We had the privilege of chatting with Marsh Lefler (President of Runic Games and Project Lead for Hob) and Wonder Russell (PR lead) last year about Hob – you can find the interview here!
An unknown creature ventures through a lush green world alongside his brawny, golem companion. During a routine outing, the little one is afflicted by a poisonous plant, and in an act of desperation, the golem cuts off his arm and replaces it with his own. So begins the adventures of Hob: a fantastic action-adventure title that is part Wall-E, part Link to the Past, and all fun.
Following in the footsteps of other silent stories like Hyper Light Drifter and Journey, Hob features no text or dialogue throughout the game. Instead, it relies on gestures, camera movements/focus and pictures to tell a larger story.
Within this silent world, what we can gather as the story progresses is that the lush world they live in is maintained and tended to by the Golem and others. Recently, however, something is disturbing their world, disrupting power and shifting the landscape. After the tragic events in the opening scene, the Golem can’t tend to the world in the same way, and so Hob makes his way into the world to try and make things right.
The “silent method” can be a captivating and engaging style when executed correctly – and Hob hits it out of the park. From the first scene when Hob pleads not to have his arm chopped off with a fervent shaking of his head, to the gradual reveal and explanation of what’s going wrong in their world by the Golem – less is more in Hob.
Hob is, at its core, an action-adventure title. You are equipped with two main weapons: a metal blade and your awesome Golem-arm. The sword has a number of combos for quick damage dealing, while your mighty Fist can launch quick or charged punches that can stun enemies and demolish walls.
Combined with a dodge maneuver, sprinting, jumping and shielding, pretty soon you’re settling into a very familiar gameplay structure. Like riding a bicycle, fans of the Legend of Zelda series will feel right at home as you get to chopping grass and blocking projectiles. As the game progresses you also accumulate a unique currency that you can use to purchase upgrades and additional combos. These green orbs can be found in hidden treasure chests or picked up from defeated enemies. The options are a bit limited at first, but as the game progresses, your home base will offer further combos and enhancements to turn Hob into a monster-killing machine! There’s also a sweet forge that allows you to gather sword-pieces and combine them into weapon upgrades.
The golem-arm adds an additional layer of complexity, as you can uncover “Armaments” throughout the world to gain access to additional skills including a teleport and a grappling-hook ability.
Where Hob really sets itself apart is in your control over the environment. It’s not only a verdant and vast world, it’s also a world of gears, knobs, dials, and elevators. This makes the puzzle-elements all the more interesting as you literally rotate entire mountains and platforms, and feel the weight of a huge mass of earth settling into place with a satisfying crash. In the end, you are the key needed to unlock this world and its limitless potential.
Between the responsive movement and combat controls, fantastically unique puzzles, diverse upgrade options and extensive collectibles, Hob certainly fires on all pistons in delivering a classically fun gaming experience.
I do have to vent one frustration before moving on: my biggest gripe with the gameplay is something that plagues even the best games – pesky camera behavior. Since the camera is fixed, you sometimes find yourself, or worse yet, enemies, obstructed by environmental elements. The frustration isn’t limited solely to combat either, as certain platforming elements can be needlessly precarious because of the angle of the camera.
The art style is compelling, and deceivingly sweet. While our protagonist appears to be some adorable hybrid between a hobbit and a jawa, it isn’t too long before his fierce sword strikes and stunning fist-slams establish him as a force to be reckoned with. Similarly, the cruel end that our hero meets runs the gamut, his most violent ends often at the hands of the unfeeling natural elements that are all over this vast and interesting world.
Of course, your enemies don’t mind smashing you to bits either, as I learned painfully early on in the game. The first large enemy I encountered literally disemboweled me and sent small pieces of Hob tumbling over the grassy fields. The dichotomy between the beauty of Hob’s world and the brutality that lives within it remains striking throughout the entire adventure.
Since first checking out this game nearly a year ago, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Hob. I’m happy to see that the game has largely turned out just as good as I hoped – even exceeding my expectations when it came to the visual style and puzzle elements. Despite some frustrations and struggles with the fixed camera, Hob delivers a solid and thoroughly entertaining gaming experience with the help of crisp combat and an arresting world. You can find it on Steam & PS4 for $20.