Too Human


Review by · August 28, 2008

When a game takes a decade to complete, people expect something great for their extreme patience. Originally slated as a 4-disc PlayStation game, Too Human has switched genres, console generations, and release dates more times than I care to count. After finally being released as an Xbox 360 exclusive, I can say it wasn’t worth the wait no matter how much fun you might have with it.

In Too Human you play as Baldur, a cybernetic god and son of the legendary Odin. The story is based on Norse Mythology (much like Valkyrie Profile) and features all of the characters you know, including Freya, Odin, Thor, and many others. The main story arc is a struggle between the Aesir and the human people they protect and a mechanical army that is harvesting human blood and bones to become more human. The Aesir are doing the exact opposite in that they are human and add machines to their body to enhance their skills in combat. The title “Too Human” refers to Baldur’s refusal to become as much of a machine as some of the other gods.

The problem Too Human has in its storytelling is that if you have no prior knowledge of Norse mythology, then you will likely be confused and just skip over the already weak plot elements to continue playing the game. Or even worse, you will play the 2 player co-op mode where you don’t even get the story whatsoever. This isn’t helped by the fact that the story isn’t even remotely interesting until the very end, and just on time the credits start rolling. And when I say the story gets interesting at the end, it’s still only mildly. I wasn’t at all that bothered by Silicon Knights ending the story like they did because I really didn’t care about the story at all, and I’m sure that will be the case with most anyone playing the game. The only part of the story I actually did like was the setting, which was really cool, but not fleshed out in the slightest. If you, like me, were hoping for an entertaining twist on Norse Mythology, you will be sorely disappointed with this incredibly thin story.

When you start the game, you are asked to choose from 5 different classes that each specialize in different things. The only thing is you will likely be playing the game identically to everyone else because the variety in the classes is extremely limited. The only “real” differences in the classes happen to be the skill trees–similar to games like Diablo–and the stats. After you choose a class, you start the game. No meddling with different types of faces and such, since everyone plays as the same character. What will make your character’s look unique is his equipment set, which actually has a decent amount of variety. Your equipment is really the only way to tell your version of Baldur apart from another person’s, and even then you can be assured there is someone out there who looks somewhat like your Baldur. There are two different types of play, as mentioned previously. You can choose to play the single player campaign, or go online and play with one another person.

The combat system in Too Human plays more like an action game than any RPG I can think of. You attack enemies by moving the right analog stick in the direction you want to attack. It sounds weird, and believe me, it’s hard to get used to since it’s so unique. When you hold the analog stick in the direction you want to attack, Baldur will continue to attack. You don’t have to repeatedly tap it, which is refreshing compared to most action RPG’s where you monotonously click buttons through waves of enemies until your thumb is numb.

One thing that annoyed me, though, was that Baldur will not move if you are attacking. Silicon Knights did, however, add a dash type move where Baldur will move across the screen incredibly fast and attack another enemy if it is in your range, without the player having to move him themselves. The dash move makes things become incredibly quick paced and a lot of fun to play, as long as enemies are in your range. If they aren’t, you’ll have to stop attacking and move him yourself, with no access to that incredibly fast dash move, which is a shame. There are also long-ranged weapons, but the targeting system for them is so bad in this game I hated even trying to use anything long-ranged.

You also have other action game standards like jumping and dodging, but they don’t help because you’re still going to die over a hundred times throughout the course of the campaign unless you picked the one class with healing abilities. This brings up the biggest flaws found in Too Human; it’s unbalanced and incredibly frustrating. After only having played the game for right around the 10 hour mark, I unlocked the achievement for dying 100 times. That means I was dying on average of every 6 minutes, which is absolutely absurd. The main reason for this is that the only way you can heal Baldur if you aren’t the healing class is to get healing pickups, like in action games. The healing pickup idea would have been fine if they were dropped sufficiently, but they aren’t. They drop very rarely, and usually by the time they do drop I’m so close to dying that I don’t get to pick it up fast enough and die by the onslaught of enemies on top of me.

