Developer: Silicon Knights
Release Date: May 2008
A lot of speculation has gone into the fate of Too Human, the newest title from Silicon Knights that hasn't even sniffed store shelves yet. It's one of Microsoft's big spring titles, so gamers have been waiting with bated breath for a game that plans to mesh Norse mythology with a sci-fi storyline. After a less-than-stellar E3 showing in 2006, details have slowed to a trickle, and recently at GDC, Microsoft decided to finally pull back the curtain on their new baby. What they revealed is a title that will likely delight fans of games like Mass Effect, but will unlikely be able to knock the collective gaming world on its knees.
The little bit of story information we have on Too Human is this that you play as the cybernetically enhanced god Baldur, sent to Earth to help the Aesir battle the Emir. The Aesir have used cybernetics to augment their natural abilities, while the Emir created machines to carry on war for them. Assuming they could defeat the Emir once and for all, the Aesir detonated several nuclear weapons and plunged the world into a new global Ice Age, termed Thimble Winter. However, the plan didn't truly work because while the Emir were destroyed, their machines fight on.
When starting out, players can select one of five character classes (Berserker, Bioengineer, Champion, Commando and Defender), with more to be made available via downloadable content. Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses, so that Berserkers are pure melee fighters while Bioengineers are healers and mages. There is no traditional mana system, but defeated enemies drop health refills and "mana fuel." Once you lock in your character, the skill tree becomes available, with specific skills available to each class. This system lends to obvious replay opportunities, and I'm willing to put money on several Achievements being unlocked through playing with different character classes. This is one aspect of the title where the similarities to Mass Effect are more than obvious.
Combat in the game is done in real time, with both melee and ranged elements. In the demo, Baldur was able to juggle foes with dual pistols from afar, and then dash in close to hack them with his sword. There is no ammo per se, but instead your ranged weapons recharge over time. However, if you aren't playing with a specific character class, guns are pretty weak, so you're going to have to wade in there and get down and dirty with the bad guys. Wading into fights will be a heart-pumping experience, as Silicon Knights is promising to have anywhere between 50 to 70 enemies onscreen at a time, with each having its own unique AI that will strategize the best way to attack you.
As you progress through Too Human, the story unfolds in a couple of different ways. Obviously, the events taking place currently shape your understanding of the situation, but there is also an elaborate flashback system, in which Baldur delves into cyberspace, a virtual world that takes him back to the way the planet was before the Thimble Winter. During these sequences, Baldur gains access to new abilities, and interacting with items such as doors and levers in cyberspace will have an implications on what's happening in the real world.
In addition to learning powers in cyberspace, Baldur can also pick up runes and items to further augment his power. Collecting loot sets actually grants the player an even greater attribute bonus, so there's a lot of reward for the thorough explorer. All of this item collection may sound like a headache, but the whole thing is streamlined through an auto-salvage system that, when turned on, will automatically convert your worst items into cash.
Microsoft has been touting the Too Human's visuals, and it is nice to see a title where there's nary a load screen beyond the initial start-up. The graphics are nice but not overwhelming, as some time has passed since the 2006 unveiling, and a couple of years are an eon in game development time. The game's sound is functional, with a nice score and a lot of teammate chatter.
Microsoft is staking quite a bit on Too Human and has already laid out plans to present the IP as a trilogy. In order for that to happen, it's going to have to break out of the Mass Effect shadow and show why it's a stellar game in its own right. This is definitely a title to keep your eye on, and Microsoft is promising a playable demo on Xbox Live later this spring. If the demo manages to really shine, then the title will likely go straight to the top of the must-buy list.
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