Home / Platform / PC / Hob sees the makers of Torchlight trading Diablo for Zelda

Hob sees the makers of Torchlight trading Diablo for Zelda

Metal in games is almost always the same kinds of metal: iron or steel, a flash of dented silver with a speckle of rust and a scattering of rivets. In Hob, however, the metal of choice is copper, and copper turns out to be transformative. Hob takes place in an ancient, long dormant machine world. A world in which nature – weird, prickly nature – has staged a comeback, in which grass has grown around vast diodes and escapements and plug sockets that litter the landscape. Copper pokes out of the ground everywhere, and gives a weird alien shape to the spine of each outcropping, each mini-mountain. Beautiful copper, somehow warm and somehow, well, ancient.

Hob is the latest from Runic Games, the developer behind Torchlight and Torchlight 2. Those were both beloved action RPGs, in the style of Diablo, and – due to Runic’s founding members, who worked on those games at Blizzard – from the same lineage as Diablo too. Hob is a bit of a departure. It’s still sort of a top-downish affair, even if the camera is tilted a bit to give a wider view of the landscape, but it takes its main cues from a different kind of action RPG tradition. Hob feels a lot like Zelda, from the brisk sword-swipe combat to the grass you can hack through to regain health orbs, and even the secondary meter that powers what amount to magic attacks and special abilities. Combat itself seems pleasantly sparse, however. Instead, beneath that thin coating of whacking things around is a distinctly Hyrulian emphasis on exploration of the old and numinous. And beneath that you hit the bedrock of an intricate world that doesn’t so much house puzzles as feel like one giant puzzle in its own right.

I played through a short demo late last week, and I’m still thinking about it. We’re a little way into the game, and exploring a stretch of grassland, stone and copper erupting out of the ground to form gently curving mountains and towers. The protagonist in this world is a lithe robo-person in a red cloak, and their job, it seems, is to bring ancient things back online. This means manipulating the environment in some extremely satisfying ways, moving the entire face of a cliff around so you can scale it, for example, removing the vast chains that hold a huge wall in place, or leaving the overworld behind entirely and descending deep into various subterranean dungeons in order to bring hidden lands back to the surface.

The puzzles are wonderfully tactile, hinging on things that can be grabbed and pulled around to great consequence. Switches are huge, and they move hulking stone bridges that move on neat rails. It’s the kind of game where you solve a single puzzle by tackling separate elements, each one with its own twist. A lot of the time, you’ll be powering up a vast bit of machinery one section at a time, the world around you changing drastically as a result of your actions.