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Let’s Compare Games, Shall We?
For the longest time I never quite understood why people proclaim that the Darksiders games are Zelda-like. The art in Darksiders looks nothing like The Legend of Zelda, and that much I do know. Have I ever played a Zelda game? No, well, not until recently…and I only played it for 5-10 minutes.
I recently acquired a Super Nintendo Classic (by standing two hours in line at EB Games last month)–and that highly anticipated purchase only went down so that I could (once again) own and religiously play Super Mario World; but this time on my 46 inch LED HDTV! (Oh how far technology has come!) But being a starving student of the games industry, and a true-blue “connoisseur” of video games (lmfao), I owed it to myself to give the renown 16-bit Zelda game a try. So I did…and needless to say, it didn’t hook me, but I digress.
So putting that 5-10 minute test run aside, I’ve never played any Zelda game thoroughly. Back in those early NES, and Super NES days, I didn’t even know that Zelda was the princess. I thought that Zelda was the main playable character, and the hero of the game. That’s how out of the loop I was…again, I digress.
Now, God of War on the other hand; I’ve played the hell out of those games. The similarities between Darksiders and God of War are much more apparent, if you ask me. These games share the same look and feel–and the excessive amount of button mashing that comes with either one has certainly contributed to my inevitable carpel tunnel! So for these reasons I must insist that the Darksider and Zelda comparison be a thing of the past. There’s a better game comparison that can be made to the likes of Zelda, and the name of this Zelda-like is Hob.
Hob is Like…
Hob is an ancient, colourful world filled with luscious greenery, stone, and copper in every direction. It’s a world that begs you to explore all of it’s nooks and crannies in order to unlock it’s mysteries and save it from the purple-y goop that infects it. You play as an ambiguous blue-eyed character, sporting a nifty red-hooded cloak; and you’re new lot in life is figuring out just what the hell is up with this world.
The path is not always clear in Hob so it’s up to you to explore the world and make sense of it all. It’s a wordless game, so there are no bystanders to talk to or any information to read. The storytelling is all visual and that makes Hob that much more fun to explore. But behind every other bush, tree, and/or column, lurks creatures of all shapes and sizes that want to spill your blood. All that you have to survive is your trusty sword (which looks like, and might double as a key), your shield, and your more-than-capable “Hellboy-ish” left arm. Seriously, Hellboy himself might want to try this mitt on for size because this little blue-eyed explorer can dish out some serious damage with this thing.
Your powerful arm is the key to many things inside of Hob. You can unlock mystical ATMs (to collect currency for skill upgrades), break through the walls that obstruct your way; and even ground-pound the platform beneath your feet to create ladder-like indents within the stone, so that you can climb back down to the surface. All of the game mechanics feel great–except for jumping over gaps at times, which tends to feel floaty–but the true magic comes from watching this enigmatic world shift and change right before your very eyes because Hob is a world that transforms.
Some of the monolithic structures that populate the world act as mechanisms: dials, pulleys, clamps and switches. Your job is to push, pull, and flip each one because doing so solves the environmental puzzle; showing you the way forward. In a way–and I’m going to throw in a totally different geeky reference here–Hob is like Autobot City (in the 1986 animated Transformers movie) and it desperately needs your help to initiate it’s transformation sequence, so that it can better defend itself.
So now you know, and knowing is half the battle! Ok, now I’m quoting a totally different 80s cartoon, not to mention I’m totally dating myself–enjoy the let’s play!
Update: Runic Games Closes
As of November 3rd, 2017: It is with great sadness–because I truly enjoy this game–that I inform you (if you don’t already know) that China-based publisher Perfect World has shut down Runic Games, the developer behind Hob, not to mention the more popularly played Torchlight series. Here’s their official statement.
This belated news might not have come as a surprise to games industry veterans and experts, but it certainly comes as a surprise to me (as do all game developer shut downs). This is common in this industry, but never have I read about a developer closing it’s doors, a month after their game releases, as I’m currently playing the game in real time. I’ve written about developers shutting down before, but this was truly shocking news to learn.
The Fallout of Games as a Service
This is a weird time in games, as there is this shift happening. Games as a service and microtransactions are taking over. Loot boxes, season passes, and DLC (Downloadable content) are the models driving the more successful games in the market right now, so publishers are trying to cash in. Unfortunately certain studios with games in development, not abiding by this model, are being put on the chopping block. It’s a crazy time. Games are becoming much more expensive to make–Triple-A games (like Assassin’s Creed or Destiny) can cost upwards of two million dollars–and if a game doesn’t sell, it can result in lay offs and/or company closures. Indie developers (like Runic Games) don’t operate anywhere near that kind of budget, but that principle of ROI applies. That’s the reality. Publishers have to find a way to make a return on these investments–it’s business. So we need to prepare ourselves because we haven’t seen the last of this “new world order” of gaming.
I may write more about this games as a service trend, as I continue to watch it unfold. This apparent shift away from offline, story-driven, single player games; to online, more community-focused, and microtransaction-based, service model will (for sure) be a hot topic of discussion as we enter the new year.
To all of the former employees of Runic Games, I hope that you all land on your feet, after you figure out your next move. I know this industry is volatile, but I also know that this industry has a plethora of opportunities. Hopefully the transition to your next home-away-from-home is a painless one, and that you come back into the fold happier and more inspired. God speed!