Earlier this year Zelda Breath of the Wild took the gaming world by storm, it’s stunning open world that encouraged independence through its gameplay was a sheer delight. Hob, the new title from Runic Games (Torchlight 1 & 2) is the closest experience I’ve had to the Zelda design in a long time, but brings enough of its own character to really stand out from the crowd.
Defining the genre in which Hob sits in isn’t exactly easy, on one hand, it’s a semi-open world exploration game full of environmental puzzles, on the other hand, it’s an isometric action adventure that features some light platforming. In truth, it’s kinda a combination of all, and although you’d think all these mechanics would create a mess of a game, they actually merge together to bring a compelling adventure.
In Hob, you play as a journey-like hooded character, also like journey Hob doesn’t feature any dialog. All interaction and storytelling are done through character animations and the environmental landscape. This is really the only area where Hob feels a little lost, on several occasions a character would simply point in a direction, which you’re not only supposed to follow but also work out what to do when you get there. This lack of direction sometimes leads to you wandering confused through Hob industrious landscape, and although these landscapes a stunning, feeling lost isn’t a lot of fun.
As I just mentioned, Hob plays out in an industrious world, which acts as a narrative in its own right. So often I wondered what had happened to this section of the map, and although this intrigue was never really answered, the environment still does a good job in telling a story. But it’s not their storytelling you’ll remember the environments of Hob for, that’ll be down to the huge puzzles they offer, and it’s this puzzle solving that acts as the main gameplay loop.
As you explore the world of Hob you’ll often hit a wall that stops your progress, to move further you’ll need to go head to a new area, restore the power to that area, return to the ‘wall’ you hit, progress further and repeat all over again. If you think this sounds repetitive, then that’s because it is, but never feels repetitive. This is mostly down to the design of the multilayered puzzle you’ll be solving and the encounters of the various enemies you’ll come across.
The combat in Hob is pretty simple but satisfying. You only have a handful of attacks at your disposal and an evasive roll mechanic, but some of the enemies hit pretty hard and require more caution than first meets the eye. In classic Zelda fashion, there are health upgrades, which can be found in magical looking plants scattered across the world, but it’s not just your health that can be upgraded. I suppose nows a good-a-time as any to mentions your game-defining mechanical arm.
Very early in the game you’re given a mechanical arm by a very friendly robot and it’s this mechanical arm that’s your main tool in Hob. As you progress you’ll gain new abilities for the arm, allowing you to smash through walls, interact with objects and traverse with the use of a grappling hook. There are other augmentations available in Hob with not only change your appearance but also focus more emphasis on either your attacks or evasive maneuvers.
Hob is a bold and ambitious game that never feels out of its depth. You don’t have to look very hard to see how much inspiration the game draws from the Zelda series, but doesn’t feel like a rip-off, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Hob stands tall on its own and is an adventure game I’d recommend anyone to play, especially if you are a fan of the Zelda series.