Hob: The theme this week is games that insist of being brilliant while also managing to infuriate me. There is a lot to like in Hob. Love even. Unfortunately Hob also comes with a lot of jank. Some of that will leave you needing to respawn to continue the game. Well, let’s get to laying all of this out.
I had issues with this game, both with bugs and issues with the camera. I have managed to get stuck in bushes on more than one occasion and I have warped into a pipe and found myself unable to get out. The camera can also turn some platforming sections into isometric ones and platforming in an isometric space isn’t brilliant. There have been jumps where it appears I’m going in a straight line only to find the path is diagonal and I’m falling to my death. Also, I had a long playing session (about 3 hours long) and towards the end the frame rate had dropped to what look like 10 – 15 FPS. There are also sections in the game where the frame rate will drop.
What the game is also in need of is the use of the right analogue stick to look further ahead. There are some places where it’s not clear if Hob can jump there or not, and a quick look would remedy that. Also, the difference between Hob landing a jump and Hob splattering from a great height isn’t that clear cut which can lead to some slightly gruesome trial and error.
I’m detailing all of that up front because these are some of the things you may have to put up with if you want to play through Hob. I’ve managed to get one of the two endings in Hob so I thought it was worth it. But I would advise buying this on Steam rather than a console (I have a PS4 Pro). With Steam you have that refund window, and so if any of the above happens you can see how much it would affect you. Now that is cleared up, let’s talk about the game.
Hob has a story to tell, but it does it without words. Everything is told through game play, the environment and character gestures. For the most part it works. Relationships are established and past events are laid out in clearly understandable ways. There’s a point near the end where I feel this falters a bit, but I’ll get to that in due time.
The basic story of Hob is some catastrophe has befallen this world and the player character (who I am assuming is called Hob) sets out to fix it. And fixing it is one of the best things I’ve seen in a game. The game world consists of puzzles with involve pulling things, pushing things and switching things on. Once this has been done, the game world reveals itself to be a massive Rube Goldberg-esque machine, with plateaus and forests shifting into place. There is just something ridiculously satisfying about machinery sliding into place. I haven’t seen anything like this in video games for a while. It really feels amazing watching it, this coming together. It reminds me on some level of Richard Brautigans poem, All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace.*
Also in this world are native flora and fauna. The fauna are particularly well designed each one unique and if you hang around them long enough, you get the chance to pet them. It is not a major thing, but it is a nice little touch. One other nice thing in Hob is vistas. These are little green discs that Hob can sit on and take in the world around him. They really help with the pace of the game, bringing about pleasant moments of quiet contemplation.
As for the rest of the game play I’d say it’s pretty good. There’s combat with enemies, and while it’s a bit on the simple side, it does feel good and cathartic which I feel is a good way to go. If it’s not going to complex, make it feel good. There’s simple sword combos and a punch attack with can be charged up.
The sword is only weapon in the game, but it can be upgraded via finding sword fragments scattered throughout the game world. In addition there are secrets to find as well, that provide access to new skills, health and energy bar power ups. Many of these are well hidden, and as of now I’ve still got a few more to get. The skills are tied to that energy bar, so they cannot be used all willy nilly. Also, the upgrades are bought with currency, and this is collected from fallen foes and hidden terminals around the game world. Health is found in similar way, along being found while cutting down long grass whilst Hob isn’t at full health.
In addition to this, and tied into upgrading with the sword are lore rooms. These are unlocked with the sword, and in keeping with the rest of the game, tell stories without words. The sword changes shape as it is upgraded, and the rooms need the different shaped sword as they progress. These rooms are really rather cool, and make heading off the beaten track worthwhile.
Now, to return to something I brought up earlier. In regards to the story telling, right before the ending (there’s two of them) for at least one of them there’s a boss fight. It’s a good one, and makes sense. But it just feels that the setup has been inadequate. The pay off, and the cathartic feel of a great boss fight just isn’t there. As for the ending I’ve unlocked, that felt good but the preceding boss fight is fine mechanically but emotionally it’s lacking.
