I can’t help but feel captivated and deeply moved by the game Hob. During my hands-on experience at PAX East, I had the privilege of sitting down with members from the Runic Games team and trying things out myself. Needless to say, I was impressed and fell in love.
In this Zelda-inspired adventure, you play as a silent protagonist destined to uncover your reason for being and piece back the world around you. The game is visually stunning with a cartoony steampunk feel and also uniquely engaging, as one of the key aspects of the game is that it doesn’t provide you with any in-game dialogue or formal guidance. Despite that, Runic Games uses this minimalist approach to create a captivating story and a wonderfully engaging world. This lack of guidance really set Hob apart from other games that were being demoed on the PAX East 2017 expo floor. I was absolutely blow me away with how with its execution. I don’t think Runic Games could have staged this game or its story in a more brilliant way. I found myself instantly hooked as the game sparked my love of adventure and discovery.
During the demo, one of the first things that you notice about your hero is that he is equipped with a mechanical arm. According to the Runic Team, this arm was acquired after an encounter with a creature known as a Titan. Our hero took the arm, and after equipping it was given a variety of additional abilities that aided him in getting around the world, solving puzzles, and fending off enemies. This encounter happens early on in the actual game, but was not a part of the PAX East hands-on demo. This was mainly for the sake of saving time and giving players a chance to actually explore, experience the world’s environmental storytelling, and play the game. However, I do think that it is worth noting how the acquisition of the mechanical arm is representative of character development and the self-discovery that will further be reflected throughout the game and through the story.
Next up is the actual game play. I found the game play of Hob ridiculously enjoyable. The game is riddled with puzzles and intuitive combat that is both fun and challenging, which in my opinion makes it perfect for gamers of all ages. The game is not too hard and it is not too easy. It also tends to be rather forgiving in certain cases. For example, if you fall your hero will take fall damage, but that damage will first be subtracted from your stamina bar and then from your health bar. This is a life saver and saved me more times than I would like to admit during my short 30 minutes playing the demo. The world is also riddled with save points. So, in the event that your hero dies, you will never be too far from where you last were because you will re-spawn at your most recently activated save point. Completed puzzles are also completely saved. You will never have to redo a completed puzzle if you die.
The game play is also further enhanced by the game’s level design. The puzzles within each level are clever, and really draw attention to the environment of the world that you are exploring. With each move you make and piece of the puzzle solved, you are able to observe the changes taking place within the landscape. These changes really call out to the deeper meaning of the story being told. Something about witnessing this beautiful world machine come back to life is enchantingly fascinating. It truly feels as if with each change in the environment, like you are closer to uncovering the truth of your story. Because of this, I was completely immersed. There were times that I didn’t even realize that the camera angle had changed because I was so determined to complete each puzzles and witness the resulting changes. The environment in Hob is an amazing story teller.
Although there has yet to be an official release date, Runic Games has announced that their game will be coming to both PC and PS4. They have absolutely created a stunningly alluring puzzle adventure which is single-handedly going to be one of the most entertaining and enriching gaming experiences of 2017. The lack of there being formal narration or dialogue guiding players only enhances the game play experience. It also contributes further to the mystifying sense of there being a deeper meaning to it all. In my opinion, this empowers players to work harder and more passionately to continue uncovering the secrets of the beautiful and broken world of Hob.
This game was clearly a PAX East audience favorite as well as a favorite of our staff here are Marooners’ Rock. The line for the game was almost always capped and you could see and feel the joy emanating from both the players and watchers of the game. With that alone, it’s not surprising that our staff unanimously voted Hob Best of Show for PAX East 2017.
Hob rightfully earned that title for Best of Show as well. I think the reason for this is because the game reignites that long-desired spark and thrill of discovery that many of us have been missing from games for a long time. This Zelda-inspired puzzle adventure captivated our staff as well as seemingly all those who played it. The most beautiful thing about this game surprisingly wasn’t just the level design or just the story or just the artwork, but instead it was the entire package. The wordless narrative of Hob and the game as whole makes it a long awaited and fulfilling masterpiece that instilled a sense of purpose and desire within us as the players. We weren’t playing Hob just for the sake of having a game to play it. Instead, we were playing to appease the greater sense of longing and desire that the game granted us and that we have long missed as gamers. We fell in love with this game and believe that you will too.
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