BELOW Review

 

 

enter below
whatliesbelow.com

I usually love when a game takes awhile to be made. There is that hope they will use that extra time to fix all the game’s technical issues. Now I know this isn’t always true. A game can still have technical and gameplay problems. After spending five years in development BELOW is an example with the latter problem of gameplay issues.

BELOW is an aesthetically pleasing game capturing the dark and moody vibe you would expect from delving into a dungeon below a cave. It’s dark, dreary, wet, and just all-around brooding in its atmosphere. But it is in BELOW’s slow-paced gameplay where the game falters. Few encounters are challenging, aspects of gameplay are poorly explained, while still being strong staples of the roguelite genre. So, it does have functioning gameplay, but all it offers is a surface level understanding of its mechanics.

BELOW’s story is ambiguous. Like very ambiguous. And there are only a handful of small hints as to what the story is about. You’re a warrior/adventurer who has sailed to this dreary island and you enter the cave and delve its depths. For what, who knows. Possibly for these little light crystals that fuel a strange lantern on your belt.

symbols in the depth
whatliesbelow.com

The world you enter into in BELOW is dark. And I mean very dark and foreboding atmosphere which I really dig. Especially, with a title like BELOW your game’s aesthetic better be dark and foreboding. Several dark colors and hues. Many of the areas of the depths are VERY dark for obvious reasons. The game uses darkness quite well to capture that feeling of being lost and surviving in the depths.

BELOW is largely absent of music. Music only occurs at the campfire. What little music there is, is very ethereal, yet brooding. Plenty of cave sound effects such as dripping water, echoes and ambient silence. The sound of your sword whooshing through grass and bouncing off stone and metal are all there and they sound amazing as they echo through the depths. Creature sounds are fitting with screeches and clicks you would associate with creatures that live in the dark. Much like its visuals BELOW has excellent sound aesthetics.

While BELOW excels in its aesthetics, it struggles with its gameplay. And it isn’t so much that it lacks function or form. It more so fails to explain its own mechanics. It has your typical survival/ rougelite elements. Hunger and thirst management are important. Permadeath with the ability to find your body with your old equipment. Fighting is standard action game combat. Sword and shield with a three-swing combo. Doesn’t seem to be any more complicated than that. All of the usual mechanics are there.

campfire
whatliesbelow.com

One of the more unique mechanics BELOW has is the little lantern hanging from your waist. By collecting the little light crystals that I mentioned at the start you can fuel this lantern as a much needed light source in the depths when you don’t have torch. These crystals are mainly gathered by killing enemies. But beyond being a source of light and somehow imoportant to the story, I don’t see what else the lantern offers in gameplay.

You can find materials in the depths to create equipment like arrows and torches. Can even craft ingredients into other ingredients. For example, three embers can be turned into a pile of phosphorus for explosives. There is a campfire that functions as a resting space to create equipment and cook more nourishing food. It makes finding ingredients important and use the  You do play as a slightly different character for each run. The garb and style of dressing is the same, but with slightly different patterns and colors.

One of BELOW’s other drawbacks is its slow pacing bordering on boring. There are things to do in most of the rooms in the depths, but nothing really stands out. The pacing in the survival is also completely off. Very little food ever shows up. Which is understandable with a roguelite game, but it feels so inconsistent that it is the reason for me dying in every run I played through. Every other resource is in available enough to survive even a little bit. I just wish food sources could be gathered and found more often, so my deaths aren’t only caused by one condition.

Does a very poor job of explaining its own mechanics. I get what the game is telling me in what it is doing, but I still feel like I’m not entirely sure what exactly is happening. The one mechanic in particular with a lack of explanation was playing through an old run. The campfire before entering the cave is able to be turned a blue color and once you do it transports you to an alternate cave…I think.

creatures of the depth
whatliesbelow.com

All I know is as I explored I found my old body. I’m going to assume this was my old run. I’m not sure if I had continued without messing with the flame if it would have been a fresh run without my characters old body and stuff. But this moment is one of many in which the game doesn’t go out of the way to explain itself. I’m still determining if it’s good or bad.

