By Jef "JeffAlpha" P. on October 3, 2017
Runic Games, the game creators that brought us Torchlight and Torchlight II, unveil their latest brainchild named Hob, which was released on the 26th of September 2017. I caught on to this game rather late, but when I saw the trailer a while back it immediately caught my attention. Without getting too much into the artwork an overall feel I would describe the game's look as a maze runner meets journey blend with a pinch of horizon: zero dawn. if that description doesn't scream adventure, then I don't know what does.
Hob is very easy to get in to. After a short loading screen you are only one button tap away from starting a new adventure form scratch or continuing where you left off. Except for the menu, the whole game guides you without using text or dialogue. This is why I can't tell you who, or what Hob is. Hob might be the protagonist, or Hob might be the world; the latter of the two being my best guess. The opening scene shows a hulking robot forcing his way into a forgotten chamber. Fortunately he turns out to be friendly. So friendly in fact that when you get stung and infected by hostile and perhaps alien plant life, he cuts off your arm to save your life (I know, Hob seems a lot more cuddly than it actually is). You wake up to find the robot has taken the liberty of attaching one of his own mechanical arms to your body. This new arm will be your way of interacting with the large mechanical structures and remnants of the old world that are strewn across the environments. But wait, there's more... What would a robot limb be without upgrades? Obviously, throughout the game, you are able to customize your abilities to help you traverse the world and fight enemies.
Speaking of enemies, these come in a wide variety, both synthetic and organic. Not everything that moves is out to kill you though. Some animals are just living their peaceful little lives and will not bother you. Overall, enemies are not that hard to overcome, and if they are, there is always the option to lower the difficulty setting. The options menu also allows you to switch off the blood animation since some parents might not like their "innocent" little children being exposed to exploding fantasy creatures.
So pick the difficulty setting that you like and start dispatching enemies. Most of the time, however, your biggest challenge consist of solving the numerous puzzles you'll come across on your travels. Since the game does not explain anything or give any hints whatsoever solving them is all up to you. This all works pretty well, except when you are trying to find out where to go next. Also, when you don't quite remember where you left off, you might find yourself wandering around aimlessly for a while.
Fortunately, skills and abilities are pretty self-explanatory. The start menu shows your location on the world map, collected puzzle pieces and what buttons to use for newly acquired skills. In-field objects show what buttons to use to interact with them and well.. that's about it. Of course, being a platform adventure game, the controls have to be more than adequate if you want to stand a chance to make it to the end. In that respect, I'm happy to report, Hob handles quite well. I'm rarely hindered by the fixed camera angles so stuff like miscalculating jumps almost never occurs. Running, climbing and fighting feels natural and responsive. Overall, Hob is very accessible and doesn't take much getting used to.
Hob looks enchanting. The world consists of structures left behind by an advanced civilization that you might or might not have been a part of. Now, nature's vegetation and wildlife has retaken most of the land and is overgrowing the ruins. Every once in a while you come across a vantage point that lets you gaze into the distance and inspires you to explore more of this mysterious world. Everything looks colorful and solving puzzles causes pieces of the world to move, click, shift and glow. The sound compliments the scenery and the noise moving parts make give them a sense of weight.
Hob really exceeded my expectations. Yes it looks great, yes the storytelling without dialogue or text works, but what I love most is the accessibility. You can pick up Hob anytime. It's easygoing, It's casual, the difficulty is just hard enough not to get bored but easy enough to keep the pace. Runic did a great job in giving the game an aura of mystery and created an adventure that is definitely worth playing.
September 26, 2017