Brutal Legend Updated Impressions - Strategy, Squad Commands, and Demon Juice

We see how Eddie Riggs handles a small army of loyal soldiers in a battle against General Lionwhyte.

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We're still a ways off from Brutal Legend's October release, but there are a few things about this open-world action game that we've come to know fairly well. It's written by Monkey Island veteran Tim Schafer and stars Jack Black, so we know it's going to be funny. It features a storyline about a roadie traveling to an alternate dimension filled with heavy metal folklore and characters voiced by real metal icons, so we know it's going to make fans of hard rock awfully giddy. But how much do you know about Brutal Legend's gameplay? If you've been following our coverage, you've probably picked up on the fact that protagonist Eddie Riggs is a no-nonsense type who will smash demons with his battle-axe with nary a question asked--which of course means plenty of brawling--but now it seems there's a bit more strategy involved.

This might look like a geyser spouting tormented spirits, but it's really your fan base.
This might look like a geyser spouting tormented spirits, but it's really your fan base.

Brutal Legend's more strategic side was the subject of a recent demo led by Tim Schafer. He guided us through some of the troop-command elements of the game, something we saw a little bit of in our most recent look. Basically, Eddie has liberated a legion of headbanging teenagers and recruited them into his army as part of his quest to save this alternate world from demonic control. Eddie's most immediate enemy is General Lionwhyte, a glam rocker with "hair so fabulous he can fly on it." At various points in the game, you'll need to stage large-scale battles with troops of varying classes against Lionwhyte's own army.

Eddie discovers his ability to lead troops after deciding to stage the world's greatest rock show. He and his pal Mangus build a giant stage complete with all sorts of neon lights and smoke, only to discover a sudden crack in the ground spilling out what appear to be human spirits. As it so happens, these are fans who have come to be won over by glorious rock and roll. These fans then become a sort of currency for your battles. You build a merch booth around them to siphon their energy and allow you to build troops of headbangers (melee troops) and teenage runaways (ranged troops equipped with bow and arrows). Battles themselves resemble a light, fairly tongue-in-cheek take on the strategy game genre where the stage is your base and these merch booths are your resource-harvesting units.

It's headbangers versus headbangers in this battle.
It's headbangers versus headbangers in this battle.

You'll take your army of headbangers and runaways and guide them around the battlefield using basic squad commands, such as go, follow, and stay. As they fight opposing troops (characters who happen to look and behave just like yours, only with glam metal outfits), you can run along and fight on your own using the trusty battle-axe for melee combat and your magical guitar, Clementine, for ranged warfare. If you want to get fancy, you can also perform double-team attacks where you interact with your troops for added effectiveness. There's one attack where headbangers put you in the middle of their mosh circle to keep you protected and another where a runaway will sit on your shoulder and fire flaming arrows lit by a lighter you hold above your head in true metal fashion.

The end goal is to destroy the opposing base. On the path to victory you'll run into a few more obstacles besides enemy troops. One we were shown was the fan leech, which is a giant monster who drains all the fans in your area to keep you from spawning new troops. With a proper mix of troop management and good old-fashioned brawling mayhem, you should be able to power your way to victory.

Lionwhyte's hair really is that fabulous.
Lionwhyte's hair really is that fabulous.

The second battle we were shown introduced a new wrinkle to the way you command your army. It seems that at this point in the story Eddie has fallen victim to what he refers to as "some sort of poison demon juice." As a result, he's turned a deep red and, more importantly, sprouted giant demon wings. He's still the same guy on the inside, but this temporary affliction has given him the ability to fly. Sure, Eddie's become a little more testy--like when he says to a companion "Silence, groundwalker!" after learning to fly only 10 seconds ago--but he's still got an army to command. That means you'll be doing the same sort of strategic management, but this time from up high in the air. We didn't see any air attacks, but it did look like Eddie could travel around the battlefield much more quickly.

Based on our previous looks at Brutal Legend, these strategic sections of the game should be a fun alternative to the basic brawling and vehicle-based combat that make up the bulk of the gameplay. If you're worried that it will veer too far into real-time strategy territory, don't be. What we saw looks just as accessible as the more straightforward action bits, but with just as much of a sense of humor driving it all. We'll have more on Brutal Legend in the very near future, so stay tuned.

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