I went into Hob the same way I do most indie titles that I play. By being drawn to its aesthetic and art style along with interesting gameplay. I knew little to nothing about Runic games and its past work in the Torchlight series aside from the name ringing familiar. Though after playing Hob I feel as if I should revisit their older titles based off the strengths and quality that their newest offering contains. I’ve seen many liken it to the Zelda series, which is something I am not equipped to draw from since my experience is limited to The Legend of Zelda gold cartridge. Nonetheless in my mind Hob stands on its own two feet with no need of referring to past gaming inspirations. Showcasing its puzzle platformer mechanics and progression dependency on exploration, Hob blends these elements to provide an intriguing gameplay experience.
The world of Hob is a living breathing puzzle with its solution shrouded in mystery from the moment you are tasked to solve it. The developers took this secrecy to heart when constructing the story that goes along with the setting. As the entire campaign is void of dialogue, written, spoken or otherwise. Any information that needs to be presented is done so with in game characters passing off gestures, camera pans and environmental exploration. Including one of the best uses of in game hint subtlety I’ve come across in form of the small wildlife will hop in the direction you are supposed to go in the event of getting lost. Granted, putting the pieces together story wise so to speak is an intriguing part of the journey but did come with a mild drawback during my playthrough. Early on when just becoming familiar with the world and the mechanics of it, I did find myself come to a standstill a few times. Being unacquainted with the environment and what exactly I should have been looking for did cause delays in my progression. Nothing that was game breaking from an immersion standpoint but surely lended itself to brief moments of frustration. Aside from that, Runic did a great job with creating a story that was delivered in a minimalistic and precise way but spoke volumes on how the player interprets it and develops their own conclusion.
With the story of Hob presenting itself in such an understated fashion the gameplay and core mechanics are brought to the forefront. Inside of the lush, beautifully created world, the landscape provides a varied map that is ripe of puzzles and exploration. As it is, these are the two elements that are the most dominant within the gameplay. They use and play off of each other in a way that shows there couldn’t be one without the other. Progression weighs heavily on both, whether it be finding a secret area to acquire collectables and upgrades or simply creating a path to continue on to your objective. Which is where the puzzles and environment steal the show. All puzzles are linked to an environmental change that can totally alter how you perceive and traverse the world. Which in turn leads to plenty platforming opportunities to add to the list of mechanics. Although Hob, while solid, didn’t have fine tuned platforming that a true platformer would. Problematic controls during these sections did arise but in the end was more annoying than anything. Of course no journey to save your home would be complete without resistance. There are plenty of enemies scattered about your path that provide some fun combat situations. As you progress farther into the game enemies grow larger and require varying approaches into how they should be dealt with. Luckily the upgrades for your weapon found throughout the world as well as schematics for multiple combat abilities allows you flexibility in your tactics. The combat mechanics always felt responsive and rewarding, especially since many altercations were reliant on timing and reaction.
I purposely was vague when talking about the story of Hob. I feel as if it is one better gone into without much knowledge behind it. Although after experiencing the game the story won’t be what stands out the most. The imagination and inventiveness of Runic games in regards to the game world should be applauded. How the world transforms and reveals itself based off of the completion of puzzles is fun to watch. Leaving cause to constantly explore and wonder what may have been missed. Fun gameplay, intriguing story, beautiful art style and genius level design overshadow its minor flaws and beckons to be played after finishing to hunt out any uncovered secrets.
DEVELOPER: RUNIC GAMES
RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 26, 2017
AVAILABLE ON: PS4 & STEAM
DISCLAIMER: THIS GAME WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER FOR REVIEW PURPOSES