Every now and again, gems emerge in the oversaturated independent games industry, and even a player who avoids everything that doesn’t begin with the initials AAA should be unaffected. Undertale, Stardew Valley, Shadow Tactics, and now Hob are just a few examples.
Runic Games’ developers concentrated on mystery. Our red-robed hero appears from the shadows, allegedly called by a robot guardian. We shortly discover that we are not the only daring, and the area, which appears to be green at first look, is infested with purple corruption and creatures. We also get a mechanical arm as a result of an unfortunate error that allows us to interact with the surrounding machines. The developers are able to transmit a great deal of information using very basic ways – everything is delivered without the need of a single word. All you need is the proper camera angle, tracking the robot, and paying great attention to the happenings. Nobody says anything to us, and we don’t read any writing, yet we know what to do and where to do it practically quickly. The objective is simple: remove the contaminants.
The Legend of Zelda series was definitely the most crucial inspiration for the makers of Hob – and it’s not only about the ability to chop grass with a sword. We enter a semi-open world, witness the action from above in third person, and as we explore succeeding places, we get special abilities that allow us to reach previously unreachable areas. The described world is most likely the most powerful part of the production, impacting all of its components. The lack of loading windows simply confirms that we have reached a major milestone. The locales are built in the style of a massive mechanical clock, complete with moving features and sections that we operate while solving logical puzzles. We also travel “behind the scenes,” or underground, on occasion. Developers can demonstrate more of the intricate mechanism that powers what we see on the surface here. Similar to how we learn the mysteries of Aperture in the Portal series. Runic, by blending nature with pistons, platforms, and teleportation, also provides a considerably broader range of landscapes and difficulties. The “semi-open” format implies that the main campaign guides the player pretty linearly – we never have to think too hard about where to go next. This is a good idea because the prepared area is incredibly big and looks something from a much larger budgeted production. At the same time, we have the option of deviating from the established path at any point and exploring optional locations and dungeons.
It will take us a dozen or so hours to collect all of the treasures. We find special temples with information about the storyline and history of the land, as well as goods that enhance health points and a particular skill meter, similar to Zelda. There is also a very deep system of character evolution and development. We employ shards obtained across the globe to develop the mechanical gauntlet, unlocking new abilities. There’s also a lot of fighting. Another surprise is the extension of this feature – the number of various opponents is very astounding, each with a unique method of murdering us. You must utilize a different approach against each adversary, which might be challenging at times, especially when fighting in tight spaces. There are cannon fodder and larger monsters, armored beasts that fly, spit, and bomb. Even if you can just sprint past most of the fights, it’s difficult to grow bored. Hob’s visuals are really fantastic. Pastel hues and powerful cel-shading helped the creators to save a lot of money while also ensuring that the game would look beautiful in five years – this style never goes out of style. The animations are fluid and lively, and the sights are breathtaking. The moving of large parts of the earth when challenges are solved and equipment is restarted is particularly stunning. The total simplicity of the soundtrack and weird dips between 30 and 60 frames per second are minor drawbacks – it’s worth turning off vertical synchronization.
We do not have control over the camera. On the one hand, this is the correct technique since it allows you to better direct the action and shift shots in an innovative way, moving from a TPP view to traditional platforming from the side. On the other hand, visibility issues are common in this situation. Runic Games, on the other hand, deserves credit for improving the shots. Although we will almost likely tumble into the abyss multiple times owing to improper calculation of the leap angle, the scenario is nearly always portrayed clearly and the viewpoint seldom makes exploring difficult. Fortunately, the checkpoints are numerous, so we can go back to the action soon.
Hob demonstrates that Early Access and big Kickstarter campaigns are not required to create an independent game that is indistinguishable from projects with significantly higher resources. The scope of the project, the degree of polish, the setting match, the multiplicity of gaming mechanics, the diversity of riddles and combat – you can’t overlook Runic Games’ new project.