This week began with me hoofing into Brütal Legend‘s Normal mode, which proved to be… well, incredibly easy. Aided by previously mentioned maps at AchievementHunter, a 100% Normal mode game was wrapped up in a handful of days. Chuffed with the ease of that task, I ventured online to see whether I could eke out any wins in Brütal Legend‘s online multiplayer mode (a slight variation of the single-player’s stage battles, the RTS-heavy fragment of the game); alas, there was no-one online to be found… or so I thought.

So I returned to the story mode of the game itself, and started a playthrough on the game’s hardest difficulty: Brütal. Once again, I leant heavily on the aforementioned maps to glean my collectibles, only attacking the linear sections of the game when my scouring was complete; but I was genuinely surprised at the increased difficulty of Brütal over Normal.

Because, as difficulty curves go, this was as close to a horizontal line as you could get.

Yes, you’d suffer a bit of extra damage in close-quarters combat. Yes, the AI was a bit smarter in the stage battles. But the techniques I’d tinkered with in Normal – build up for some battles, rush for others – worked a treat in Brütal, and there were only a handful of repeat attempts required. And that final boss fight… was it even possible to fail that fight at all? In none of my three playthroughs did I even enter red-screen throb-o-vision during that “battle”.

The great thing about those back-to-back playthroughs of Brütal Legend is that my thinking has swung into line with Tim Schafer’s. Where I once failed to find pleasure in the RTS sections of the game, I recently approached them with glee; the most tedious part of my Gentle playthrough (the stage battle in the Dry Ice mine) was explored in Normal, and absolutely whipped in Brütal. Four minutes (that’s probably over-estimating slightly) versus the hour-or-so I flailed away as a n00b. Sure, I was helped by having already beefed up my stats via collectibles, but there was a rhythm that became evident the more I played – play a solo. Spawn some troops. Play a solo. Beat the shit out of the enemy. Play a solo. Send a giant, flaming zeppelin crashing upon your foe. Repeat. Win.

That rhythm continued as I started playing online. A little research discovered that Brütal Legend‘s online matchmaking isn’t exactly the quickest – I was expecting something on par with Halo 3. I suppose, at the end of the day, it is comparable, but Halo 3 keeps the player in the loop as it seeks out a match; Brütal Legend just keeps showing you a spinning axe. Thankfully, the wait for my first match (fifteen minutes!) has never been repeated, but it still appears to regularly take around five minutes for a match.

Anyway, on with the story: my first match was a cracker. I’d done a bunch of research about different play styles before venturing online, discovering that there was one particularly cheap and loathsome technique known as Fire Baron Rushing (FBR). The opposition would just tech up until they were able to build Fire Barons, create a sizeable army, then launch them at the player’s stage; if the player doesn’t know how to counter such an attack, they’re pretty much stuffed at that point. So when I checked my opponent for my first match out and noted he had an exemplary record of 7 wins, no losses, all using the Fire Baron’s Ironheade team, I figured I knew what I was in for.

Sure enough, as I raced for a Fan Geyser, he used the expected no-troops-just-wildlife delay tactics; I captured the Geyser regardless, upping my unit producing ability. I saw his Fire Barons assembling in front of his stage; I was building a larger collection of lower-grade headbangers in front of mine. My attack left first, buffed up with a choice solo; the armies passed each other half-way, and then the Barons arrived, with my opponent’s avatar providing cover. I spent all my resources on a force intent on slowing the Baron’s attack down, and made myself as much a nuisance as possible. Both stages got hammered, and then…

…I won. My first match. He must have been surprised, if not devastated; my troops had decimated his stage whilst he was watching mine burn. Bloody hell that felt good :)

Subsequent matches, though, have been a mish-mash. I’ve met more FBR proponents who manage to beat me into the ground. If I wind up more than a Geyser or two down, and can see the army amassing, I’ll often message the opposition to let them rush my base, offering to swap rushes if they want to chew through wins a bit quicker. And, yes, I’ve even employed the FBR myself a few times; but, at the moment, I’ve got a mere four wins.

I need fifty for all the online Achievements.

Brütal Legend is not going to get finished this year :}

The only other game tackled this week is New Super Mario Brothers Wii. Consider my mojo re-ignited; Worlds 4 and 6 fell in one session yesterday, with Worlds 7 and 8 falling today. The final battle against (or rather, in front of) Bowser would have to rate as one of the greatest gaming moments of the year; utterly thrilling, lip-bitingly serious and yet brilliantly fun. But, now that I’ve got to the “The End” credit-rolling screen, I’ve just got the simple(!) task of collecting all the Big Coins and completing World 9.

Of course, Level 9-1 has cost me 40-odd lives so far.

New Super Mario Brothers Wii is not going to get finished this year ;)

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