It’s always a good thing to see a company taking risks. It happens so rarely anymore with companies simply releasing the same game year after year. But can you blame them? It’s a safe and easy way to make money, and the chances of failure are low. But Runic Games, the makers of Torchlight and Torchlight II, are attempting to buck that trend with their new game, Hob.
The Torchlight series of ARPG’s have been extremely well received and drastically filled a void that the Diablo games had left empty for some time. However, Diablo 3 has changed significantly since its launch, and Runic no longer saw the need for a new Torchlight game right now. Hence, it was time to take a risk and work on a passion project: Hob.
Hob is extremely difficult game to describe. It’s an open world, puzzle, platformer, adventure, exploration, action, role-playing game. I think I got them all… At PAX Prime, Bill Murphy and I got some hands on time with Hob in a roughly fifteen minute demo, which did a great job trying to help you figure out just what exactly you’re seeing. Starting off, the graphics are simply beautiful. Granted, this is purely opinion based, but I think just about anyone would find them charming. You play as a small little guy with a giant “Hellboy”-esque arm. According to the developer, this arm will slowly be upgraded throughout the game, giving it different skills and attributes. In our short demo the arm acted as a shield, a key, a weapon, and a grappling hook. All of that in 15 minutes.
But just what is the point of Hob? Adventure and discovery. The main goal of Hob is to fix the world. How did it break? That’s for YOU to find out. Hob is a very different type of game. There are no NPCs or dialogue to spell out the story of this world for you. It is something you will have to discover on your own as you fix the world. The lore and story will simply unfold before you if you look hard enough, as there are secrets to find just about everywhere. In our short 15 minute play session, Bill Murphy missed SEVERAL secrets, mostly because he’s bad at games [Editor - It's true.], but also because the game wants you to explore.
As you fix the world, the landscape will shift around you. This also changed gameplay and the game mechanics, as we saw the game switch from action RPG to a platformer almost instantly. Mechanics also like to find their ways in to sections of that game you wouldn’t normally expect. After our arm was given the upgrade to be used as a grappling hook of sorts, we traversed the land using this new mechanic for quite some time until we were introduced to other new mechanics, which we then used for quite some time, right up until we almost forgot about our grappling hook. Then we came face to face with a large monster that we couldn’t seem to hurt with our tiny sword. The game provided no tips or hints on how to defeat this beast, that is, until you looked closer. The trick was to use the grappling hook on the boss to remove his armor and then attack his vulnerable body. The only hint was a very small version of the “grappling hook” nodes you used to swing around the world quite a few minutes before, barely in sight, hiding on the knees of this monster. It’s a concept take right out of Zelda, but the game’s pacing helps trick you in to having to figure out the puzzle.
Both Bill and I were thoroughly impressed with Hob, but the developers are keeping their mouths shut on many of the game’s other aspects. Their main focus was, “This is a game of discovery, and we want to make sure you discover it for yourselves.” Well, I know we can’t wait, so I guess it’s time to break into Runic Games’ studios. Not really. But really... Hob is due out "TBD", and we'll be keeping a close eye on the game's progress.