The Baconing is a downloadable action RPG title available for Xbox Live Arcade, PC, and the PlayStation Network. It is the third installment in the quirky and silly DeathSpank series although the game’s title and the steps backward in its overall design attempt to convince gamers otherwise.
The Baconing‘s plot can be summed up in its opening cutscene. The hero – DeathSpank – is bored after having vanquished all available evil. To pass the time, he decides to try on all 6 thongs of power that he spent the entirety of DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue collecting. This act of boredom triggers the creation of a giant villain known as the AntiSpank. To weaken the abomination, DeathSpank must destroy the thongs of power by throwing them into the fabled Bacon Fires. That is the entire plot. It is both spoiler-free and full of spoilers. As stated, it is the opening cutscene, and it was also the trailer for the game. It is also every plot detail.
DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue and DeathSpank before it also have silly and simple plots, but they manage to maintain an arc. There are minor twists and turns to give the games a sense of coherency and purpose. The Baconing sadly does not follow suit. Although the locales are interesting, they are also arbitrarily placed. As the game wears on, the universe feels less like a fictional game world where everything has a place and serves a purpose to the story, and more like a mish-mashed collection of places the developers thought were amusing.
In fact, the entire direction of The Baconing is vague and misguided. The removal of the “DeathSpank” branding from the title suggests a desire to bring new players into the series. However, a sizeable portion of The Baconing‘s scenarios and characters rely on previous knowledge of the series to fully appreciate. As such, in one stroke, The Baconing ostracizes both newcomers who feel out of the loop and long-time fans who feel like they are retreading old ground to let the new guys catch up.
On the positive side of things, DeathSpank’s brand of silly, self-referential dialogue remains consistently amusing and occasionally very funny. When The Baconing does introduce brand new characters, they are bizarre, original, and often hilarious. However, it is all less entertaining when the story is non-existent. To further take the player out of the experience, the game is rife with typos. While a single typo in a downloadable title might be bizarre to witness, it is easily overlooked. However, multiple grammar and spelling mistakes spread over dialogue and weapon descriptions throughout the game comes across as nothing but unprofessional and lazy.
Luckily, not every aspect is either treading water or moving backwards. Looking at only the combat, The Baconing is the strongest in the series. The game keeps its timing and loot-based hack-and-slash roots, but adds very important shield bash and reflect moves while also adding more cover to the environments. Even on the easiest setting, death will come swiftly to players not employing strategy and good use of potions and spells.
Unfortunately, that is where the gameplay stops improving and begins to move backwards again. While the DeathSpank games have always been ultimately linear, the first two entries contain a plethora of side quests to distract players from the main quests. One of the series’ strengths was its ability to juggle just the right number of main and side quests available at any given time to give the player a feeling of freedom and accomplishment.
The Baconing has so few side quests that it is likely possible to count them on one’s hands. Of all the disappointments, this is the largest one and is the strongest factor in The Baconing falling short of its predecessors.
The standard was set very high for The Baconing by the extremely strong DeathSpank and DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue. Unfortunately, The Baconing falls below expectations in nearly every category. What is left is still an enjoyable, funny game, but one that gives fans a lackluster dose of their precious DeathSpank, and new players little reason to pick it up over the first two – superior – entries.