Review by MeIchiah
"Oh Mighty Odin You Have Surely Blessed Us With Such A Treasure."
The idea of Too Human or at least the basic concept of it has been stewing 14 years in the minds of Denis Dyack and the rest of the developers at Silicon Knights. Some in the gaming community may perhaps even consider Too Human a sore spot or a cancer for them as it always seemed like it may actually become a game at various points but it never did. Slowly but surely becoming a joke of the gaming community like Duke Nukem Forever. The idea was attempted on a number of occasions to take game form over the years on the PSOne, N64 and even Gamecube. But as the fates would conspire to always delay and eventually cancel these attempts. Silicon Knights wasn't twiddling their thumbs however they were very busy during these many years created other great and respected cult titles like Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, Eternal Darkness and even doing projects for Nintendo and Konami like Twin Snakes. Finally and eventually though Silicon Knights would get there chance to finally make their dream game. Though what direction they originally thought of, to what they eventually would create was so vastly different it may have as well been a different game. Here on the 360 we are now witness to part one of what is to become The Too Human Trilogy. What has 14 years of thought and idea and 4 years of game development created?
If you've played a Silicon Knights game in the past most gamers will acknowledge that they have had an excellent track record for creating thought provoking and interesting plots in their games. Too Human is only the beginning part of the tale that Silicon Knights is weaving, so just how complex, deep or thought provoking The Too Human Trilogy is destined to be will be a question that will have to be answered at a much later date and a different review. However we can at least comment on its beginning stages.
The story is actually rather confusing to get into, for some reason Silicon Knights made a bad blunder in the initial setup of the story and this has caused a lot of people to not get it or follow it correctly (people tend to not like things they don't understand) I've seen people say it's just a mindless shallow go kill this, go kill that type of story and that couldn't be further from the truth there is so many underlying plot points going on at once and the story is so full of emotion the story is absolutely excellent if you can pick it up and follow it. Let me do you a favor that the game doesn't do and try and introduce you to what you are being thrown into. You are entering a world of highly advanced technology so advanced that a select number of humans have been cybernetically enhanced with this technology so that they are super human. These super human cyborgs consider themselves responsible for protecting the human race. However this world isn't some sci-fi future setting though it's actually taking place in the past. An ancient civilization, no lost in time, that has had this advanced technology and protectors for so long that they've forgotten/lost it's actual orgins and consider the cyborg protectors due to their immense abilities actual living Gods and the technology they use is magic of the devine.
Silicon Knights created this cybernetic world based around our actual Norse mythology. Odin, Thor, Hel, Tyr, Loki and many more mythologies are all present and explained out ingeniously by this highly advanced technical world. If you are fluent in Norse mythology you may even be able to predict some events that come to pass in the storyline, whether Silicon Knights plans to follow actual Norse mythology outcomes for all the characters or will branch off on their own twists is something unknown at this time. The time in which you enter this civilization is a bleak time. The world, once a lush paradise, is now in a ice age or nuclear winter brought upon the world by a war between the Gods and this army of rogue machines that are looked at as monsters by the normal human populace. You are put into the role of the God Baldur The Son of Odin. Unlike many of his fellow gods Baldur is closer to humanity than most and while he has that usual hero badassness he also has a heart. Due to some strange turn of events a couple of the Gods have aligned themselves with the machines and betrayed the Aesir (the order of the gods) Baldur looking to serve the humans, please his father Odin, and make a name for himself among the other gods sets out to eliminate the most dire threats he can. But as with any good story not everything is laid out before you as you and Baldur progress pay close attention to events and you will find somethings amiss expect some twists and turns in this the first part of a 3 part storyline.