BELOW’s aesthetic is impressive. There is no doubt about that. It captures the oppressiveness of darkness in the cold depths of an increasingly dangerous cave. And its gameplay mechanics are incredibly easy to use and fitting for a roguelite. But, the pace is insanely slow and those gameplay mechanics are poorly explained, to the point of confusion. I still don’t entirely understand what I’m doing when I interact with certain parts of the game. I know I did something, but I’m not sure what exactly it is I did. I’m really mixed about this one. It isn’t a terrible game. It could just be better.

No Man’s Sky Review

 

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*Note: I played the PS4 version of this game which has huge performance differences compared to the PC version.

No Man’s Sky is a game with a very complicated history. Like it or not the game garnered a huge amount of controversy due to the developer and creators over hyped talk of the game as it leads up to launch. And when it finally came out it failed to deliver on most, if not all, of its promises.

My own experience with the game wasn’t nearly as devastating as some folk’s experiences. I kind of enjoyed my time with it, but everything about the game at the time was so shallow I got bored with the game very easily. Since then there have been several free updates and with the release of No Man’s Sky: Next the game received a huge booster to the games overall life and playability. I’m finding myself loving what the game has to offer now that it has reached its full potential. Granted some of it can feel quite tedious at times.

Maybe the only thing that hasn’t entirely been improved in the game is its story. It still feels like background fluff that doesn’t feel like I need to interact with it. The only obligation I ever have to complete the main quest stuff is for the sake of completing tutorials. There is still a ton of mystery behind the story, which can draw players in, but not enough maybe to keep them interested in the game.

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There are several new core stories though that you can become involved in however. They are a tad bit more intriguing than the Atlas path, but there is a whole level of tedium that can get frustrating. Especially, having to manage all the games resources to travel between solar systems and planets.

Gameplay is also greatly expanded upon compared to the base game. There is now a whole host of content you can partake in to engage with the game. The five big additions to the game are the base building, freighter/fleet command, mission boards, character customization, and the recently added deep sea exploration.

cozy cabin home
You’re introduced to No Man’s Sky’s base building mechanics very early on in the game. The building mechanics feel very smooth and intuitive as building pieces seamlessly snap together. I only built a simple cabin in the tutorial, but it instantly felt satisfying constructing my own little home out in space.

Further expanding upon your property ownership in the game you’ll be able to own your own freighter ship. You heard correctly you’ll be able to own one of those giant freight ships you saw warping into the system. You’ll be able to dock aboard it, construct rooms with in it and even send ships in your fleet out into the galaxy on missions. These missions can help collect resource, trade items for currency, and even combat missions. And you can expand upon your fleet by recruiting more ships.

There are now mission boards in every space station. You can pick up simple missions you can complete to gain favor with either one of the three races or with the different guilds. It’s a nice bit of side content you can accomplish at your own pace to facilitate both rep and funds. But, nothing new to the concept of a “bounty board”.

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The final and latest addition to the game is the deep sea exploration. Much like many of No Man’s Sky’s content you are guided through a tutorial quest to learn how to explore and build under water. The base building and crafting are the same as the base you have built on land. You establish your base then start constructing the different parts to make your base. It’s just as intuitive and simple as the regular base building.

But the unique addition you get from the deep sea exploration is the ability to construct and helm your very own submarine called the Nautilon. With your little submarine you can use your sonar to find wreckage of all sorts. Crashed freighters and starships can be found amongst the seaweed and sea life. There are also sunken buildings and ruins down in the deep as well. All which function like space exploration as you discover and search them. You’ll find terminals to hack, items, and new mysteries to uncover. The deep sea exploration adds a nice layer of exploration to those who can’t get enough exploring out in space.

No Man’s Sky FX and music are probably one of the few things to still have no changes made to them. All the games sound and music have all stayed the me since its release as far as I can tell. That being said, they are still immersive and fitting for traveling an expansive sci-fi universe.

