By Michael Fontanini / February 21st, 2018
|Release Date||September 26th, 2017|
|Genre||Action, Adventure, Indie, Puzzle, Single Player|
|Platform||PC (Steam), PlayStation 4|
Hob begins with a robot opening the door to your shelter. Venturing outside, you soon discover a world ravaged by a purple plague of bio-matter that entombs large chunks of land in various areas. Its tentacles will swipe at you, and just touching it is dangerous. Those who came before you have failed to free this world from the corruption that descended upon it, giving their lives in the attempt. Can you prevail where your predecessors have fallen, and allow your people to come out of hiding and live freely again?
One of the first things you’ll discover is a checkpoint. Once activated, you’ll respawn there should you be unfortunate enough to die. They can be activated again on return trips through an area. They are often positioned near warp points, which are thin, cylindrical structures you can enter to warp to other discovered warp points on the map. You can open the map screen any time you want, but you can only warp by entering these structures.
At first, you can run around and jump, but not too much else. However, you very soon gain your character’s iconic, oversized, robotic left arm after an unfortunate event. This robotic arm gives your character extra abilities, like being able to interact with mechanical devices such as the orange one in the image above. It can be rotated by punching the button once you have the punch ability. Other basic abilities you get include a stomp move similar to Mario’s butt stomp, which you can use to slam buttons that are on the ground. Some buttons can simply be touched with your hand to activate them.
The robotic arm’s punch ability takes time to recharge, but you can upgrade your charge meter multiple times. This makes it possible for your meter to hold additional full charges by collecting five power cells from fallen robots for each upgrade during your adventure. Your health meter can also be upgraded by finding heart stones hidden in large blossoms throughout the world. Finding two of these stones will add another unit of health onto your health meter.
The basic arm abilities are unlocked at certain locations in the game. Other abilities, such as advanced combat techniques, are unlocked using money found in the world or obtained by killing tougher enemies. You can then go to the workshop and purchase them. Some abilities are hidden though, and the only way to discover them is to find their blueprints somewhere in the world. After finding a blueprint, its ability will appear in the menu in the workshop.
You can also reforge your blade into a more powerful sword in the workshop if you have found three pieces of old swords in the world. This is done using the station at the back of the Workshop in the image below. The station to the right with all the pipes on the wall is the abilities upgrade area. There are also three ancient robes to find in the world, and you can change your appearance using the small booth to the right of the abilities upgrade station. Each robe increases one attribute, such as speed, at the cost of another one when you wear it.
There is no text in Hob anywhere, short of the menus. The story is very light, and it’s an adventure of discovery. In fact, the game never even tells you what basic things like checkpoints or warp points are. You’re left to discover that on your own. It would’ve been nice to know what the warp points were earlier in the game than I did, though.
The gameplay is quite enjoyable and addictive at times, while channeling a touch of The Legend of Zelda. Hob is not at all a Zelda clone, though. The game does not hold your hand much at all, though it does place markers on the map at a few points in the game. Most of the time, you’re just left to figure out what to do on your own. The game will stump you at times, forcing you to re-examine the area another time or two to discover something you’ve missed in order to advance.
The level design is pretty good for the most part, although it can be a little too labyrinthine at times. This can make backtracking annoying, but there are shortcuts in the world that you can open. These include things like platforms moving to create new paths, or footholds appearing to make a wall climbable. There are a few areas lacking shortcuts that could use them, though. The puzzle design is usually pretty cool, for example moving mechanical chunks of the level around to access new areas. Sometimes the landscape itself is transformed in huge ways, such as chunks of land shifting position to form new paths. In the image below, the object that was on the rail is above the ground now, attached to the huge cylindrical structure.
The art style in Hob is beautiful, with bright colors and contrast that make the visuals pop. The architectural style of the world is unique and interesting to look at as well. This certainly makes the world more engaging and fun to explore. There are also a number of vista points scattered around the world to find. Interacting with one provides a beautiful view similar to that shown below, though the image below is not an actual vista point, as they are marked on the ground.
Hob‘s music is well done, going for a subtle, atmospheric style. This is combined with very nice ambient sound effects, such as the vocalizations of animals in the woods. This atmospheric style really helps draw you into the world, and amplifies the feeling of being a lone adventurer.
I very much enjoyed my time with Hob. It’s a great adventure game that’s definitely worth playing. It’s just sad that Hob is Runic Games’ last title. The game includes 37 achievements, and 20-30 hours of gameplay depending on whether you go for all of the collectibles (heart stones, power cells, sword upgrades, ability upgrades, and vista points). Hob is available on the Steam Store for $19.99, and is also available on the PlayStation 4. Do you have what it takes to triumph and free the world of Hob from the evil corruption that has entombed it?
Review copy provided by publisher.
HobPlayStation 4Runic GamesSteamTorchlightTorchlight II