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Brütal Legend

Brütal Legend

Brütal Legend

Brütal Legend is an action-adventure game with real-time strategy game elements created by Double Fine Productions and published by Electronic Arts for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game was released during October 2009 in North America and Europe. Though Brütal Legend was originally to be published by Vivendi Games prior to its merger with Activision, Activision dropped the game from its portfolio after the merger. It was later picked up by Electronic Arts, though Activision and Double Fine brought counter-lawsuits against each other over publishing issues. The issues were settled out of court. Later, Double Fine announced a port of the game for Microsoft Windows via Steam, which was released in February 2013. Mac OS X and Linux versions of the game were made available as part of the Humble Bundle in May 2013.

Tim Schafer, the game's creative director, was inspired to create the game by his own past musical experiences. The game features the character of Eddie Riggs, voiced by and modeled after Jack Black, a roadie who is transported to a fantasy world inspired by the artwork of heavy metal album covers. Eddie becomes the world's savior, leading the down-trodden humans against a range of supernatural overlords using a battle axe, his Flying V guitar that can tap into the magical powers of the world, and a customizable hot rod.

The game, a hybrid of the action-adventure and real-time strategy genres, includes Stage Battles in both the single-player and multiplayer mode, where the player must command troops to defeat their foes while defending their own stage. In addition to Black, the game features voices of heavy metal musicians including Lemmy Kilmister, Rob Halford, Ozzy Osbourne and Lita Ford and other celebrities such as Tim Curry, as well as more than one hundred metal songs selected by Schafer for inclusion in the game.

Brütal Legend was generally well received by game reviewers, praising Schafer's vision and writing of the heavy metal-inspired world, and the performances of the voice cast, particularly Black and Osbourne. Some felt that the hybrid gameplay of action and real-time strategy games did not mix well, however, blaming console control limitations and missing features normally found in games of either genre.

Brütal Legend Plot

During a gig for Kabbage Boy, Eddie is crushed by falling scenery while trying to save a member of the band; his blood lands on his belt buckle, in reality an amulet for Ormagöden. The stage is transformed into Ormagöden, who kills the band and takes the unconscious Eddie to the heavy metal world. Awaking in the Temple of Ormagöden, Eddie meets with Ophelia while fighting Doviculus' forces, developing a crush on her. They discover writings left by the Titans that Eddie is able to comprehend, and build a hot-rod, the "Deuce", that they use to escape the Temple and travel to Bladehenge, the base for the small human resistance force led by Lars and Lita. When they meet Eddie and learn he can understand the Titans' messages, they see him as a prophetical "Chosen One", though unsure if he will be the savior or destroyer of the world. Ophelia also becomes concerned when Eddie, in the heat of battle, transforms into a winged creature, an effect Eddie decides to use to his advantage at the time.

Eddie helps Lars, Lita, and Ophelia create an army, named "Ironheade" to fight against General Lionwhyte. They successfully raid Lionwhyte's "Pleasure Tower" and defeat him. However, as they celebrate, Doviculus arrives, sending the group into hiding. Doviculus is aware of the presence of his spy "Succoria" by the smell of her blood as it was at the Temple; Eddie and his allies come to believe Ophelia is Doviculus' spy. Lars leaves his hiding spot to face Doviculus, but is quickly killed. As Doviculus causes the tower to tear itself apart, Ironheade escapes into the nearby mountains; Eddie is forced to leave with Lita leaving Ophelia behind despite their shared love. Heartbroken, Ophelia drowns herself in the Sea of Black Tears, and is transformed into the leader of the goth "Drowning Doom". After three months, she leads an attack on Ironheade's mountain camp. Though Ironheade defeats the assault, Eddie determines they must destroy the Sea to end her threat. As they travel through exotic lands and finding more allies out of the pyromanical Fire Barons and the amazonian Zaulia tribe, they come across evidence of Eddie's father, the hero known as Riggnarok in this time. It tells that Riggnarok traveled to the future to attempt to learn the secrets of the Titans to bring back to the past in the humans' ongoing fight against the demons, but never returned.

