Hob – Review (PC, PS4)
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Runic Games, creators of the Torchlight series, are back on the market with Hob, a puzzle/combat-light game with a few RPG elements thrown in. The beautiful visuals and stunning soundtrack don’t make up for some clunky gameplay and a story that may fail to engage players.
There are a lot of things Hob does right. The art design is top notch. The color palette is diverse and bright without being overly saturated. The physics of the grass and characters looks good, and the overall design of the player character and NPCs are visually interesting. The soundtrack is equally incredible. The quality of sound design blew me away, especially in the little things. Footsteps match the ground underfoot, the swish of your sword is satisfying, and the crackle of dangerous electricity is reminiscent of Frankenstein’s laboratory.
In terms of gameplay, Hob feels like a close cousin to The Legend of Zelda. Hob’s combat is simple, structured around a small sword and includes a giant stone fist that may remind some players of Hellboy. Even with the various upgrades available through a minimalist RPG system, the combat never really evolves into anything elegant. It’s simple, but it doesn’t feel satisfying to hack and slash through enemies. The puzzles covering the game are equally simple, and rarely offer a level of challenge beyond retracing your steps or turning a lever.
While combat and puzzle solving are simple, the platforming mechanics are clunky. Many times throughout the game, the slippery running mechanics would send me off the side of a cliff. About half the time the little dude would catch the ledge and pull himself up, but I died more often than I can count due to jumps that seemed to shoot out in an incorrect direction, or running off the side of a platform into oblivion. The peak of this frustration happened during a puzzle that involved rotating platforms. Twice I simply phased through the construct and fell off, and many times the input just didn’t seem to connect to the game, and I felt helpless to actually navigate the room.
Besides issues with platforming mechanics, I did experience a game crash and some serious frame rate issues. The crash occurred after Runic Games’ day one patch. The frame rate drops were not frequent but occurred more than once. Playing on PC as I was, I would give Runic the benefit of the doubt that the issues may have been caused on my end.
The story of Hob is told wordlessly and has an air of mystique and a tone that always seems like its about to get very dark. The plot never really hooked me in. I never grew attached to the characters or the world, and just simply plodded along the way, waiting for something to matter. I don’t think this is necessarily indicative of poor writing on the part of Runic Games. Experiences like Hob with minimal explicit story telling put a lot of faith in the player to become invested in the story, and I never did.
Hob is fine. I left the game not regretting my time, but with no desire to continue or relive the experience. The visuals and the sound design are truly stunning, but the gameplay rarely delivers and the story failed to be immersive. Personally, I would not recommend this game to the average gamer. However, if you are a big fan of the Zelda franchise and this type of gameplay, Hob’s varied collectibles and lengthy story will be right up your alley.
*Full Disclosure- We were given a copy of HOB by the PR company for the game. This did not influence the reviewer’s comments or opinions in any way.*
Author: Kevin Lukacs
Kevin enjoys writing plays, short stories, comedy, history, and of course opinion pieces and listicles about video games. His dad could totally beat up your dad. You can find him in DC getting his M.A. in history, should you ever feel the need to fight about weebs and whether or not Knights of the Old Republic is the best game ever made.