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Brutal Legend, by Double Fine
Bar Harbor
alexx_kay
Finished playing this last night. It's made up largely of pieces of genres that I'm apathetic about (RTS and Heavy Metal), so on the surface it doesn't seem that I would like it. But the folks who made it have such palpable love for their subject matter that it really elevates the experience.

You play Eddie Riggs, a long-time roadie for heavy metal bands who decries how much the genre has decayed since the 70s. Hit on the head during a stage accident, Eddie finds himself mysteriously transported to what he assumes are medieval times (obviously not much of a history student), but which to the viewer is clearly The Dimension Of Heavy Metal. The initial landscape is composed of black rock, molten lava, gigantic bones, and chrome. Later on, their are deep jungles, rivers of blood, and strategic locations include The Sea of Black Tears, Bladehenge, and The Dry Ice Mines.

And it's not just the visuals that are Metal, the gameplay is as well. Early on, Eddie acquires a pair of magic axes. One is a standard fantasy axe, with sharp blades for hitting people; the other 'axe' is a mystic electric guitar for belting out power chords (essentially spells). The setpiece battles are real-time-strategy combat re-envisioned as a battle of the bands. Each player's base is a stage, the production resource is "fans" (which you harvest by building Merch Booths). The units are visual parodies of traditional types of fans, or musicians, or people/things you might see on album covers. You earn upgrades by "pleasing the Metal Gods", who hold up lighters of "Fire Tribute" whenever you advance the story, complete a side mission, or find a collectable in the open world exploration part of the game.

This land contains some (approximately) human beings, oppressed into slavery by their demon overlords. Eddie joins (and eventually lead) a resistance movement to take down the bad guys and make the land safe for Metal once again. One of the delightful aspects of the story, for me, is how easily Eddie accepts his new environment. Sure, it's a strange new land where he doesn't know the rules -- but on some level, he seems to know that he's in a story, and that it will turn out alright. Not without some twists and tragedy along the way, but it *does* turn out all right in the end. It even has an uplifting moral about the true nature of heroism -- and being a good roadie.

Eddie is voiced by Jack Black, a perfect choice, who brings a great deal of sincerity and, again, love, to his part. Several supporting roles are played by actual Heavy Metal folk, including Lemmy, Rob Halford, Lita Ford, and Ozzy Osbourne (who nearly matches Jack Black in terms of total commitment to an extremely silly character). The rest of the voice cast is rounded out by very good professional voice actors, including Tim Curry as the main villain -- though I didn't recognize him, as he was pitch-shifted down enough to give my sub-woofer a real workout.

If (like me) you're not a regular player of RTS games, I'd recommend playing on easy. But I *do* recommend this game; it was heaps of fun.

ETA: Fun interview about Brutal Legend: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/02/27/the-past-present-and-future-of-brutal-legend/
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