Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the scourge of Lyonwhite, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this, Eddie Riggs, was destined to wear the jeweled crown of Ormagöden upon a troubled brow. It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga. Let me tell you of the days of Brütal Legend!
Like an epic metal version of Neverending Story, the game kicks off with Jack Black introducing us to the album art for a record pulled from the “Forbidden Metal” section of a local music store entitled “Brutal Legend.” Opening the album sleeve, we see the awesome landscape of the world of Brütal Legend – the next action adventure from Tim Schafer and his team from Double Fine.
The story of Brütal Legend centers around a roadie named Eddie Riggs. Eddie is a roadie for a fairly sad excuse for a “Metal” band called Kabbage Boy that aspires to capture the “Tween” demographic. Saving his pathetic guitarist from a nearly-fatal set collapse, Eddie ends up crushed by it instead. His blood fueling the rise of a metal demon called Ormagöden, Eddie is transported to a medieval world where the power of Heavy Metal music rules supreme.
Awakened by the chanting of nearby worshiping monks, Eddie takes possession of “The Separator”. This axe empowers him to smite his enemies with the righteous fury of the Tainted Coil, as well as his Axe of music – Clementine. This guitar is capable of electrocuting or incinerating her enemies from a distance, serving as a ranged weapon of pure awesome, slaying foes with her righteous voice. She can’t sing forever though, you’ll have to rest her after a few attacks lest her strings overheat and burn thy hands.
“Two or three years ago it was just another snake cult. “
The fantasy world of Brütal Legend is what would happen if the Conan comics mated with the album cover artwork of Ken Kelly, Derek Riggs, Roger Dean, Storm Thorgerson, Randy Berrett or any of the other great heavy metal album artists of the 80s. The cover artwork of Dio’s “Holy Diver“, Motörhead’s “Overkill“, Yngwie Malmsteen’s “Trilogy“, The Gates Of Slumber’s “Hymns Of Blood And Thunder“, Warlock’s “Triumph & Agony”, and many other metal-inspired medieval bands are brought to life to serve as the backdrop for this title. As such, everything in Brütal Legend is epic, loud, fiery, awesome, demonic, scantily clad, and/or sporting long head banging hair. Since Eddie already has several of those, he fits right in. Meeting up with the King of the humans named Lars and his sister Lita (played by Lita Ford), Eddie takes on the mantle of hero and savior as they fight against Doviculus (voiced by Tim Curry), Demon Emperor of the Tainted Coil.
Eddie will not be tackling the demonic army of Doviculus on his own. Along the way he finds the beautiful Ophelia (played by The Little Mermaid voice actress Jennifer Hale) who serves as the love interest for the game, as well as Lemmy Kilmeister as The Killmaster, Ozzy Osbourne as the Guardian of Metal, and Rob Halford as (shockingly) a biker. He’ll need all the help he can get as he faces off against the leader of Doviculus’s army, General Lionwhyte and his pink-wearing boy-band-listening minions.
Eddie and his companions are outnumbered and outmatched by General Lionwhyte and his army, but it turns out that the old Gods of this land have left clues as to the untapped power of heavy metal music. To that end, Eddie can use the power of his guitar Clementine to release the power stored in Tab Slabs found around the land. He can also release power from the 120 Bound Serpents, 13 Artifacts of Legend, and Motor Forges around the land. These learned guitar solos give you the power to burn the faces off of your enemies (FAAAAACE MELTER!!), rally your troops (more on that later), pump them up with a Battle Cry, or even call down the burning remains of a Zeppelin made of Lead to incinerate your foes. All of the guitar solos are done via button matching and timing, the most complicated being the Fan Tribute. Even if you are not a big quicktime event fan, these are simple enough to not interrupt the flow of gameplay. The best weapon in your arsenal however is The Druid Plow, aka “The Deuce”.
One of the first solos that Eddie learns is how to summon the parts to create a metal-inspired roadster dubbed The Druid Plow, aka “The Deuce”. This car will allow you to rapidly traverse the 64 square kilometer gamespace that makes up the world of Brütal Legend. By accomplishing the main missions in the game, uncovering hidden items, hitting huge jumps, or completing side missions you can earn “Fire Tribute” which can be used to upgrade your weapons, the speed, armor, and weapons of the Druid Plow, give your axe new powers, teach Eddie new skills, and much more. However, the roadie skills that Eddie already has are his true weapons.