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The best improvements, or at least the ones I was happiest to see were the visual and graphical improvements that were made to the game. And, holy hell are they huge improvements. There is actual detail and variety in…well, everything. Environments are insanely varied from planet to planet. The games flora and fauna now have defining characteristics instead of copy paste parts just stuck together. They all appear interesting and unique.

And places like space stations are actually populated with other lifeforms. When No Man’s Sky first came out the space stations were sparsely filled with only four to five aliens occupying the station. Now there are about 11-20 with several of them occupying vendors giving the area’s space a feeling of being lived in. And this goes for nearly all the environments in the game. No Man’s Sky’s universe now feels like a fully fleshed out sci-fi galaxy.

Hello Games went ahead and accomplished everything they meant to accomplish when they first showcased the games varied worlds in its first trailer. I can understand those who saw that initial trailer felt mislead.

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Horrendous frame drops do happen in the in some of the game’s more intense moments such as entering the atmosphere of a planet or travelling between galaxies. It isn’t massively disruptive to the experience, as the frame dropping goes back to normal after these occurrences. But, it isn’t exactly pleasant to witness either.

No Man’s Sky has finally become what it was meant to be when it was announced three years ago. As someone who enjoyed the basic idea of what the game was about I’m glad that Hello Games fully fleshed out the game to what it was meant to be in the first place. However, I don’t expect to those people who felt lied and cheated to by Hello Games hype, to come around even with the improvements. Sadly, you can’t win everyone over after such an immense screw up on the developer’s part. While I don’t think Hello Games has fully redeemed themselves, No Man’s Sky itself is far better and far more fun. It is fun and worth playing again if you can forgive its past faults.

Overdue Review: Fallout: New Vegas

Developer: Obsidian Entertainment

Publisher: Bethesda Game Studios

Fallout games never held a huge place in my heart. I know plenty of gamers who have a deep affection for the games. I played both Fallout 3 and 4 and enjoyed both. However, I did miss out on what has been considered the pinnacle of the Fallout series, Fallout: New Vegas. I don’t know why it took so long especially with Obsidian Entertainment being the developers behind the game, whom I love as developer. Their games have always had great mechanics and excellent stories. I’m an absolute fan of the other work Obsidian has done. After playing the game you can totally add me to the group of people who see this as the best Fallout game.

new vegas ghoul
gog.com

You take the role of a mysterious person left for dead in the Nevada wasteland. The only name you’re left with is the “courier”. This is a refreshing change in Fallout: New Vegas, from almost every other Fallout game in which you take the role of a vault dweller. It leaves your character open to your own creation and design without being hindered to restrictions. It’s also one of the first times where you are not someone directly connected to the vaults.
The gameplay in Fallout: New Vegas is very akin to its predecessor Fallout 3. You get a pipboy to manage your items, quests and map access. The world is open and explorable. Your character is a blank slate and customizable. Crafting and exploring are essential to your experiences and surviving in the desert wastes. Standard faire Fallout mechanics we’ve all come to expect from the series.
You’ll have quests from a main storyline and more than enough NPCs to gather 100s of side quests from. There is plenty of content to explore here. But the most interesting aspect Fallout: New Vegas fleshes out and focuses on is its factions. Right at the opening the games several NPCs establish the importance of factions. Depending on the ways you interact with these factions you will gain favor with them. Gaining favor means deals at shops, gaining help from factions and just simply having your actions noticed and appreciated.

