PAX Prime 2015: Hob Hands-On PreviewJust don't call it a Zelda clone.08.30.15 - 11:58 PM
Most game studios, even award-winning, highly successful ones, tend to just stick with what they know. For example, it was to no one's surprise when Supergiant Games came out with a second atmospheric action-RPG, and you pretty much know what you're getting when you buy a Bioware game. This is not a criticism, but it highlights the massive departure of Runic Games' third outing. Rather than make Torchlight 3, Runic has opted for an atmospheric action adventure game called Hob.
Hob is part Zelda, part Shadow of the Colossus. The silent protagonist occupies a lonely world devoid of dialogue. On the surface it is natural, verdant, and idyllic, but as you explore the subterranean levels you find ancient machinery that appears to power and rearrange the world. The problem is that it's broken. Once you find the mysterious mechanical glove that provides most of the utility in the gameplay, it falls upon you to put the world to rights.
The Zelda inspiration is apparent; you have a sword and shield (well the glove acts as a shield), and you find new abilities for your glove that help you traverse the world and fight bosses. For example, in the demo I quickly unlocked the Hob equivalent of the hookshot, gaining the ability to cross long gaps by attaching to blue grapple points. And of course, I used it to take out a mini-boss.
None of this means that Hob is unoriginal, only that you can get a pretty good understanding of the game by looking to any recent 3D Zelda game. Though the demo was quite linear, the developers promised that the final build would be expansive and open world. Further, as there is no dialogue, it will be interesting to see how Runic makes the world feel alive. They have already done a good job of sprinkling cinematic moments throughout the environment, so I am hopeful that Hob won't just be a series of open fields and dungeons.
The bottom line is if you like this genre of games, you will probably like Hob, and if you want o see what Runic can do with the adventure genre, you should at least keep an eye on it.