With their new allies, Ironheade manages to push the Drowning Doom back towards the Sea of Black Tears; defeated, Ophelia denies Eddie's belief that she is Doviculus' spy, again claiming that Eddie's the traitor. As they argue, Doviculus arrives and confirms that Succoria is not Ophelia, but Eddie's mother. In the past, Succoria, an even more vicious demon empress, also sought the Titans' secrets in the future, but discovering that humankind eventually prevailed, fell into despair. Riggnarok, who had followed Succoria through time to assassinate her, took pity on her in her despair, and the two fell in love and bore Eddie. Now in the past, Eddie's demon nature has borne out, and also has inadvertently revealed the Titans' secrets to Doviculus as well, and has allowed him to create a powerful army to overrun the humans. Having no more use for Ophelia, Doviculus rips out her heart, taking her powers alongside his own and causing Ophelia to dissipate. While Ironheade battles Doviculus' forces, Eddie engages Doviculus in a one-on-one confrontation, which ends with the demon emperor's decapitation. As Eddie escapes the Sea, he recovers Ophelia's heart from Doviculus, containing his mother's necklace he gave her when they first met, and then proceeds to rescue the real Ophelia from the ocean floor. Ashore, they rekindle their love as Ironheade celebrates their victory over Doviculus and the Tainted Coil. Back at Bladehenge, a statue to Lars is erected, while Lita continues to lead the troops against the remaining demons. Eddie insists on maintaining his "roadie" presence, staying behind the scenes and making others look good. After he promises he is not leaving to his assembled friends, Eddie takes off to complete a few errands, with Ophelia watching as he drives off into the sunset, shedding a single black tear.

Brütal Legend Gameplay

Brütal Legend is a third person action/adventure game incorporating real time strategy elements. The game uses an open world that Tim Schafer has described as being approximately 40 square miles (100 km2) in area. The player controls the protagonist Eddie Riggs (voiced by Jack Black), a roadie who one day finds himself transported into a fantasy heavy metal world. Eddie acquires three tools that are used for combat and transportation: a broad axe called "The Separator", his Flying V guitar "Clementine" from his own world which has the ability to cast magic spells in the heavy metal world, and a hot rod that Eddie builds called "The Druid Plow", a.k.a. "The Deuce". Launching metal attacks from Clementine is performed by playing a minigame akin to the note-matching aspect of Guitar Hero or Rock Band over a brief guitar riff; however, Eddie cannot use the metal generated by Clementine constantly, as prolonged usage of the guitar will result in it turning red hot, and the player will have to wait for a cool-off period before using the guitar's power again. The player can spend in-game currency called "Fire Tributes", earned from completing missions, at the Motor Forge, to gain new abilities and upgrades for each tool. These tools can be used in combination with each other to take out Eddie's foes; for example, the player can use his guitar Clementine to create pyrotechnics to launch a foe into the air and follow up by attack it with the Separator ax. In a case of a specific boss fight, the player must use the Deuce hot rod to lure the boss to a spiked gate held up by counterweights, and then play the "Earthshaker" move on Clementine to destroy the weights and sever the creature's head.

Within the open world, the player can use a map and the Deuce's turn signals to guide them towards either story-advancing missions or side missions. Side missions include hot-rod races against a demon, defending Eddie's allies from a pending attack, or helping a cannon operator spot his targets. There are about 23 main missions in the story with 30 side missions that the player can optionally take. The player can also explore the game's world to find statues bound in leather or chains that can be freed to gain a health boost for Eddie or to reveal part of the game's backstory, and can look through special telescopes at vistas or complete certain jumps to earn additional Fire Tributes. The player can also find monuments they can raise that unlock an additional heavy metal song from the game's soundtrack that can be played on the Deuce's radio, "The Mouth of Metal"; the player can further customize its set list with songs they have been rewarded with or have collected.

Screenshot showing a giant concert stage dominating the background, accented by gothic elements such as towering spires; the foreground shows several forces converging on the stage, including a flying winged creature, two people mounted on bear-like creatures, a giant brute, and several other ground forces.

The single-player and multiplayer modes of Brütal Legend feature Stage Battles where players command armies to defend their concert stage while attacking others' stages.