new vegas citizen
giantbomb.com

However, you can also gain infamy with factions as well. Much like gaining fame you can gain infamy by simple interactions in the world such as questing and hindering or attacking a faction. Most often you’ll find yourself gaining infamy in a faction by simply by helping another one. Factions will often be opposing one another so depending on whose side you choose you’ll be gaining favor with one and infamy with the other.
In typical Bethesda fashion, even with all the bug fixes and updates, Fallout: New Vegas is still clunky and wonky. Character animations still have that robotic feeling as nearly all Fallout games do.
Even for coming from the era of the Xbox 360, Fallout: New Vegas’s visuals and graphics are still incredibly stunning. I was more impressed by how fleshed out and alive Obsidian was able to make the Nevada desert wastes. Far livelier than the nuked out wastelands of Fallout 3. I always thought Fallout 3’s world was incredibly dull colored and drab. Yes, I understand it’s a nuclear apocalyptic wasteland, but there still could have been some slight variety in the environment to make it more eye appealing at times.
Fallout: New Vegas manages to make its world seem lived in where there’s civilization, wild when you’re exploring the wastes, and a pleasure to look at its wide, beautiful and expansive landscape. Cacti and other arid plants dot the land scape. Even the smallest towns have some personality even as they try to exist in the post-apocalyptic desert. A saloon will still feature neon signs that say “Open” and even the rundown gas station will maintain some of the buildings past hues. But destruction is also well rendered with burnt out houses, ruined towns and decaying civilization everywhere.

new vegas golfing
kotaku.com

Like many of that Fallout games Fallout: New Vegas’s world is well complemented by great music. Especially, in this game. It features classic 50’s songs like most of the recent Fallouts, but with taking place in Nevada, there is a lot more country/western style music. The ambient sound as you explore features chill and lonely guitars, which can very rapidly become intense action pieces as combat ramps up. I love the balance of music to fit the mood.
The games FX sounds are mostly well executed. None of it is bad, but it’s what you would expect from a Fallout game. Guns fire with a bang, blunt weapons create a crunch and slashing your enemies comes with a nice slicing noise. Creatures of the Mojave wasteland have their own unique sounds and noises. Hearing the croak of a gecko puts you on guard the moment you hear it.
The voice acting is a little hit or miss. Some offer convincing dialogue, while others can be a little stunted. The doctor you meet at the beginning of the game feels like an old soul who has seen a lot and dealt his own hardships. While the town barkeep try’s to sound like she is tough as nails, but her voice acting just felt so forced and unenthused.

mutant punching
kotaku.com

Fallout: New Vegas accomplishes everything that the other Bethesda Fallout games do, but Obsidian was able to flesh out several of the older games mechanics and manages to inject some personality into Fallout: New Vegas. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the games world and incredibly immersive mechanics. If you personally haven’t had the chance to play Fallout: New Vegas either, then I highly recommend that you do. The fans are right, and it does contain some of the best of what the series has to offer.

 

Moonlighter Review

Developer: Digital Sun

Publisher: 11 Bit Studios

Rogue-lites have very special place in my heart. I love the quick action, immense challenge, and inevitable death. In the end it was met with satisfying reward. But what I remember the most is the quick runs and intense action. In Moonlighter, however, the game decides to take a slightly slower pace and adds an additional layer of gameplay. Because in addition to the dungeon crawling you’ll be managing your own item shop as you search for items on your dungeon runs. All which is beautifully rendered in by some of the best pixel art I’ve ever seen.

moonlighter shopIn Moonlighter, you take the role of a shopkeeper named Will. At night Will moonlights (get it?) as dungeon explorer. He explores these dungeons to collect resources to sell, as well as to create new items to also sell. Will is seeking to get into the fifth dungeon which appears to be important due to how elaborate and big the door is. Of course, Will needs to make his way in there. It isn’t the most exciting or deep storytelling, but it still keeps you engaged.

Moonlighter’s gameplay loop consists of the two different parts of Will’s life: running the shop during the day and dungeon crawling/adventuring at night. You can also adventure during the day, but it means no shop time, which means no money. Also, loot drops aren’t quite as good during the day.

Some items are cursed and may destroy items within a specific direction of an item in your back pack. This creates an additional challenge in managing inventory and getting items back from the dungeon to your shop. It makes for some fun puzzle solving while in dungeons, but it can also unnecessarily slow the game down. For those players who don’t have the patience or attention span for all of this, the gameplay loop can get very tedious.

moonlighter combatMoonlighter’s combat is simple. You have a standard three swing combo no matter the weapon. But, there are plenty of weapons you can either pick up or create to offer a little more variety to the combat. It does take some time to build up the materials to build new weapons. Once again for people who may find this kind of collecting grind very tedious may not have the patience for it.