The gameplay is interestingly just as unique as the take on story. It's also seems to be this hodgepodge of various other genres creating something new. You need to think in the lines of a dungeon crawler, loot hunting game like Diablo or PSO mixed with twitchy combo based gameplay of action games like Devil May Cry or God of War. An Action/RPG with more thought put into the action portion of it. In many reviews I have read I have seen people try and compare it or hold it up to a particular genre bashing it for not doing something just as deeply. Some trying to compare it with other action titles, some trying to compare it to the standard hack and slash games and even RPGS, and it just doesn't quite work as the game isn't trying to be one of those titles, it's trying to do something new using elements from all of them. Almost in a sense creating a new hybrid genre. You create your Baldur from 5 different classes ranging from healers to ranged weapon experts to up close warrior types. Each class also has skill tree paths that you can choose from as you level up to even further customize your character with extra enhancements and maneuvers and early on you are given the choice to take a branching path of more cybernetic style or more human style of enhancements. All this means that there is quite a bit of diversity and customization that can be given to your character. You won't reach the max level in your first play through and the game is designed so that you can repeat it with your same character over and over again getting stronger and stronger. As you level up however so do your enemies, the game level scales so that you always are fighting enemies that have the potential to offer some challenge. Apparently Silicon Knights thought level scaling enemies would be better than offering an easy, normal, hard mode type setup. I honestly couldn't say if that's for better or for worse but I have heard others complain. The level scaling can be overcome by wearing some of the games better gear, throwing the balance in your favor.
You take your character into various dungeon like environments where you are attacked by wave upon wave of enemies. Usually in each group there is a uniquely named special enemy that is tougher than the rest of the wave attacking you kind of a leader of the group. The combat is quite different than most of what you have played in the past. Your melee combat is directly controlled by the right analog stick and your ranged aiming is controlled by the analog stick as well though only for ranged you actually fire with the triggers. The game allows you to quickly change up between melee and ranged combat on the fly to create a combination of the two in your combos. For melee you attack in the direction you move the analog stick in however the game allows you to chain combos together or when used with the left analog stick perform more powerful combos, double tapping the analog stick in a direction will allow you to launch an enemy in the air in which you can jump in the air and hover there for a short time doing an air combo on that opponent or you can whip out your guns and juggle the enemy in the air with your gunfire. If the enemy you want to strike is some distance from you, you can tap the analog stick in its direction and you will slide to it attacking. This creates a very fast paced and chaotic system that can have you sliding from enemy to enemy hacking and shooting them, tossing them into the air. It's very easy to jump in and kick some normal machine ass from random mashing of the sticks and triggers but it's more satisfying and much more difficult to learn how to string attacks together and actually kill certain foes, certain ways on purpose. The system is highly addicting and fun. However it's not without its faults. Ultimately the control scheme favors large masses of enemies so it can have some hiccups when there is that one specific enemy you want to target. It will occasionally not want to target them. It's not something that happens all the time but it does happen. It's more of an issue with ranged fighting and can be extremely irritating trying to target one specific thing. Also the camera while not a huge enemy does screw with you on occasion. You have very limited choice over what the camera does as it's designed to try and give the best more epic shot of any particular scene. So on occasion it can cause you trouble but if you pay attention to the controls you will notice one key control the LB button. It centers the camera behind you instantly during combat so you just need to learn that button is your friend and most camera problems can be avoided.
The actual single play through of the game to witness the storyline isn't very long. People have been getting through in as quickly as 10 hours, but the game is purposely designed to be that short as the game is designed to be replayed many times over. The ongoing drive of this game and the replay value comes in two forms. One a throwback to games like Diablo or Phantasy Star Online this is ultimately a game that becomes that of item hunting. What will keep people coming back to level up their characters beyond the first play through is the games weapon and armor system. The game has a HUGE amount of armor and weapons for your character to find/make and equip some of which is quite rare and as your level increases you find higher level gear and that gear looks more and more flaunty. The game is all about finding that uniquely rare weapon or armor piece that makes your Baldur stand out and more badass than someone else's Baldur. If you are not the type of person that likes the treasure hunt of games then you may not get much more out of this game than one or two play-throughs. So you may just consider a rental however don't underestimate the addicting power of the treasure hunt.