Several main story missions of the game are Stage Battles based on real time strategy elements. The player, while still in control of Eddie, is required to defend a giant stage where new allies will spawn, holding out until a specific objective is completed. The player creates an army for attacks by building merchandise booths on "fan geysers" through Clementine's magic. Once enough fans are collected, the player can summon different allies, each consuming a specific number of fans, or upgrade their stage to allow them to produce more powerful allies. A character known as Mangus acts as the "sound guy" to help in the construction of these units and stage upgrades, and also warns the player of enemy attacks. Once the player has gathered their army, they can then seek out and attack their opponents. Eddie is able to control the entire army to follow, attack, or defend a point, and can use specialized squads of specific units to perform certain tasks, such as having a group of headbangers use their headbanging to destroy statues. The player can also use Eddie directly in combat during this battles. Ultimately, Eddie transforms into a winged demon who can fly above the battlefields to issue orders or lay out attacks. Other spells in Eddie's arsenal can help control the performance of his armies, such as temporarily boosting their attack skills or creating a rally flag which troops will gather at. Each of the different units, including special allies that Eddie meets in the game, has a special co-op move they can perform with Eddie; for example, Eddie's first ally, Ophelia, can be tossed at foes by Eddie in the style of the Fastball Special. These co-op moves are also available outside of Stage Battle missions.

The game has a multiplayer mode, described by Schafer as "your typical head-to-head, battle of the bands scenario. But with axes." The multiplayer modes are team-based and play in the same manner as the single-player Stage Battles, with team sizes from one-versus-one to four-versus-four. Each team selects from one of three factions which affect what resources and troops they can summon, and are tasked with defending their stage from attack by the other team. The three factions available are Ironheade, mostly human-based troops led by Eddie Riggs; The Drowning Doom, with more Goth/Black Metal creatures led by Ophelia; and The Tainted Coil, evil creatures controlled by Doviculus. Each player controls a single main avatar who has the same abilities as in the main game for combat and magic spells and can also fly about the map, but also is in control of troops that they may summon from the team's shared resources—fans as generated by fan geysers across the map. Different types of troops are available, costing various amounts of fans to summon, with the potential to upgrade to improved units through different routes. The number and types of troops that can be summoned is limited by a cap to prevent either team from becoming too overpowered. All of the troops can be engaged by the player to initiate various "Double Team" moves as with the single player game. The game can also be played by a single player with computer-controller opponents at one of five difficulty levels.

Reception
Brütal Legend received positive response from gaming journalists, with reviewers praising the story and characters of the game, driven vocal performances of the voice actors, particularly Black and Osbourne. Daemon Hatfield of IGN felt Black was "completely committed" to the role of Riggs, while Giant Bomb's Ryan Davis found it relieving that Black reined in his typical "loud-talking heavy-metal goofball" act that he is known for and instead performed well, "bringing just the right amount of working-man's matter-of-fact-ness to the role". Osbourne's role was considered "amazing (and surprisingly coherent)" by Gamespot's Giancarlo Varanini and "played brilliantly" by Computer and Video Games' Andrew Kelly. The full cast was commended for their roles; the heavy metal musicians were effective at playing themselves in the game, while the other voice talent performed well and " their part to balance out the star power" in the game. The strength of the characters was considered to be enhanced by the quality of writing of the story, and the use of facial animation. Eurogamer's Christian Donlan considered the characters of Brütal Legend to be the strongest aspect to the game, distancing the title from other video games due to "rounded, personable leads who are distinctly superior to the usual throngs of cybermen and super-vixens", and a facet of Schafer's signature work. Wired's Chris Kohler further attested the strength of the game's story to Schafer's skill, considering that "After Brütal Legend, he should be considered one of the best storytellers in gaming, period." 1UP.com's Justin Haywald noted that the game lacks the ability to review cutscenes, forcing the player to restart the story if they wanted to see these again.

The heavy metal-inspired world of Brütal Legend was also well received, and considered to show a clear reverence for the genre. Gerald Villoria of Gamespy considered the game to be "dedicated to an unabashed love of metal" and "heavy metal fan-service to the highest degree". Davis believed that the juxtaposition of all the elements that made up the heavy metal fantasy world were the game's greatest strength, often being "both giddily ridiculous and fist-pumpingly badass" at the same time. Critics found that while the graphics for the game may not be the most sophisticated for the current console generation, the detailed art aspects of the world were impressive; Varanini considered that "no matter where you are in the world, there's always some cool object to look at", while Donlan considered the world to be a "constant unfolding delight". The incorporation of heavy metal music into the game also benefited the game. Both Kelly and Villoria considered the soundtrack essential to the game, and praised the moments where specific songs, such as Dragonforce's "Through the Fire and Flames" would be used as background music during specific game sequences. Kelly further praised the game for using the songs to define the action of the game instead of relegated to random background music. Villoria also considered the soundtrack to have "enormous breadth of sound and diversity", introducing the player to heavy metal genres they may not have known even existed. G4TV's Jake Gaskill considered listening to the soundtrack to be the equivalent of "taking a class in heavy metal appreciation."

