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September 2018


Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: RPG/Action
Developer: Runic Games
Release Date: Sept. 26, 2017


PS4/PC Preview - 'Hob'

by Adam Pavlacka on Dec. 7, 2015 @ 12:15 a.m. PST

Hob is a vibrant, suspenseful adventure game where, as players delve into the mysteries around them, they discover a planet in peril. Can it be mended, or will the world fall further into chaos?

First announced by Runic at PAX Prime, Hob was announced as a time-limited PlayStation 4 console exclusive at this weekend's PlayStation Experience. It seems that the team at Sony liked what it saw at PAX so much that it wanted to ensure that the PS4 had it before the Xbox One. After playing the demo at PlayStation Experience, I can't say that I blame them. Hob looks and plays like one of those magical games that everyone ends up talking about.

I first noticed Hob during the keynote. Sony had a lot of games on display during its presser, but one stood out from the rest. There were plenty of flashy visuals on the big screen, but there was something about Hob that made it memorable. The stylized artwork, the transforming world and the stark contrasts between the lush forests and the clockwork mechanisms all combine to give Hob a look that is simultaneously original and completely familiar. Any individual element here could have been inspired by any number of fantasy stories, yet the combination used isn't like any other.

You take control of an unnamed character who needs to make his way through a mysterious and dangerous world. The story is told completely via exploration and the actions that happen on-screen. Unlike Runic's Torchlight games, there is no text or voice exposition in Hob. It's a very visual way of conveying thoughts and ideas and isn't without risk, though if done right, it is one of the most powerful ways to tell a story.

Only one level was on display at PlayStation Experience, and it only took a few minutes to play through. For such a small slice of the game, it was surprising how well that short demo conveyed the feeling of an awesome adventure.

The level was designed as a large loop, so that the end of the level was actually right at the beginning. You couldn't just "cheat" and hop right through the exit door because, among other things, Hob takes inspiration from the Metroidvania genre and requires players to earn specific upgrades to access new areas. In this way, you'll be able to explore the open environments of Hob without being about to skip the meat and potatoes.

Traversing the environment felt very intuitive, with things like climbing paths being obvious parts of the environment. The key thing here is that although they were obvious, they were only obvious because of the design of the environment. Runic didn't have to resort to tricks like glowing vines or oddly colored areas to let the player know they could interact. It's more along the lines of "if it looks like you can climb it, you can climb it."

Combat was similarly intuitive, with creatures that could be attacked via the tools at your disposal. For example, one of the tools I acquired during the demo was an energy grapple. This could be used for traversal, but when I found myself facing off against a large opponent with armored knees, I was also able to put the grapple to use. There were no on-screen indicators telling me to use it, but logically, it made sense. If I could pull things off walls with the grapple, I should be able to pull off armor. I tried it, and it just worked. It's always a good feeling when game actions do exactly what you expect.

Ultimately, what I saw was a very small slice of Hob, and it still has a long way to go before it's ready to ship, but if the full game lives up to the vertical slice that Runic presented at PlayStation Experience, it will end up as a must-play experience.

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