Hob marks a dramatic departure for the now defunct studio of Runic Games. Their previous titles were both of a Diablo-esque variety, featuring hack and slash action and a metric ton of randomized loot. With the latter of the two being received favorably by fans and critics alike, it seemed like all but a certainty that Torchlight 3 was a sure bet. While I certainly applaud risk taking and delving into new genres that a studio is not known for, in the case for Hob, I feel this experiment wasn’t entirely a success.
Note: Controller highly recommended
Played on: PC i5 4460, GeForce 1080.
Length: 10~ hours
Soon after awakening to an unfamiliar world, the stranger is greeted by a friendly golem that seems intent on leading the stranger to a certain place. Along the way, the stranger is attacked by what appears to be a plant and infected with a mysterious organism, forcing the golem to amputate the arm so that the stranger might survive. Bestowed with the gift of the golem’s own left arm as a replacement, the stranger is tasked with restoring the functions of a series of ancient ruins, for reasons unknown.
The characters in the world of Hob do not have the gift of speech and communicate using gestures as well as some otherworldly means. While this worked well enough to let me know where my next destination was, it felt insufficient to helping me understand why I needed to go there, as I had no idea of my ultimate purpose. Narratives that are designed to be highly interpretable can certainly work, but I feel when it lacks any kind of hook to cling to at all, the experience feels aimless, and I was doing things for the sake of doing them and nothing more.
What perpetuated this sentiment were the various puzzles which were lacking in challenge and became repetitive as I was watching platforms raise and fall constantly after hitting a switch. As the stranger’s golem arm gained new abilities, the puzzles improved slightly as they became a bit more varied, throwing some new elements into the mix but more often than not, I was simply going through the motions after figuring what needed to be done after only a few seconds of encountering a puzzle.
Luckily, the areas I was exploring were colorful and well designed as they often shifted, reacting to my progress through the ruins. Taking a minute to take a load off and enjoy the beautiful vistas made for a welcome break from going from one location to the next. There were many areas which were unreachable without some new power, and with a quick-travel system, I was encouraged to double back to previously explored areas in order to get more resources and upgrade points.
The combat in Hob is rather simple, with only a handful of combat options to start with, but as I found more schematics, I was able to spend some resources to learn some new skills. However, even with the new skills, the combat never truly evolved from dodging away and attacking when the opportunity presented itself. Some of the enemies could kill me in one or two hits if I wasn’t being cautious, but after I recognized the damage that they could throw at me, it became quite a simple task to simply recognize their attack patterns and not get hit. Even when I did fall to some enemies or a mistimed jump, the checkpoints were fairly frequent and generous.
Charging up the arm for a powerful knockback attack, stunning the enemy and going in for the kill was a common practice as well as the standard hit and run tactics which proved useful for the whole game. In the end, combat encounters were fairly infrequent as puzzle solving and platforming took center stage for the most part, which might worked well to break up the monotony of doing too much of one thing.
Perhaps this is due to my less than favorable inclination for puzzle/platformer action games as I seldom search out for games of this genre, but Hob felt lacking an identity- a clear element to call its own that really makes it standout amongst the rest of the games in the genre. While it most certainly looks pleasing to the eyes and feels competently made, I never felt excited to get back into the world of Hob after picking up a controller for another play session. As much as I would love to say that Runic Games went out after creating their best work yet, I cannot in good conscious as Hob is a solid, albeit unremarkable game.
Fun Tidbit – There’s a good story moment near the end of the game but I wish the whole game was sprinkled with those moments as it would have made for a much more interesting experience.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.