The selling and shop running in the game are fleshed out and very engaging. Materials you gather in dungeons can be sold in your shop and can be used to create items that you can also sell. Say you have several bits of iron you collected from a dungeon crawl. You can take those to the town blacksmith and have them forged together to create a sword you sell in your shop or use for yourself.

moonlighter inside shopNow you may think you’re all set and you’re a shop running pro, right? Well, Moonlighter has mechanic that makes things a little difficult for your life as a shopkeeper. The game has a working economy in which the more frequently you sell an item its value begins to depreciate. So that iron you were making a bank can soon flood the market and customers won’t be willing to buy. Or at the least not buy it at the price you’re selling it for. This adds a nice layer of challenge and variety to selling the materials instead of repetitively selling the same items.

Good, catchy music. Cute shop music and intense, dramatic dungeon music. No matter which part of Moonlighter you’re involved in the music is fitting for the setting and immerses you in the game. Monster noises and sounds are nicely varied. Weapon swings have the proper sounds that give them weight and swinging power.

moonlighter inventory screenMoonlighter manages to accomplish a lot of interesting things with its mixture of mechanics as much as it maintains itself as a rogue-lite. But it will still come down to the pacing of the game that may prevent some from playing. I love it for that fact, though. It may not be a crazy round after round, constant action rogue-lite, but those restful moments in such a beautifully rendered game gives Moonlighter its own unique personality. And, one that players who enjoy this kind of pacing will thoroughly enjoy.

Into the Breach Review

Into the Breach crew screen
subsetgames.com

FTL was my first taste of playing a rougelite game. It was such a simple looking game, yet the mechanics and gameplay were something new to some who never played rougelite games before. The idea that you could progress and be rewarded while also losing over and over again and trying new strategies to see how far you get next time. In their most recent game, Into the Breach, Subset Games found a way to take those elements and expand upon it, requiring more precise strategy and creating greater challenges.

Into the Breach isn’t deep story wise and it doesn’t need to be. You are a part of an elite group o mech warriors called the Rift Walkers. Your three-party crew travel through time (mainly back, because you failed to save the timeline) to fight the Vek. This race of massive bug-like monsters wants to destroy all of humanity by smashing their buildings and power supplies. There isn’t any known motivations for why the Vek do what they do, but isn’t important and only serves to set up the games mechanics. It’s still a fun story/premise to play in even though it isn’t the focus of the game.

ITB_ss_4
subsetgames.com

Into the Breach uses pixel art, but it looks significantly different from FTL. FTL used some fairly smoothed out pixel avatars and simple background art. Surprisingly the darker, muddier colors make the game very appealing. There are some brighter color palettes on the other islands. Some are desert and ice so there are some brighter colors thrown into the mix.

Into the Breach doesn’t do anything surprising with its artwork, but it’s still appealing and interesting enough to keep you immersed in the game.

ITB_ss_3
subsetgames.com

Combat plays out in a highly strategic manner. Your attacks can cause damage as well as movement. Sometimes they do one or the other, but some attacks can accomplish both. The ability to move your enemies and your own units around forces you decide very carefully how you attack. Sometimes an attack or movement could cause an enemy to hit a building or a friendly mech. Often it means having to make those sacrifices and taking friendly-fire.

ITB_ss_1
subsetgames.com

In a somewhat FTL-like style you fight your way across four islands and a final battle area. Into the Breach has a steep learning curve and you can easily fail a timeline and need to start over.  As you accomplish the game’s achievements you gain coins. You can purchase new squads with those coins. These new mech squads offer different playstyles to fight and move enemies adding even more variety to combat. There also fallen time travel pods in which you can other time travelers to operate your mechs, which also provide their own benefits to your squad. They can range from stat bonuses, addtional moves and even making particular mech attack stronger.