For the most part I had great fun with Hob, but the bugs are there so to repeat, buy on Steam so you can take advantage of refunds. Normally some of the problems could be patched, but Runic Games (the developers) unfortunately went out of business, so what we have is what we have got. Just want to say thanks to Runic here for giving me a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It’s just a shame there isn’t more to come.
Zelda Breath of the Wild: I’ve been thinking about this a lot. How I feel about playing it, how I am supposed to feel when I play this and a bunch of other things have passed through my thought space during my play time. It’s one of those cases where you can try to avoid the hype but with this game, that’s hard. Even casual browsing will show up teen “Game of the Year” threads, meaning there was always some sense of expectation.
In an attempt to get my thoughts down in a coherent manner, I’m going to start with things about the game I’m not too fond of. These aren’t necessarily bad things, just things that aren’t to my taste.
I feel like I am doing the shrines out of a sense of obligation more than a sense of want. Since levelling of health and stamina is tied to them, I honestly feel like I have to do them more than I want to do them. In addition to that, I am not the greatest fan of puzzle games. Now in Hob’s case, the game is a lot shorter than BOTW, and the effect the puzzles have on the world is pretty amazing. BOTW is a significantly longer game with significantly more puzzles. They are beginning to grate. Also, I wouldn’t mind seeing some changes in the Shrines aesthetic designs. They all look very uniform, and that’s a little bit disappointing. In addition to this, when I found out that the Divine Beasts are essentially glorified shrines that were a bit of kick in the teeth. Well, glorified shrines and a disappointing boss fight combined.
I need to mention here that I absolutely loath motion controls. Completely and utterly loath them. Just let me use the analogue stick. I much prefer that. Those motion control shrines are the bane of my existence. I’ve tried them, I’ve engaged with them but I … god I hate them. I either tilt too far, or not enough and the whole thing is an exercise in frustration.
In addition to this, every time I solve something I do not need a little cut scene playing the Zelda jingle and showing a door/gate opening. I know that’s going to happen, just let it happen. Then there are the combat shrines, which brings me to my second dislike.
I am not the greatest fan of this games combat. Coming from a background of From Software, this honestly feels somehow both clunky and floaty, so much so that I now avoid combat the best I can. The lock on feels very archaic, compared to Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and most weapons make the same noises with the same cartoon hit effect which doesn’t make the combat feel that great. In addition, I really want a dodge roll. I really miss the dodge roll. God I love dodge rolls. And while I understand the weapon durability system and what it’s meant to achieve, it still manages to annoy me. I’m in the bizarre situation of not using things just in case it breaks. I’d rather has a choice of great weapons rather than being forced into using stuff. Again, Dark Souls and Bloodborne loom large here. And again, this is my preference as opposed to something being intrinsically bad. Also, when I fail a combat shrine I don’t need to see the animation of the guardian activating over and over again.
And last but not to be the least, the story. I am aware of the John Carmack quote, but I am someone who does like story and purpose in my games. Here, the story is bare bones and very lacking. It’s just hard to get enthused over another good vs evil story, with the added bonus of a princess rescue thrown in. What compounds this for me is the idea that calamity Gannon is this all powerful being that needs stopping and here I am bowling in the snow and riding downhill on a shield. Again, it’s personal preference but it just seems silly to have all of this messing around while in the background there’s a great evil just sitting there, biding its time instead of swatting Link out of existence. Which brings me to Link himself.
This is my first Zelda game so I have no nostalgia for Link. He is unfathomably blank, and devoid of human characteristics. I find it really hard to justify the guy’s existence. If he were to be replaced by a piece of say, walking tofu I’m not sure too much would change. And I don’t know if it’s seeing the world through his eyes, but the side quests and characters aren’t that memorable to me. And that brings me to another, rather bizarre point. The lack of story combined with Link’s inner void have made this less of a grand adventure, and more a series of great video game moments stapled together. I’ve covered a great deal of ground, yet the majority of it hasn’t been that memorable.
I have other bug bears, mainly tied to the open world system. That is to say, problems I have with open world as a genre. Resource gathering, crafting, tower climbing and all that stuff is something I’m not all that fond of. It must be said these are problems I have with every open world game, I just push through the best I can.
