Review: Hob


Hobbling out of the gate

I very much enjoyed Runic Games' past Torchlight titles and was excited when I heard they were going to tackle another genre. Good developers can make good games, regardless of their perceived "niche." The action-adventure genre could always use some sprucing up and I feel as if there's still a lot of room for the genre to grow.

And then there's Hob.

Hob (PlayStation 4, Windows [reviewed] Xbox One)
Developer: Runic Games
Publisher: Runic Games
Released: September 26, 2017
MSRP: $19.99

The bare-bones plot of Hob is told through a series of interspersed and dialogue-less cutscenes while playing through the game. There's not much story to speak of anyway; each cutscene is maybe a minute long and there are very few of them. The real drive to explore the world and continue on is simply that: to explore this elegantly crafted world and see what it has in store.

There are three main gameplay elements to Hob: puzzles, combat, and platforming. Just as a heads up, none of them are particularly good. In fact, I started avoiding the combat as much as possible because I felt as if I just couldn't be bothered. There is the basic sword slash, dodge roll, shield, and a chargeable punch attack -- all standard fare. Combat almost always boils down to shielding an attack, throwing out a few sword slashes, and then repeating ad nauseam. Extra enemies can spice things up, but their behavior is so predictable and is rather timid on the default difficulty that it doesn't matter.

Combat as a whole is useless. Killing enemies grants some bits that can be used to upgrade your combat abilities. Alternatively, you could, well, just skip that element entirely. Once I realized this, I avoided every combat encounter and ended up enjoying myself far more.

Platforming simply feels clunky. The game rarely demands much out of the platforming, and there's definitely some "aim assist" at times, but every time I've missed a jump it felt like it was out of my hands. It was less of "ah, I messed up" and more "damn, that's messed up." A lot of this comes from the inability to move once airborne and the occasional poor choice of camera angles. It all just feels underwhelming. Never does the platforming feel smooth or rewarding; it's an unchallenging and occasionally frustrating way to get from point A to point B.

There are often puzzles that serve as progression obstacles, but even these are nothing more than unrewarding distractions. Remember that puzzle in most Zelda titles that have you move a box onto a button? Have you ever wanted an entire game filled with that puzzle, over and over again? Seriously, I don't think I could handle another "move that box to this other spot" puzzle, ever. They just kept happening. I thought "Surely, that was the last one" and then OH GOD A BOX-SHAPED HOLE PLEASE GOD NO.

There are non-box puzzles, too. And many of them are quite good! However, they are too few and far between. The best puzzles are the ones that have the player actually manipulating pieces of the environment in order to line things up or create new passageways. Still, none of them feel all too challenging and thus there is no feeling of accomplishment afterward.

There is one area that truly does feel rewarding: exploration. Much of Hob is spent running around and figuring out where to go next. Really, it's just "run into a lot of dead ends until you don't," but holy cow the game is too beautiful to care. There are never really multiple paths to take, but learning the map and finding smaller nooks and crannies, often with a reward of currency bits, feels pretty good. Learning the map is its own reward, as it allows the player to avoid wasted time of heading into dead ends they've already been down.

As lame as solving most of the puzzles is, the reward for doing so is often almost worth it. Hob's world is constantly changing due to the player's actions. Watching the terrain mechanically change as if it were the innards of a giant machine is thrilling and provides some of the greatest vistas in recent memory.

It's perhaps due to the absolutely stunning visuals that the game's user interface looks like utter dogshit. When using the menu or purchasing upgrades, the game devolves into a Ludum Dare-esque quality title. It looks like Microsoft Word text boxes inserted over placeholder art from week one of development. The game also does not accommodate a mouse and keyboard very well when browsing the pause menu; it's baffling how something so simple is not well implemented.

Hob tries to do a lot of things within its beautiful world but never does any of them very well. The platforming feels janky and slow, combat is basic and meaningless, and the puzzles will make you wish you were back in 10th grade listening to your Geometry teacher explain proofs for the millionth time. A great game was not too far away from what eventually was delivered, but outside of the stunning visuals and world design, Hob falls frustratingly short.

[This review is based on a retail version of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Hob reviewed by Patrick Hancock



An exercise in apathy, neither solid nor liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.
How we score:  The Destructoid reviews guide


Patrick Hancock
Patrick HancockContributor   gamer profile

During the day, he teaches high school kids about history. At night he kicks their butts in competitive games like Rocket League, Dota 2, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike. Disclosure: I've persona... more + disclosures



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    Filed under... #Action #Adventure #Indie #PC #Reviews #Steam #Xbox One



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