“Bring your daughter to the slaughter” – Iron Maiden
Eddie Riggs is a “I can fix anything” kind of roadie. His skills in set building will serve him well in this world of metal and awesome as the boss battles come down to a Battle of the Bands. Teaming up with his protégée sound guy Mangus, Eddie can quickly erect a stage from which to wage battle. Using a system not unlike what we saw in Demigod, Savage 1 or 2, or Battlezone 2, Eddie can summon troops using a radial menu via the bumpers. These troops range from basic headbanger minions that will bang their hardened heads into your targets, Roadies who sport giant amps on their back for a sonic assault, fire spewing Metal Beasts, troop-healing Thunderhogs, and several more maniacal-mind-of-Tim-Schafer RTS units to make up your thrash-army.
These RTS-lite sections happen several times in the game. You’ll essentially set up your stage, capture a resource (it’s a volcano-like rift that spews the souls of fans into the air) and cap it with a merchandise booth by unleashing a Fan Tribute solo. Fan adoration leads to merch purchased which allows you to bring more troops onto the field. Each troop costs a certain amount of fans, and each has a strength and weakness, paper-rock-scissors style. You defend your stage from the enemy (your stage can deploy fog, do a mic check explosion, or heal itself for a cost) and your objective is to destroy the other side’s stage. You can (and must) use your collected guitar solos to succeed, so you’ll be frantically racing about to manage your team. There is a cap to the number of troops, so it’s manageable. All of the troops, as well as any of the fellow heroes on the field, can combine in a special cooperative move for extra damage, so these aren’t simply fodder for the slaughter. You can also upgrade your troops for additional cost, but I managed to beat the game without upgrading a single troop. Even if you aren’t an RTS fan, these RTS-lite sections aren’t so much of a challenge as to slow the pace of the game. Multiplayer on the other hand is a different story…
The multiplayer game is the RTS game I described above, but gives you access to all three factions of the game – the Tainted Coil, the Drowning Pool, and Ironheade – the human faction. Each side has the same type of units, but they are very different in application. The Demons are often slow and lumbering but are difficult to take down, causing massive damage very quickly. The emo kids of the Drowning Pool use numbers and range to obliterate their targets, augmenting their attacks with area of effect spells that slow you down or cause you to do less damage. The humans use the combined power of their allies including a motorcycle that can heal troops, large groups of headbangers that act as a buffer, and even a steamroller-type unit that can unleash a flaming Stonehenge on your enemies! You can practice this on the AI, and you can play with up to four players via your friend list or via player matching, so there is a good deal of fun to be had when all three factions are on the field. When I say the gameplay is like BattleZone 2, know that this is a huge compliment.
“More than meets the eye” – Testament
Brütal Legend is as much a visual treat as it is an auditory one. There are over 100 tracks that make up the all-metal soundtrack of the game. Band names include Testament, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Children of Bodom, Dethklok, Dokken, Dragonforce, Judas Priest, KMFDM, Megadeath, Ministry, Ratt, Rob Zombie, Scorpions, Slayer, Static-X, Tenacious D, Whitesnake, and even Def Leppard make an appearance, just to name a few. To say that this soundtrack is absolutely epic and horn raising is an understatement. This soundtrack is metal at it‘s finest – it absolutely WILL melt your face off. Thankfully, you can change the songs at will when you are in the Druid Plow, and you can turn off tracks you don‘t want to hear at any time. You’ll unlock a little over half on a speed-run of the game, so it behooves you to explore the world, if only to make the soundtrack that much more awesome.
On the voice acting side, we get the comedic timing of Jack Black, as well as the aforementioned Gods and Godesses of metal. Thankfully, this is pre-scripted “School of Rock” Jack Black, not the “Year One“ off-script Jack Black. The results are a focused storyline that is funny through the entire ride. The game clocks in at about 10 hours spanning a little over 20 main missions and 30 side missions. The side missions range from simply ambushing the enemy to racing against another hot-rodder. The side missions grant tribute, so it behooves you to do them, but ultimately you can get by without the bulk of them. When the game is complete you can go back and do any side missions you may have missed, so don’t feel like you have to complete everything before you finish the game.
“Through the Fire and Flames we carry on!” – Dragonforce
The storyline in Brütal Legend is very much, in my opinion, a spiritual successor to the LucasArts game, Full Throttle. An unlikely hero rising to the occasion, saving the land by overcoming deep and dark secrets from the past, and backed by a fantastic soundtrack. It isn’t a strange game like Psychonauts (no giant Lungfish or brain stealing madness), so don’t expect that. What you can expect is a heavy metal adventure unlike any game you’ve ever played. The title is chock full of little details that make it a must-have. While it is a bit on the short side, there are plenty of collectibles to keep you busy after you complete the game, and the entire ride is entertaining from start to finish. In a sea of holiday sameness, how many games can make that claim?