The actual gameplay was seen as Brütal Legend's largest weakness. Many reviewers were critical of the incorporation of real-time strategy (RTS) elements into the game, a fact that was not well advertised prior to the game's release and does not become apparent to the player in the first hours of the game. Though Schafer had set out to make the console-based game like an RTS from the start, they were warned by both Vivendi and Electronic Arts that "RTS" was "a naughty word in the console space", and instead marketed it as an action game. Despite this, reviewers found that the game was still difficult to play on a console due to the selected controls that made it difficult to target objectives or troops, the lack of a mini-map to track friends and foes, and the frantic pace of battle.

Critics did appreciate the slow introduction to the various aspects of the game as part of the single player game, but felt the game did not adequately introduce or explain all of the game's RTS features, such as the ability to mount a final stand on one's stage. Some also considered the single-player campaign Stage Battles to be too easy, winnable by brute force, and that more advanced tactics would only become apparent as one played in multiplayer games, including learning the abilities and advantages of the other units of the factions other than Ironheade. The mix of gaming genres between the RTS and third-person action was found particularly confusing; Kohler commented that the handling of the individual genres was accomplished well, leading to "an astoundingly complex design instead of a simple one" that diminished the enjoyment of the game, while Davis considered that "perhaps there wasn't enough confidence in any one piece to let it carry the whole game". However, some felt that the various genres helped to create "a variety of gameplay opportunities", and made for "rather elegant" Stage Battles. In retrospect, Schafer lamented the fact that they did not include enough tutorials in the game to guide the player as to "naturally how to play the strategy part a bit better", as they had come to accept over the years of development, and tried to use the Double Fine blog to explain some of these aspects. Though some critics argued that stripping out the RTS elements and leaving an action combat game wrapped in the metal-themed world would have been a better game, Schafer countered that this would have not be true to the vision that he had from the start. Schafer would later jokingly refer to the RTS elements of Brütal Legend; during the fundraising for Broken Age, Schafer teasingly threatened to add RTS elements to the point-and-click if the funding had reached certain levels.

Gameplay outside of the Stage Battles was also met with mixed impressions. Most considered the side missions highly repetitive, which included mission types that are generally disliked by gamers, such as escort missions. The lack of a mini-map, replaced by either following a glowing light from the sky illuminating the player's target or by navigating based on the Deuce's turn signals was criticized for making it difficult to explore the game's world. The information about the world that players can access in the game's pause menu was also found to be lacking, showing neither the collectible elements of the game on the main map, nor easily identifying the alliance of the various troops in the in-game guidebook. Though Eddie gains the ability to fly during Stage Battles, the inability to use this or to make the character jump led to reviewers getting the character stuck on the landscape at times when exploring. Some reviewers found the number of progress checkpoints in the game to be lacking, requiring the player to repeat a long mission if they should die before reaching one. The single-player game was also considered to be short, lasting as little as four hours if one only completed the main story missions.

According to the NPD Group, Brütal Legend sold approximately 215,000 copies in the United States in the month of October 2009, with about 150,000 copies being for the Xbox 360 platform, making it the 12th top selling game in that month. These numbers were not considered to be strong, and was attributed to the difficult marketing of the game, which emphasized Jack Black's involvement and the heavy metal nature of the game, but did not assert what the gameplay would actually be like, with the possibility that the mention of the RTS elements of the game would have possibly driven more players away from the game. In an interview in February 2011, Schafer claimed that the game has sold over 1.4 million copies. According to data collected through Nielsen SoundScan, some songs contained within Brütal Legend's soundtrack saw digital sales increases of up to 700% following the game's release, similar to the effects of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, though impact on overall sales of these songs were rather small.

Black was given the Best Voice award at the Spike Video Game Awards 2009. Brütal Legend won the "Best Strategy/Simulation Game" and "Outstanding Achievement in Soundtrack" awards in the 13th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, and was nominated for "Outstanding Character Performance" (for Eddie Riggs), "Outstanding Achievement in Original Story", and "Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction". The game was also nominated for the Game Developers Choice Awards for "Best Writing" and "Best Audio".


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