Subset Games has shown its ability to create good, challenging games, but with Into the Breach Subset has taken everything they’ve learned from FTL and has made a very tight and engaging game. The combat is succinct and makes you think out every last move carefully. Not to mention the darker hued color palette pixel art is wonderful. If you get the chance and you love rougelites then you need to check out this game.

Overdue Review: Hyper Light Drifter

Welcome to the Stick And The Button’s first Overdue Review where I play and review a game from my back log or something I missed that came out ages ago. First up is the intriguing and beautiful Hyper Light Drifter.

hyper light drifter title screen

There was a lot buzz around Hyper Light Drifter before it came out. The art style and story gathered a lot of attention from many players, but when it came out it was met with very mixed receptions. The game’s detractors took issue with the game being locked at 30 FPS creating a slow and sluggish experience which made the games combat feel unresponsive. Now, this left me kind of unsure about checking out the game despite it being the type of game I would enjoy. But, after snagging the game on sale I finally decided to give it a shot and come to my own conclusion.

You take the role of a mysterious, um, knight I guess would be what best describe the character. The intense cutscene at the beginning implies a terrible catastrophe has befallen the world and your character may be the cause of it all. He also appears to be ill with some sort of disease. Other than those tidbits of story telling the rest of the story is fairly vague. There is no dialogue to the point where when you “speak” to other characters their speech bubbles are filled with pictures to tell a story. None of it is explicit and it’s up to you to figure.

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I love this sort of mysterious story telling in games where you must figure out the story with the visual context clues to figure out. It’s why I love the Soulsbourne series so much, but Hyper Light Drifter takes it to a different level with no dialogue or text whatsoever. I know there are plenty of people out there who also hate this type of story telling and if you’re in that camp you might find the vagueness incredibly grating.

Hyper Light Drifter takes a lot of its mechanics from several ARPGs. Combat is a mix of Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls. You combo together sword swings, dodge enemy attack, and even get a gun whose use is very reminiscent to Furi’s gun. In other words you must hold down the R2 button to aim and press a separate button to fire your gun. Dodging doesn’t provide i-frames like Dark Souls does

Along with similar ARPG combat mechanics the UI will also be familiar to many players. Your health bar is divided into five squares similar to The Legend of Zelda heart health meter. However, if you get hit in Hyper Light Drifter you’re going to be losing the whole square of health. No halves or quarters damage losses, you just lose the whole thing.

hyper light combat
store.playstation.com

Hands down the art and pixel graphic design in Hyper Light Drifter is what I love the most. The beginning opening cinematic is striking with the main character appearing as we also witness whatever catastrophe has befallen this world. The games use of a pastel palette of colors meld together to create some very eye-catching visuals. A lot of pinks, teals and purples are used to make some very dramatic visuals. There are still some grays, greens, and other standard color palettes to flesh out both the natural and civilized areas.

Hyper Light Drifter also knows how to establish a great sense of scale in the game. Right after you make your way through the tutorial area you come out to clearing and a cliff with a city off in the distance. Some who have played the game will already know the area, but for those who haven’t played the game, yet, hopefully you’ll be just as awe struck as I was. It filled me with a desire to explore this world. And it is very much worth it to explore.

The second moment this feeling struck was when I first received the world map. As soon as I opened it I was taken a back not only by the size of each of the areas, but also by the habitats each of the four areas represented. A massive desert, a tangled and beautiful forest, a tranquil, yet terrifying, temple surrounded by water, and a tall mountain peak can all be fully explored. There is a lot to explore and all of it is very rewarding.

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Now this last part of the visuals isn’t entirely relevant to Hyper Light Drifter’s visuals. This is regarding the game’s 30 fps framerate when it first launched, which many players (not all) felt it was slow and sluggish, making the games combat unresponsive at times. Heart Machine has since updated the game to 60 fps while still offering a 30 fps option. Seeing as this is an Overdue Review I wanted to see how the game ran at 30. And, well…the game becomes incredibly unresponsive and slow. I typically never have too much of an issue with 30 fps in some games, but in Hyper Light Drifter it felt like moving and fighting through molasses. Thank god Heart Machine updated it and runs smooth now.