Now you’re probably sat there thinking that I hate this. But that is not the case. The core game play of exploring and climbing is so fantastic and fulfilling, albeit somewhat fleeting that I am more than willing to push through my dislikes in order to enjoy it. The addition of climbing is a wonderful thing. Once it becomes apparent that most everything can be climbed the world opens up in a great many ways. There are now multiple paths to a destination, both vertically and horizontally. Enemy encampments can be climbed over, which in some cases is most preferable. And it becomes very possible to navigate by sight alone. Simply climbing to a high point, and seeing your destination in the distance is a pretty empowering thing. Also climbing up high let me run alongside a grand old dragon, which is pretty neat. It’s more game play that works in the moment than sticks with me, but for the moment it’s pretty damn incredible. Combining that climbing with the paraglider leads to all sorts of fun. And whilst the divine beasts themselves are disappointing, the skills gained from them are not. Revali’s gale sends you shooting skyward, and gliding from high to where ever you need to be is pretty damn great.
To briefly return to the towers, in relation to the climbing mechanic. For the most part, they are towers. And again, please let me skip the canned animations at when I update the map. But a few towers are really amazing. I want to highlight my experience of climbing the Citadel Tower. I climbed up the short side to avoid the outer patrols. Then I had wait out the passing thunder storm. Using Revali’s gale got me up to another section, with weapons strewn about the place, remnants of a battle long passed. Then during the final section I had to hide from enemy patrols again as Revali’s gale recharged before shooting skyward to complete the final ascent. That entire section was glorious.
Ah, that’s a thing. The weather here actually matters. Metal attracts lighting so in a rain storm metal armour and weapons need to come off. Don’t worry, there’s a period of sparking that lets you know Link’s about to get fried. And the lightening slamming down is pretty awe-inspiring. Link can’t climb with the rain coming down, so be ready to light a fire to wait out the storm. Lighting a fire is a special, intimate moment. That must be the Dark Souls player in me coming out there.
And while I do not like the combat too much, I am fond of the bow mechanics. The bow’s handle very well, and slowing down time whilst in mid air to aim is a really cool thing. Although seeing “your bow is badly damaged” flash up on screen is always annoying. There is one slight issue. Once a triple shooting bow is acquired, and combined with bomb arrows, everything may as well be dead already. At that point the combat is a turkey shoot.
And that brings me to the final joy of the game. Just figuring out how different things interact with each other is pretty good fun. What exactly can I set on fire? Which bits of the landscape can be rearranged with bombs? The realisation I can spread electric current through the water. I can roll a boulder downhill and if someone is in the way, oh well. And god knows how much more stuff.
So yeah, despite my issues with it I really like BOTW. Due to my preferences as a gamer, it’s not going to be one of those great games for me but it is a great. It’s like a turbo powered Just Cause 3, a game where I just have fun on, even if it is fleeting. And if a game’s fun then it’s done a good job.
Dark Souls III: Invasions are awesome. I have been doing other things on Dark Souls III, but invasions are so good I want to write about them. Again. But seriously invading is great fun. Before this I only ever invaded as part of a covenant. But lately, feeling a bit bored of this and wanting something new I decided to finally use my red eye orb, join the mound makers and see what this invasion lark was all about. Why did I put this off so long?
Part of the draw is not knowing what’s going happen. Many invasions end with frenzied stabbing but there’s always the odd ones. A particular invasion stands out. I invaded at Archdragon Peak, and no fighting occurred. We just took our clothes off and messed about with weapon arts. There’s no other game that’s letting me do that.
And if fighting breaks out, that’s great fun as well. There’s a certain rush that PVP has that a boss fight doesn’t, and combine the thrill of the fight with looking for the enemy and it’s a wholly unique game experience. I do try to be a nice invader and wave before anything happens. But if it’s 2 vs 1 or above, I tend to leave that honour at the door. Or join forces with Havel. Havel’s a great dude.
But yeah dude, Invasions. Invasions are the best.