It’d been a really long time since I’d played something that kept me coming back to it because of how much fun I was having. Then I started playing Marlow Briggs, and it was some of the most fun I’ve had gaming ever. Created as a God of War-like game with a hint of Borderlands-style over-the-top action and atmosphere, it was a package of everything stupid I enjoy playing. This is one of the few games I’d say really deserves to exist. If any single thing defines the game perfectly, it’s that enemies with rocket launchers are fought early, and you can easily deflect the rockets.
That’s right, you deflect rockets, about as easily as dodging an attack.
This is probably one of the most efficiently-designed games since Portal; virtually nothing that doesn’t need to be in the game is in it, with the sole exception being the journals left behind by the main character’s kidnapped girlfriend, which hopefully will not become a common theme in the games I write about. This takes place after an extremely-hammy villain murders Marlow with a scythe relic, imbued with the power of the Mask of Death, which brings him back to life and turns him, a black smokejumper (think firefighter, but much more badass) who was already fairly awesome, into a modern-day Kratos with a much more relatable persona, along with a much better goal; save your girlfriend from a villain voiced by someone extremely well-known: James Hong, who voiced Uncle Po from Sleeping Dogs, Covetous Shen from Diablo III, and my personal favorite, Cassandra’s father Jeff in Wayne’s World II. If there’s anything surprising about that, it’s more the lines he says in the game than him actually being in said game, including a line about how Marlow makes everything explode, which is usually while you leave each area.
The environments are interesting enough, but not that varied, mostly being jungle, a jungle temple, or various industrial locations that then explode. The combat is simple, but in the best way that can be applied, in that there’s a handful of basic combos that work well based on the enemies you fight and not much else, something God of War could have learned early. There’s also only 4 weapons and a few spells, about as many as the first God of War but with a much smoother flow to it. Each weapon is the scythe that killed you in a different form, and each spell is elemental (fire, earth, air, and water) in nature, with enough distance between accessing them to get you used to each one. The combat itself is pretty much as good as one can hope, with just enough over-the-top action included to keep you entertained and wanting more. Getting back to my comment about efficient design, the experience system is where that really shines through. Each upgrade costs an increasing amount, but it’s both covering every skill and easily predictable since it start at 1,000 XP for a level and increases by another 1,000 each level, so the second upgrade is 2,000 XP; the third is 3,000, and so on. It’s also the only game in this subgenre I’ve played where there was enough experience to fully unlock every skill, which is rather satisfying to see.
The plot is simple, the combat is simple for the subgenre, and everything is exactly where it needs to be to be fun from start to finish. It’s stupid, yes, but the kind of stupid that Dynasty Warriors is, the kind of stupid that makes you want to keep playing it to see what explodes next, which in this game, is pretty much everything everywhere.