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неделя, 25 март 2018 г.

Hob - The power to change the world




Among all the great games and things in general, which happened in 2017, there were also some unfortunate events for the industry. One of those is the closing of Runic, creators of the Torchlight series. But before their end, they managed to finish something people were waiting for long time - Hob.

When you create two games which are similar in many ways you want a change. You want something new, different, something that has nothing to do with your previous creations. This pretty much was Runic's explanation why they have decided to make adventure game with puzzles and a lot of exploration. Have they managed to do it when they have made only ARPGs? Read on...


The power to change the world

In many games you can argue that your actions change the world. And in many they does indeed. Wars are waged, villages are burned, people are killed, even worlds and galaxies are saved or doomed. But in none of the games I have played I've been able to change the landscape of the world. In Hob you can. And what is more amazing is that you can not because you are almighty hero who can deliver blows powerful enough to bring down mountains, but you can because the world of Hob is one huge, intricate machine. An artificial world a lot like the one in Terry Pratchett's  "Strata" or even Douglas Adams's "The Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy". A world where thunderstorms fall around field sized power generators and valves the size of houses need to be turned for new regions of the world to be risen and become accessible. It can hardly be described in words and you must see it to appreciate not only how awesome it is as an idea, but also how well it is accomplished. And because a mechanical planet built by robots is not enough there are also hidden beautiful vistas, a lot like in a real world. 



The topic of changing the world can also be found in the story of the game. The great world and civilization of the robots is invaded by unknown evil, spreading across their world destroying both them and the nature, twisting and driving creatures mad. After you are touched by this corruption you are saved by one of the surviving robots. He cuts your infected arm and replaces it with his own thus giving you some super powers. This is interesting moment as the robot in typical for a machine, cold manner judges that the best action is to cut your arm without you even have a chance to say something about it, but then he sacrifices his own arm so you are able to keep on. Your task is to fight the corruption and free the world of this blight. You must change it/return it back to healthy state. The whole story of the game is told without a single word and much is revealed through exploration. Not forcing you to seek it, but there if you want to know it.

Fighting the baddies, exploring and some issues

Hob is not an intense game. This goes for both exploration and fighting. This does not mean the game is boring, no, quite the opposite. What I am trying to say is that the game will never forcefully push you forward, instead you are let to do everything at your own pace. Wander around, look for collectibles, go forward, return later, whatever you wish. And as for fighting - the game is a lot more about waiting for the right time to attack than rushing and mashing buttons until everything dies. Smaller enemies while easy to kill on their own often will come in groups and your shield will protect only from attacks coming to your front so be careful to where you turn your back. Big enemies will need a lot more effort on other hand, even when there are only one or two of them. The game offers good amount of different opponents with new ones popping often enough for the fights to not become tedious and repetitive.  As for skills you will collect green orbs from fallen foes and hidden statues and with these orbs you will unlock new skills for Hob. You will also be able to upgrade your sword by finding fragments in the world and even increase your maximum life. 
Exploration is rewarding business in Hob, it brings lot more than beautiful vistas and meetings with weird wildlife.




Speaking about exploration. The world of the game is separated in zones which need to be unlocked in order to be accessed. That usually will include fighting a boss and solving a bunch of puzzles. Your exploration often will be hindered by puzzles and this is where few of the problems of the game come. First Hob is close to unplayable with mouse and keyboard. The battles are ok, but the good amount of platforming and the tight controls needed for it will quickly make you plug in a game pad. 
Second problem of the game is its map. The world of Hob is vast and interconnected and you will often backtrack around when you go for collectibles. The problem is that the features of the world are not shown clearly enough on the map and you will literally need time to get used to the map and zoom in on it so you can better judge is the collectible shown next to you on the map is really close to you or you will have to backtrack zone and a half to get to it. So be prepared for some pointless wandering back and forth trying to figure how to get to the place you want or need to go. 



Conclusion

Hob is not revolutionary game, but neither it was Torchlight. But Torchlight were well made games and Hob continues this trend showing that the people at Runic knew what they are doing. 
Hob is beautiful and charming, bit at the same time cruel and dangerous of the unwary. It is not a long game with its 7 zones it will take you around 30 or so hours to finish but in this time you have the pleasure to wander in one unique world which will challenge your wits, patience and fighting prowess. 
We can only wonder what other great worlds Runic could have made if the studio continued to exist.

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