spoke with Ron Gilbert, creator of the Monkey Island and DeathSpank series, and the conversation turned to the latter's conventional hack-and-slash combat. Though he didn't stick around long enough to guide the final releases of this year's dual-developed DeathSpank games, Gilbert was their lead designer and said, if he could do it over, he'd likely add more depth to the combat. Instead of just "hacking through a bunch of enemies," he suggested "treating combat as if it was a puzzle to be solved [...] might have helped people a little bit with not just having to button-mash their way through battles."
Gilbert cited Dragon Age as an example, "not in its turn-based nature," but "more of the intellectual element" of requiring some strategy to combat. Perhaps that's not the best example. How about Diablo 3? That's shaping up to be a hack-and-slash game that introduces a satisfying level of strategy through its myriad spells and tactics. Now, if you were to marry such fine-tuned gameplay with Unicorn poop, you're talking "Game of the Year." Easy. Next time, Mr. Gilbert?