After hearing mixed things about Hyper Light Drifter (and that super dope pixel art) I finally decided to play it. Though I am playing the fully optimized version, being able to go back to playing at 30fps kind of shows the initial problems of the game. But, it now runs at 60fps and this game is beautiful, intriguing and has great and familiar gameplay especially as a Zelda fan. I haven’t been this enthralled and filled with wander-lust in game in a long time. With the additional polish they have added to this game, it is wonderful and everything I want in my ARPGs.

Hob Review

Forest_1AHob first grabbed my attention when I saw the developers behind it was Runic Games. I loved their Torchlight series because I’m a big fan of Diablo and really any game involving looting and action rpg mechanics. But, Hob took a page out of another beloved action rpg: The Legend of Zelda. The game has lock-on combat mechanics, collectible upgrades, and plenty of tiny dungeons dotted throughout the world. But these dungeons house immense puzzles and these complex, yet intuitive puzzles is where Hob shines. It is also, sadly, the company’s final game, before shutting down late last year.

You play as a mysterious (but, cute) figure in a world falling apart due to a strange infection. Through a series of puzzles  Usual, but still engaging action rpg combat with deep and highly layered puzzles and a nice dash of semi worthwhile exploration to boot. There are collectibles, upgrades, and abilities available, so you can improve the main character and their tools.

Forest_2A

The puzzles in Hob are outstanding and definitely the highlight among the game’s  other mechanics. The entire game world itself seems like one giant puzzle and most importantly they are very well designed and intuitive. There is that perfect level of challenge where you may find yourself stumped, but consistent puzzle mechanics help move you in the direction of the solution.

It isn’t always perfect in directing you to the next part of the puzzle as I spent a decent amount of time in one dungeon trying to find my way to the next part of a the puzzle. The main problem was similarity in room structure. It looked very much the same as a previous room earlier in the dungeon. So, when the game was trying to point me in the direction of the exit I ignored the exit, got lost, ended up stumped until I returned to the room. I headed through the

Combat mechanics are what you would expect from an action RPG. You can string together combos to do damage, lock-on target enemies to tactically fight them, and dodging and blocking abilities to defend yourself.

The only unique aspect is the use of a glove you receive at the beginning of the game. This can be used in combat as your shield and a knock back tool. The main use of the gauntlet is to help in solving the games numerous puzzles. You can also use it to navigate by knocking out walls and teleporting through blue glowing platforms. Said orbs are also puzzles themselves.

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You’re provided with standard health and mana bars both of which can be permanently improved with items. Health is upgraded with red blocks you find tulip bulb looking plants you pry open. Collecting two blocks will complete a new health bar, a la Zelda just with fewer pick ups to complete bars. Mana bar improvements look like a gear and require about five of them to increase your max bar.

Hob uses vague story-telling and in game mechanics to tell the story. All I can gather thus far about the games story is it seems you are some sort of guardian/custodian of this lush and slightly mechanical world. Your good robot friend summons you from your enclosed chamber. Why you start here is a mystery. Some strange corruption marked with thorny vines and purple goop, is spreading and you are tasked with stopping its spread.

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The visuals in Hob are executed in a beautiful cel-shading art style and Runic games are able to use it to express it in bright colors and dead dull colors effectively. The world is a perfect mix of lush and green nature and grey, metallic machinery. Fluorescent blue light shine in the underground dungeons along with gorgeous rock formations. Even corrupted areas fit in perfectly. Dried out, yellow grass and thick overgrown thorny vines merge together seamlessly with the games brighter and healthier environments making the corrupted areas striking when they make an appearance.

I truly was not expecting to enjoy Hob as much as I did. The puzzles in Hob are not only enjoyable in a game, but also challenging and satisfying to solve. Making the gorgeous, cel-shaded world one big puzzle is creative and effective and watching all the pieces fall into place is very gratifying. While its other action RPG mechanics are nothing outstanding, they are still implemented well. This is an excellent final game for Runic Games and showcases their amazing ability to make great ARPGs,