a razorgirl shooting these nasty demon possessed elk to save the rest of the species from infection. She points out that I’ve been mowing them down with my car (which I have, nice callout there), and so maybe I could help her. I agree, and the game is a car challenge where I have to hunt down and kill 8 poison elk. They are WAY fast. The first time, I don’t even spot them before they disappear from view. The second I keep up, but they start to scatter. Fuck this, it’s too hard right now. I quit. At least I killed enough elk to complete my other hunting mission.
  • Ambush Cinco y Seis: More of the OSSIM. Eat that, forces of evil.
  • Machine Gun Mission: Again on the carlift. Again no idea why I’m not hitting. Again I win despite myself.
  • Ambush Siete: This one is actually hard, due to a large number of enemy range attackers. It takes me like four times before I beat it.

That’s basically all the missions on the southern part of the map, so I get some upgrades (including a missile launcher to upgrade my car machine gun) and head back to the mission. CS: The road is blocked that the bus would take to exit the palace, so we need another way. Ophelia suggests taking an aqueduct, but Lita snarks that route goes into Black Tear country. Magnus (my engineer) fearfully mentions not wanting to see any Fire Barons, but Ophelia dismisses his fears since the Fire Barons are gone. Riggs yells at Magnus to get started on the moving.

At this point in the CS, Doviculous shows up and everyone hides.  Dov. gives a monologue disdainfully  insulting Lionwhite, and then calling out to Secoria (the name he used for Ophelia in the first session), wondering why she is still with the humans when she was sent as a spy. Lita gets that he’s talking about Ophelia right away; Riggs realizes it when Dov. holds up one of Ophelia’s knives. Dov. goes on to insult the humans, and Lars can’t take it. He jumps out to confront Dov. and reveals himself as the king of the humans. Dov. thanks him for revealing that and kills him by driving his spear into Lars’s chest.  Did not see that coming. Dov. walks away. Riggs attempts to follow, but things start falling from the sky, and the whole palace goes to giant demon invaded hell.

So, I’m back in control and now it’s a car race with Ophelia in the passenger seat out of the palace as it collapses and giant demons hunt me. It’s a fun race, even though I die a few times figuring out the route. Still, nice interactive set-piece.

After about five tries, I get away. This leads to a CS where Lita blocks the Deuce and confronts Ophelia finally. She accuses Ophelia of sending us into a trap at the Palace and attacks her.  Ophelia’s defense is feeble (maybe too feeble?) and she is almost immediately disarmed and vulnerable. At this point,  Riggs stops Lita and wants to talk to Ophelia. Riggs asks her about Secoria. Ophelia says she knows what Secoria is, but she won’t reveal the secret, in order to protect Riggs. (When will characters learn that this only make things worse? You’re not protecting anyone, sister.) Riggs expresses quite reasonable distrust.  Ophelia argues that Riggs promised to trust her, but he replies that works until she starts keeping secrets. She still refuses to tell, he walks away, and she throws his necklace back at him. As he continues walking away,  Ophelia cries and worries that she was warned about Riggs by her parents.

I get control back in the car with Lita. They talk as we drive, mostly narrative about how they don’t want to talk about what happened.  They also talk more about the Fire Barons, which Lita describes as fierce warriors who would kill us, and simply convinces me that Fire Barons are in my future.  We get to a new base in a winter landscape for a CS in which Killmaster fails to resurrect Lars.

And then three months pass. That was also not expected. This narrative is quite good, I have to say. There are lots of choices that I would not have expected a game to make. Hats off to you Schafer.

In the next scene, we’re in the winter camp when headbanger CS hunting a fish sees a ghost woman and a group of zombies they call tear-drinkers. This drops me right into a stage battle. Oh, how I don’t like these things. More confusion, more I-don’t-know-where-my-armies-are, more no-idea-what-I’m-trying-to-do. And these new enemies are hard. I give it one good ten minute try, and then I’m sick of it. I’ll try again tomorrow.

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  1. awkm says

    Has there ever been a time when, in your heart, you knew that the story was going to be good but the gameplay was atrocious and you still kept playing? I can’t remember any games like this from my own experience but maybe that’s just cognitive dissonance messing with my head.

    Tell me what you think of Wind-Up Bird when you’re done. I just finished re-reading Kafka, my favorite. Whoever turns a Murakami into a successful game will be my god.


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