Boss fights are the biggest victim to frustration, as bosses have incredibly huge amounts of health and a shield you have to take down, with only a few healing pickups from destructible environments found in their arena. I usually ended up wasting all of the healing items on my first life, so all the rest of my lives after that were short lived. Some bosses would kill me so quickly that I didn’t even get to deal damage. Another one of the main reasons the game is so difficult is that the enemies scale to your level, something people found very frustrating in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It takes all the satisfaction of decking out Baldur in cool armor and leveling him up out of the equation because the enemies are always as strong as you are. I hope Silicon Knights changes that for the sequel.

Silicon Knights must have known the player was going to die so many times, though, or they would have put a punishment on death, because there really isn’t one. At least, there isn’t one they probably intended. Each time Baldur dies, a Valkyrie comes down to pick him up and bring him back up to Valhalla. The animation for this takes way too long and only got on my nerves. If Baldur would have just revived immediately and went back to business, the game would have been a little less frustrating. The little punishment they did put on death just makes your currently equipped weapons and armor weaker, but they can be repaired using money and never “fully break.”

Repetition is another major offender, especially in the final level of the game. You kill the same enemies so many times and die so many times that most people will quit before they finish. If you aren’t the type of gamer that likes checking stats on different equipment every time you pick a new one up, you likely won’t find this game to be much fun at all. You can also put runes in equipment with empty slots, but since I was switching equipment so much I didn’t even bother with runes. You are just going to waste them putting them on armor or a weapon that you are likely to stop using after 5 minutes. There are also blueprints, which cost money to make but are more than likely superior to your currently equipped items – that is, as long as the blueprinted equipment is of equal or higher level. One of the better ideas implemented into the inventory system is that you can sell any piece of equipment at any time, so you inventory is never full and you don’t have to just drop it for no gain like other games of this type.

If you are looking for some genuine fun in Too Human, it can be found, as long as you are willing to play online co-op with someone. You die less frequently this way, making the game far less frustrating. The online co-op is definitely the best way to play. The only problem is that the game has more bugs and glitches online. I didn’t experience anything really out of the ordinary when playing single player offline, but online I would get stuck in-between doors and sometimes the camera would get stuck on objects and refuse to move back to my character, even after I had died and revived. I had to quit the current game I was in because of these two instances, and it’s a crying shame that the best way to experience the game is so buggy.

As I have mentioned previously, the controls in Too Human aren’t great and suck a lot of the fun out of the game. The right analog stick combat is hard to get used to, and by the time you do, the game is too repetitive to bear, and the targeting system for the long-ranged weapons is terrible. The camera is controlled by the computer, since the right analog stick used for camera control in pretty much every other game is taken up for combat. It does a poor job at times, giving awkward angles on bridges and such, but other times it can be fine and not bothersome. I guess you could say it’s schizophrenic. You can make the camera go back behind Baldur by pressing the left bumper, but Baldur stops moving and they did a very poor job implementing it.

One of the few things done exceptionally well in Too Human is the sound design. The voice acting is really good and is one of the few things that help the poor story. The sound effects are your typical swords and sorcery stuff, but the sound effects for finding items is epic and always cool. The soundtrack is decent, but nothing I’m going to remember after having played the game. It’s basically background noise to all the action.

The graphics, while not bad, definitely aren’t very impressive considering this is an Xbox 360 exclusive title. The highlights include the equipment models which look rather impressive, but the character models aren’t very great and look like they needed more time. Some of the animations in both the gameplay and cutscenes are rather stiff as well. One thing I must say, though, is that no matter how many enemies were on screen (believe me, it can get hectic) the framerate never dropped. That’s no small feat, and I commend Silicon Knights for building a solid engine on which to run the game.

Too Human is repetitive, unbalanced, and frustrating, made complete with an uninteresting story. However, if Silicon Knights improves upon all the things I mentioned in this review for their sequel, they are going to have a much better game on their hands, a game that I would gladly sign up for. Hopefully it doesn’t take another 10 years.

Overall Score 66
For information on our scoring systems, see our scoring systems overview. Learn more about our general policies on our ethics & policies page.
Josh Lewis

Josh Lewis

Josh was part of RPGFan's reviews team from 2008-2010. During his tenure, Josh bolstered our review offerings by lending his unique voice and critique of the world of RPGs. Being a critic can be tough work sometimes, but his steadfast work helped maintain the quality of reviews RPGFan is known for.