I really adore the ventures Runic Games have gone on with Torchlight and Torchlight 2, and I’m even more excited to spend time with Hob. Sure, when they said they’re making a Zelda-like game, I was in, much like many of us. Action RPG is pretty much their bread and butter, so translating that into something more exploratory makes too much sense, but Hob is more than that. There are influences here from Metroid, and even a little bit of Prince of Persia, all wrapped up in a world that clicks and clanks together like cogs in a clock.
Hob tells you almost nothing, as Wonder Russell, the person giving me information and answering questions as I played, told me. It’s along the lines of Dark Souls in that regard, where you kind of go and you’ll figure it out as you go along. To me, it felt like an old school Zelda game, or even more accurate, Super Metroid. I explored and fought and things moved and puzzles happened, and it all just kind of clicked into place. The game is gorgeous, owning the top-down perspective, but unafraid to move the camera around to give a real cinematic tough to everything. Especially after Torchlight, this is a game taking you on a tour through a world that really speaks for itself. In the 20 minute demo I went from a rocky surface to a forested area to a nightmare tunnel full of tentacled monsters. It was all varied, and most of all, very colourful.
As far as moment-to-moment goes, the game is a mix of lock on and strafe around enemies, and classic hack and slash like Zelda. You can use your huge mechanical arm to guard, and attack with a sword that uses stamina, meaning you have to manage it. It also has a dodge roll, and as I’ve discussed on many a podcast, dodge rolls make games 100% better. It felt good, and I don’t necessary want to say ‘it was like Dark Souls’ but hey, it was a little like Dark Souls. You click in the stick to target enemies and then manage your stamina/guarding/dodging to beat them into the ground.
But exploration is the core to everything here, and weirdly enough, at least for me, the game turns out to be a pretty big platformer. A lot of the puzzles were traversal based, and it felt a little like Prince of Persia from an isometric perspective. Climbing, running, jumping, and also dodging enemies felt like a one-upped Link to the Past, and it was really rad. I was told that backtracking would be a huge part of the game, and that some kind of hub or easy way to access old areas would link things together. This became super apparent when I gained the new grappling hook ability about halfway through the demo. I could fling myself across wide gaps onto locked points, and from there jump up, left or right to get to secret areas, or chain-grapple from point to point. Again, it felt as great as you want it to, and I even used the tool to rip the knee-guards off a brief boss and knock it down to stun it and go in for the kill.
Everything I’m getting from Hob is Zelda, is platforming, is Metroid, is exploration, and is environmental storytelling. I honestly loved it and can’t wait to play more, and even though they don’t have a date, Wonder did tell me it’ll be coming to PC and PS4.
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