Back in 2016, Tali and I went to Pax West again for the second time for Game-Refraction. This would have been our third time going together, and my seventh time going in total. We started attending PaxWest in 2014, under the name of an internet radio station which I had owned and DJ’d on for several years, but after we launched Game-Refraction in October 2014, we had a new name to carry us to Pax and from there great things have happened.
2016 was just like any other Pax we’ve been too, with tons of games to see and try, and we did a ton of interviews with game developers as well. Sometimes games are demonstrated in earlier stages of development, and take a few years more before they come out. This was the case of HoB.
Originally announced at Pax Prime in 2015 by Runic Games, HoB is an action-adventure style game with a top-down/three-quarter type view. Released on the PlayStation 4 and windows PC, HoB plays a lot like ‘The Legend of Zelda’ in the style of gameplay and actions. I use this correlation only for the visual camera direction of the game, and is no way a comparison to Zelda at all. What I found very unique, and probably my favorite part of the game is the tutorial, training and instructions in the game.
Ok, that might not sound very exciting, right? But what I didn’t mention in the paragraph above, is the lack of all those items, and this is what makes HoB a great game. You start the game locked up in a room, and a NPC comes to set you free, and you begin your adventure following him around for a short time. Yes, he does kind of teach you a few things, but he doesn’t speak anything intelligible at all, but does point to some items if you need to active to move something. Therefore, I love this aspect of the game. Visually there are clues everywhere as to what you need to do, or where you need to go, but the game lets you figure out everything that needs to be done. Presented without any on-screen text or dialogue, you need to explore the world to discover what you need to do. You also need to remember different zones that you have explored, as travelling back after an upgrade might reveal that you can go somewhere you were locked out of before.
Visually HoB is a stunning game. The graphics are simply beautiful. One thing that I found quite neat is there are areas of the map that you can activate, and your character sits down to admire the background view, which is a nice touch, but can also be an advantage as the background is all the area’s you have not explored yet. Shading and color is magnificent, and while the graphics are a little cartoon-ish, they are extremely well done. The visual effects are stunning, right down to the blades of grass that move as you run through them, to the lighting effects of the caves and fires.
There are no levels for your character in HoB. You gain health by collecting shards from these giant plant pods, and you gain energy from these broken robot guys. Once you have enough shards
of each you gain a full unit, which is added to your overall health and energy. Health is of course useful from surviving attacks. Without it your character dies. Energy is used with special abilities like the glove warp ability, or the power smash. The glove is kind of an interesting item. You don’t get it in the beginning of the game, but when you do, it becomes a pivotal item that is used throughout the game for many purposes. You can power smash enemies with it to break their defenses, the glove will help keep you from falling of ledges if you happen to walk to close to one, you can unlock doors and passages with it, carry heavy objects, and bust out ladders by jump-smashing specific buttons on certain area’s of the world.
Since HoB was released on both PC and PlayStation 4, control can either be with a controller or keyboard and mouse. Since I had just received my controller from Scuf Gaming (See link for unboxing) I decided to use that to best experience the game. Tali did the same, and after playing with the controller, I can’t see how anyone would play it without one. Controls are simple, but also very effective. Using the left thumb stick you can move around the world, with the A button(Xbox One)/X button (PS4) being the standard ‘jump’ button. Attacks with the sword are X/Square as well as interacting with objects, and Y/Triangle for alternate glove attacks. The B/Circle button is for a roll/dodge action. The bumpers are used for special glove abilities, with the left being for the grapple action, and the right being for the warp ability. Both these abilities are unlocked in the game after you progress to a certain point and locate the upgrade chamber. The controller triggers are also used for additional actions. The left trigger activates your shield, which is very useful against some attacks. The right trigger is used for running and climbing faster.
The sound track to HoB is exceedingly well done, with all the music composed by Matt Uelmen. The ambient music is amazing, and playing without any of the game music would ruin the game experience in my opinion. On the Steam version of the game, the soundtrack is offered as a DLC, which automatically downloaded for me when I installed the game, making me think that the soundtrack was not intentionally shipped with the game. The soundtrack files are found in your steam folder though under HoB, and are in MP3 format, so you can always take them with you on your favorite audio device. There are also FLAC version available in this folder.
Now having only played for a total of 7 hours of HoB, I feel the game has a ton of potential still for me to explore and unlock, and I will continue to play it more. I have streamed myself playing on our YouTube Channel (link) 2 hour segments of the game, which you can watch, but be warned that watching could potentially give you spoilers on how to solve some of the various puzzles of the game. Tali and I both enjoy playing HoB, and she often tries to get me to help her by giving away the solutions to puzzles I’ve already gotten past. I admit that is an easy way to go, but half the fun is trying to solve them, so I try to refuse as best I can (she can be very persuasive). In the end we are both trying to get to the finish of the game. If you are looking for a recommendation on if this game is good, and if you should buy it, I am going to say YES YES YES. HoB is an excellent game with lots of fun puzzles set in a challenging world in which you have to use the visual clues to solve and maneuver your way through to the end. I highly recommend this game to everyone, but with the only caveat being that if you get it for PC, I suggest going with a controller and not the keyboard & mouse.
Steam Store Link: http://store.steampowered.com/app/404680/Hob/
Playstation Store Link: https://store.playstation.com/#!/en-ca/games/hob/cid=UP0585-CUSA08079_00-HOBGAME000000000
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Game Review: HoB (PC)
An game with amazing visuals and fun puzzles to solve as you work your way through the land.