Imagine waking up one day to find your world in shambles. Machines have taken over. Nature is corrupt and fading. What do you do? Well, if your name is Hob, you get out there and save it!
Hob is an upcoming adventure game from the developers of the excellent Torchlight series, Runic Games. Similar to games like Journey and Shadow of the Colossus, it shuns dialogue and instead opts for an alien world to relay its story to you.
The world’s mysteries are revealed to you as you interact with its inhabitants, solve its puzzles, and uncover its treasures. You navigate the character, Hob, through a top-down perspective not unlike the camera in Torchlight, but the gameplay similarities stop there.
Combat is to be played cautiously, staying back, evading/blocking, and getting a few nicks in with your sword when you can. When you earn yourself an opening, Hob has a magical glove that can be used a few different ways to devastating effect.
Holding down the glove button initiates a charge attack. Hob is vulnerable during charging, but if the attack lands it lands hard. Giving yourself an aerial advantage will allow you to ground pound the enemy to great effect. The glove’s dodge has Hob roll into the enemy, stunning them for a few precious seconds. I found this move to be my ace-in-the-hole. It allows me to take advantage of poor enemy placement or even to give myself a moment fall back and rethink my strategy or replenish my health bar.
Each of the gloves’ combat skills have alternate uses as exploration and puzzle-solving tools. Uses involve activating buttons, punching through walls, smashing through the floor, and even turning on checkpoints. Hidden routes are peppered throughout Hob’s world. Those who use the glove to explore off of the beaten path will be rewarded with upgrades.
Solving puzzles will begin to return the world back to its natural state. The more you solve, the more you will begin to unravel how the machines came to power in the first place. It’s an engaging way to tell a story, as you are always in control of the character; consistently paying attention to the screen.
Keeping your eyes off the screen is going to be hard enough as it is – Hob’s art style is one of the greatest uses of cel-shading that I have ever seen. The eerie planet needing to be explored feels much more inviting when the dark shadows are contrasted with the bright browns and greens the style provides. Less used colors such as red or purple truly pop, helping the world do the storytelling by highlighting points of interest.
I ran into Hob by accident on the PAX East show floor. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up making an appointment to play it again the next day and to discuss it with the team. The game is coming to Steam and PlayStation 4 later this year.