Reviews// Hob

Posted 30 Oct 2017 10:12 by
I am hopelessly lost in Hob's fascinating mechanical world and I couldn't be happier.

Hob from Runic Games, the makers of the Torchlight games, sees you playing as a small cloaked wanderer who, within minutes of playing, loses an arm to a hostile, purple plant monster, only to have it replaced with a giant robotic arm donated by a massive robot (that reminds me of the guardians from Studio Ghibli's Laputa - Castle in The Sky).

This gifted arm isn't pure charity, though, because through gestures and a subtle but effective tutorial section your robot companion gets you started on your journey and, as you inevitably loop back on yourself, will continue to point you toward new objectives. The world of Hob is very much broken and it is your task to put the pieces back together in a wonderfully complex mechanical fashion.

This world is mechanical in nature and you can flip switches in sequence or use the strength in your donated arm to slide pieces of it together. It may feel like you're working on a small section, only for a whole section of the map to change before your eyes as ancient piece of machinery crash together or plunge below the surface and new land masses appear.

As you explore the over-world you'll regularly find small dungeons or hidden nooks that provide upgrades or, in the case of dungeons, new abilities for your robot arm. Each new ability unlocks more options for repairing the over-world, and the dungeons also serve the purpose of teaching you how to use new abilities and what to look for once you get back to the surface. During exploration it is a good rule of thumb that if you see something that feels like it should be interactive but you don't get a button prompt when near it, you're probably right but just don't have the ability yet. If you look around the area or just keep exploring you'll probably find the dungeon with the ability stashed away inside.

There isn't much explicit storytelling in Hob, most of it is inferred through environmental design. At first I thought this would limit my interest in the game, but then I found that the intrigue of the puzzles and figuring out how the chunks of world fit together were more than enough to keep me interested.

There is a fair amount of combat in Hob. It follows a hack'n'slash formula that works well, but is probably the least exciting part of the game for me. You upgrade your sword and unlock a variety of new abilities or combo extensions and augments.

There is also the classic element of learning attack patterns and move sets for each enemy, but I almost always felt like this was getting in the way of exploring. I played this on PC but the game recommends that you use a gamepad and I echo that suggestion - the PC controls work, but they feel cumbersome next to the smooth experience a gamepad will give you. This is especially true for the frequent platforming sections that benefit from the range of motion analogue sticks give.

The stylised visuals and intricate mechanical movements underpinning the environments combine to make Hob graphically appealing on all fronts. There is a distinctly nostalgic sense to the flow of the game that calls to mind games like The Legend of Zelda and Metroid. If you crave a game that feeds your need to explore and sense of wonder I think you'd enjoy Hob a lot. Don't worry about missing something and just let the game (and your gut) take you where it will.

Pros:
+ Outstanding sense of discovery through exploration
+ Each change in environment inspires awe
+ Smooth gamepad controls
+ The world is intriguing without being explicit with story...

Cons:
- ...Although some may need a more on the nose narrative to maintain interest
- Keyboard and Mouse controls are cumbersome

SPOnG Score: 8/10
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