Hob Review – Reclaiming A Beautiful World

Desolation
and solitude permeate Hob, the beautiful new top-down, exploration-heavy action
title from Torchlight developer Runic Games. In this sprawling adventure, you
guide a small, isolated character across a dangerous world to reactivate
ancient technology and restore the world to its former glory. Uncovering the
world’s secrets requires you to explore a big map, delve deep into mechanical
dungeons, and battle hostile inhabitants in an experience rich in mystery.

You
spend most of your time exploring Hob’s world, unlocking new areas as you
reactivate the ancient machines housed in the dungeons. Drawing heavy
inspiration from The Legend of Zelda series, the typical loop consists of
finding the entrance to the next dungeon and solving puzzles to power the door
to gain access and complete the subterranean puzzles before moving on to the
next area. While you have a map to get your character in the correct general
area, you need to rely on environmental clues to reach your objective.

Hob
masterfully scatters visual cues that entice you to search areas that feel off
the beaten path. I didn’t mind letting distractions pull me away from my main objectives;
I not only relished the opportunity to further envelop myself in the beautiful
environment, but these areas often turned out to be essential. Any time a path
didn’t further my progress, it often gave me items like ability orbs, health
upgrades, or sword upgrades.

This
element makes exploration even more exciting, as I never knew what sought-after
components would be waiting in the next cavern. Each time I gathered enough
ability orbs, I enjoyed scurrying back to the workshop to bolster my abilities,
like a more powerful punch attack or a better dodge-roll. I also unlocked
special cloaks that sacrifice energy for added health or vice-versa, as well as
important new abilities like teleportation and a grappling hook.

You’re
commonly given a waypoint on the map, but you can’t simply follow it to your
destination. I initially struggled with the exploration of Hob, since the most
obvious routes are often obstructed, so you need to perform seemingly unrelated
tasks to gain access to your objective. The payoff of finally figuring out
where you need to go is always great, but I spent hours early on wandering
aimlessly and making little progress. In these moments, I felt hopeless and
frustrated as path after path wound up a dead-end.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Once I
better understood how to traverse the map, progress was much easier. I learned
to look for weak spots in walls to punch through, or more complex situations like
using a grapple point to reach a cube that can be plugged into a switch to open
an area. Figuring out Hob’s tricks allowed me to build up some momentum and
clear out portions of the map.

Though
Hob leans more heavily on exploration than the Zelda series, you encounter
enemies regularly. Combat typically consists of goading your enemy into
attacking so you can dodge and counter using quick sword slashes or a
powerhouse robot arm. While I like having both attacks at my disposal, I wish
Hob allowed more worthwhile options for stringing together the two attack types
in satisfying combinations. The most effective combos typically come from using
the same attack repeatedly, making for less engaging fights.

With
its watercolor aesthetic and rich contrasts, Hob is undeniably gorgeous. I love
how you can find viewpoints that allow you to look out and appreciate how
visually appealing every piece of this world is. However, Hob’s beauty is
diminished by camera issues stemming from the fixed isometric view. Problematic
angles make occasional platforming challenges difficult, and trees and cliffs
often obstructed the action, forcing me to fruitlessly fidget with the camera to
get a better view. The framerate is also distractingly inconsistent when a lot
is happening, which combines with the bad angles to rob Hob’s world of its
beauty.

The
technical issues don’t stop with the visuals. On multiple occasions, I walked
through walls or fell through the ground. In addition, I also encountered
egregious glitches like invisible enemies or turning my character a blinding
white color because of a disrupted teleportation.

Despite
its technical hiccups and frustrating early hours, Hob is a worthwhile
experience that rewards ardent explorers and delivers an exciting mystery to
unravel. Each conquered dungeon feels like a mini triumph as you watch the
desolate and dying world come back to life, and I loved the sense of wonder and
each “a-ha” moment of discovery. Even after I finished the main story of Hob, I
was excited to jump back in and search for more secrets hidden within the
world.


Source: Game Informer