Hob Review – A living mechanised dream

Platforms:
PCPS4
Released:
September 27, 2017
Publisher:
Runic Games
Developer:
Runic Games

Review

I’ve been amazed at the amount of super high quality indie titles that have been releasing recently and Hob is a prime example. I’m not quite sure how it keeps happening but time and time again I find myself flabbergasted by the visual style created in these smaller releases. Hob is beautiful, but its beauty is very different from the beauty found in other games. It has this vibrant, blooming and magical natural environment that’s growing over the top of a mechanical world filled with bizarre architecture. As you play you uncover new wondrous areas. I don’t know how they’ve done it, but things just get more gorgeous the deeper you explore. For those looking for their next visually pleasing adventure, Hob may be a very good choice.

The world you explore in Hob functions not only as a backdrop for your adventures but also as an integral part of the gameplay and plot. Platforming around your environment, solving puzzles within the game’s architecture and uncovering a corruption that is destroying the natural world. You play as Hob and your role within this environment is absolutely key. Not only are you fighting back that corruption but you’re bringing the entire world back to life in both a natural and mechanical way. Yes, your actions help make the world bloom but they also shift the landscape by activating massive bits of machinery and getting the cogs turning once again after a long time of laying dormant. The world is yours to resurrect and once you do you’ll witness the living mechanised dream in all of its glory.

Playing Hob is quite a satisfying experience. Outside of exploring your environments and appreciating the game’s visuals you’ll also be platforming, solving environmental puzzles and getting into combat with hostile foes. The gameplay is totally solid, mechanically speaking. Combat and platforming are tight and controllable and the game doesn’t fall victim to the slightly awkward or unresponsive faults of similar games. Although having said that, I did find the gameplay to be quite unimaginative. So many puzzle / platformers can diversify their gameplay in some crazy directions and make you really bend your brain or think in new ways to be able to progress. Although it seemed like all the imagination that went in to Hob came in the form of the results of your actions, rather than the actions themselves.

Too many puzzles involved moving from point A to point B and interacting with a switch. Something incredible may happen as a result of that switch but you then once again move from point A to point B and find the next switch. This was disappointing because it meant my engagement in the game didn’t come from gameplay but from scripted sequences instead.

The same can be said about the progression system within the game. You’ll find relics and collectables to power up your weapon or increase health and occasionally you’ll also unlock new abilities. The system worked fine but it wasn’t exactly imaginative. It didn’t feel like quite enough energy or thought went into this system to make it unique or fully work in the world of Hob. Instead it felt a little bit too samey and unrewarding.

“The world in Hob is special because everything is one giant moving puzzle piece.”

The biggest compliment I can give Hob and the reason you should play this game is because of the world around you. I’ve touched on it briefly already but it certainly bears repeating. The world in Hob is special because everything is one giant moving puzzle piece. The interactions you have with the world aren’t minimal, they are monstrous and (literally) world altering. Watching your actions bring giant slices of Hob’s world back to life is enough of a reward in itself to fuel you to beat this game. Not to mention the result of opening up new areas is that you get to see more gorgeous and magical natural environments or more of the crazy and awe-inspiring mechanical world.

The fact that the plot of the game and the actions you perform while playing are so tightly interwoven is very commendable. You’re not just solving a puzzle here as a way to progress to the next area so that you can find the next plot point. That’s because every puzzle you solve is a step to bringing this world back to life. Every puzzle is part of that resurrection narrative that is being told. And watching the results of your actions take place all around you is fantastic.

I was left slightly disappointed that the wordless narrative told within Hob seemed to feel a bit impersonal. The beginning of the game set a personal tone and I was hooked by Hob and what was happening to him. But then the game started being about the world around you and not about Hob at all. This really is a minor nitpick and one that not every gamer will care about, but I felt a bit of a disconnect between myself and the playable character at around the mid point of the game. A disconnect that didn’t pick up again until towards the end. I’d advise those going into Hob to view the narrative of the game as something greater than the playable character. Because once I finally made that realisation I could appreciate the narrative for what it actually was.

The Bottom Line

Hob creates a magical and wondrous world that adapts and changes thanks to your input. Watching the world shift around you and sometimes underneath you is awe-inspiring and magnificent. Seeing the fruits of your labour literally coming to life is one of Hob’s biggest selling points and makes the game worth playing by itself. The game’s art, world design and wordless narrative all come together to make a genuinely special experience. Some aspects of Hob’s gameplay and systems can hold it back from being truly unique and captivating, but it more than makes up for it through personality and liveliness alone.