Hob Preview

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  • Hob

Exploring a Gorgeous Ruined Stone World. 

"Some of these guys go all the way back to Diablo, " said Max Schaefer, the CEO of Runic Games. To those unfamiliar, Runic Games is known for its Torchlight series of games, referencing the developers' long pedigree of clicky-action RPGs. Hob is not one of them, sitting more comfortably in the action/adventure genre with an emphasis on environmental puzzles, light platforming, and top-down action combat.

In the demo for Hob you make the protagonist move through abandoned ruins—which, in shades of Xenoblade Chronicles, Schaefer told me was the remains of a dead god—covered in moss, trees, and especially tall grasses. When cut, these typically yield hearts to regenerate a flagging health bar. Engaging in puzzles reveals paths, raises or lowers pillars, and deforms the environment to allow the player to travel to areas seen in scenic distant vistas along the way.

Hob's design influences are more Zelda and Journey, though I fathom that perhaps a little Hellboy is filtered in as well. The protagonist (perhaps the titular character?) is a red-hooded figure with a giant stone-looking arm. The game delights in having you revisit areas with new abilities to open new paths through the environment to new areas and challenges.

Traversal sections, perhaps more than anything, feel Darksiders-like—along with the Zelda-ish exploration that Darksiders shared as well. The story's delivery is more inspired by Journey; there is no dialogue in Hob, and everything is discovered through scripted sequences and gameplay.

The mechanic for expanding the tools of the protagonist is the giant stone arm, the gauntlet. It's also the primary mode of defense, but taking hits while using it as a shield appears to diminish an ability gauge beneath the life gauge. This gauntlet can be upgraded to use a new electrical hookshot or grappling hook ability that adds to traversal elements. 

This is followed by the game's first mini-boss, a long-legged attacker with a pulsing organic club. After attempting to attack him head on (and getting struck back) I noticed that his legs had shin-guards, with the same glowing jewels that the electrical grapple could be used with. By grappling and pulling them off, it freed them up to be knocked out from under them by a regular attack, knocking the enemy to the ground and stunning him, giving the player a limited time to get in as many attacks as possible before the reedy giant again marshaled its club and stood back up.

Defeating the mini-boss deposited the pugilistic protagonist back in the same area that they began the demo in, but this time with the electric grapple to zip them up to open a new, darker, more decayed-looking area, at which point the demo concluded. Hob feels good, if a little stiff at times, and the non-dialogue driven story works very well, with some animistic elements implying your character is directly tied to the health of the natural environment (plants sometimes grow as you pass over certain parts of plains, etc). 

Hob is coming along, and Schaefer said that they'd received really positive responses to the game at the show. It's being developed for PC and consoles, with a planned length around the 8-9 hour mark, and in a price range similar to other indie titles in the genre and style.