The second form of replay and longevity with this game ties into the first. What's the point of pimping your character out? So you can show off to others that's why. Play a game with others and have them drool over your amazing looking sword or being able to tell the tale of how you got it/earned it. Which is why this game is very clearly made to be an online game? It was originally going to be 4 player online but SK scaled it back to two player co op. Which is a let down (hopefully they bring it back up to 4 players in part 2), the more the merrier I say. But if you have Xbox Live Co Op will probably be the only way you will be playing the game after the first play through to see the storyline. Not only is the combat more chaotic and fun when playing with someone else but so is the treasure hunt greatly enhanced. This is one of those games where people lose hundreds of hours playing online with their friends socializing and treasure hunting. The game is designed to be shorter so that you and your friends can hone your skills and memorize the levels and become the ultimate masters of the game while you hunt for gear.
Graphically the game is a mixed bag though one must keep in mind a couple things. One Silicon Knights games have never been the forefront of graphics. Eternal Darkness was always bashed for having graphics that looked very N64ish. Secondly Too Human was being originally built with Epics game engine but SK was having so many issues with that engine they scrapped it mid development and made their own engine to replace it. The game does indeed look nice, definitely up to par with this generation, just not up to current standards set by games like Bioshock, Assassins Creed, Gears of War..etc. While some models looks down right gorgeous other things can look quite dated. Depending on the lighting of a particular room or area the game also looks realistic in one area and almost cel shaded in another. There are also some minor framerate issues during cutscenes and such. But when you get these sweeping camera angles showcasing these large ruins and epic monuments most of all the small graphical hiccups are forgiven as you bask in this epic awe-inspiring sight. In the limited time they had to get their own engine up and running I think it's damn impressive but it could stand for a little polish and some more enhancements. It's still quite eye pleasing though sure to have some of the more graphically demanding gamers complaining.
The audio in Too Human is great, which is another thing Silicon Knights has always had a good track record for. There are some excellent musical scores in this game that match the feel of the visuals and the voice acting is very well done. Again that mixture of sci-fi and ancient mythology/fantasy rears its head here creating some initially awkward sounding dialogue at times. Thor may make you cringe on occasion as he is what one could consider a stereotypical brutish barbarian like character but he is in the middle of this sophisticated high tech world, so his lines and his voice seem out of place at times until you become accustomed to this unique mixture. The voice work may not quite be their best voice work compared to that which they've done in the past but it's definitely above the norm of gaming standard and pleasing to the ears. (and really how could you hope to live up to voice acting of games like Blood Omen?)
At the end of the day Silicon Knights has created something very unique, addicting and fun and looks to be a great start to what is surely a very promising trilogy that by its end may change the way many gamers look at and look for in gaming. Too Human has some rough edges, a few minor issues and hiccups that come from anyone trying anything new is bound to experience. But at the same time the experience they have created is quite fun and very addicting. I think this a game that everyone needs to try and give it a good shot. It's not a game you can pick up and play for 10 - 20 minutes and decide if you are going to like it. It's a game that requires initial patience to learn everything. It requires patience understand its unique combat mechanics and patience to get your proper footing on understanding the story that you are kind of awkwardly thrown into. It's a game that the more you learn; the more you get into the more you like it and eventually love. Because of that this will be a love or hate game those that don't have the patience, those that want instant gratification will probably walk away thinking the worst about it and those that do have the patience will think it's one of the best games this generation of gaming has to offer. Rent or buy you should at least give it a chance. For me it's a great title that I will be playing for a long time to come.
Score: 8.4 (Excellent an addicting game with a few rough edges)
Reviewer's Score: 8/10, Originally Posted: 08/25/08
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 08/25/08, Updated 08/26/08
Game Release: Too Human (US, 08/19/08)
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