‘Hob’ Hands-On Preview & Runic Games Developer Interview

During this past PAX East in Boston we had the opportunity to sit down with Runic Games for a demo of Hob, their upcoming title for PC, PS4 and Xbox One, and speak with the developer about the game. Prior to their work on Hob, Runic Games released the well-received action RPG titles Torchlight and Torchlight II.

The Interview

Check out our PAX East audio interview below with Allen Fong, COO of Runic Games, where he takes us through the design and inner-workings of Hob.

Hands-On Impressions

Hob drops players into a character and world with no dialogue or NPCs, relying only on the environment and the experimentation and curiosity of players to drive the experience. From the get-go the allure of exploration is strong, as Runic Games has developed a lush world above ground, a mysterious mechanical world below ground, and a character that feels adept to both.

Less an action RPG like Torchlight and more a straight-up adventure game of its own, the camera perspective of the game and the proportions it showcases works well for adventuring, with camera control mostly stationary in an isometric view, but at times moving to showcase scenery or direct player attention in gameplay. The visuals feel both lush and minimalist at the same time, not overdoing it but still feeling like a living breathing place both above and below ground.

The above vs. below of the world was a central aspect of the demonstrations, as the world above appears distressed, and players explore and interact with the environment to power up equipment, move structures around, and piece things together. The player character has a charming design with a red hood/cape combo and mechanical glove-arm on one arm that is acquired earlier in the game. This mechanical glove-arm is central to combat and exploration throughout the game, giving the character the added strength needed to pull off heavy combat, as well as push and pull environmental structures to solve puzzles and progress.

Below ground is a world of mechanisms that drive the world above. During the demonstration we experienced just what Runic Games means when they say the player is repairing the world above when we progressed through areas and powered up machinery that lifted larges pieces of forestry up toward the surface. The action combat felt good during the demonstration, with light and heavier attacks, dodging and blocking all at the players’ disposal. Balancing felt good as well, as we were killed by enemies a few times when we didn’t employ all the tactics available.

On the exploration end, the game sets on weaving paths and large structures to tackle, either by pushing or pulling different objects, or powering machinery up to shift structures around. Most games involving exploration are not typically difficult in that regard as trial and error eventually solve most issues for any player, however the initial discovery along each puzzle was enjoyable in Hob due to the attention to detail and the level design not feeling repetitive. The game also provides challenging platforming segments as part of the exploration, and beautiful vistas and backdrops throughout.

Hob provided an experience that we wanted to keep playing, keep pulling the string of adventure to see what we come to next. The game demonstration leaned to the peaceful-side of adventure for us and did it well, with combat feeling like a survival of the fittest instead of the typical ‘man-on-a-mission’, making for a standout experience.

Hob is set for release sometime in 2017 from Runic Games.


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