Review by joshrholloway
"A unique and original experience that's worth playing despite flaws"
By now you all know the story: Too Human is the first game in a planned epic trilogy by Denis Dyack and Silicon Knights of Eternal Darkness fame. Much has been said about the fact that the game has been in development in some form or another for almost 10 years, that Dyack has spread Fable-level hype about the game, and that it aims to combine genres and storylines like no other game before it. So considering all that, how does Too Human actually stack up?
In its simplest form, you could describe Too Human as an action RPG, but that really doesn't do it justice. This isn't an action RPG in the sense that Diablo II or Kingdom Hearts is, and it brings its own ideas to the table. The combat portion plays like a hack-and-slash action game akin to Dynasty Warriors or the new Ninja Gaiden series. You can't exactly call it a button masher, though, because in an interesting twist, most of the combat is performed with the right analog stick. This is how you will swing your melee weapon and "slide" from one enemy to the next.
In pretty much every way possible, the combat in Too Human is extremely satisfying. With it, you have many different ways to play. You can focus on ranged attacks with pistols, rifles, or cannons; you can jump into the fray, bashing at enemies with all sorts of blades and bludgeons; or you can play a more tactical game, mixing up the two combat forms. Toss in some cool special attacks and combo-linking chain moves, and you have yourself a very fun and brutal combat system.
The other huge aspect of the game is the RPG element, mostly consisting of managing an ever-changing list of weapons and armor. This can also be very fun, slowly tweaking your character to give the best bonuses in his specialties. Much of the loot you find will be useless to you, and thankfully the team at Silicon Knights was forgiving, so unlike other RPGs, you don't have to wait to sell your items at a store in a town. Each item you pick up can be salvaged for bounty, the currency of the game. This leads to more flexibility with your inventory and how you equip your character.
As I said before, Too Human's story is a fusion of worlds. The game takes place in a world where humans are watched over by cybernetically-enhanced protectors that have come to think of themselves as gods. All of the main characters and the overarching storyline draws heavily from Norse mythology, but puts a sci-fi twist on everything. You play Baldur, the favorite son of all the gods, a warrior with unmatched potential. At the beginning of the game, the humans are attacked by mechanical creatures thought long dead. This game is about the conflict between the gods and these machines.
While it sounds like an interesting concept (and it is), the story fails on several fundamental levels. A big reveal near the end of the game that was apparently supposed to be a shocking surprise was obvious to me from the start, and a different element of the story that I think was supposed to be foreshadowed completely came out of nowhere. Ultimately, the story feels half-finished and doesn't really go anywhere until the very end of the game. Luckily for those interested in this concept, Too Human is only the first part of a planned trilogy of games that will finish up this epic tale.
If you could sum up the graphics of Too Human in one word, it would probably be "bipolar." Most of the areas you visit in Too Human are stunning and very well-rendered, but the characters that inhabit the world generally fare much worse. Even among these characters, though, there are ups and downs. Baldur, the main character, looks quite good in all aspects, even though his fellow gods and warriors aren't up to snuff. In truth, a few of the models and most of the facial animation in particular is pretty laughable for an Xbox 360 game.
Where the graphics really shine, however, is in the multitude of weapons and armor you'll collect. All look very good and provide enough variety that you're not bored with the same sad-looking helmet like many other RPG games. The combat animation in Too Human is also excellent, providing generally smooth transitions from one attack to another.
While the sound in Too Human is not bad, it's also not remarkable. The music is mostly atmospheric, and gets appropriately epic at just the right times. The sound effects are good, but nothing to write home about. There are a couple of nice touches, such as the wolf howl when you activate certain attacks, and some satisfying combat sound effects later in the game when you face an altogether different type of enemy than you machines you face throughout most of the game.
Replay Value: 6/10
While Too Human can be a very fun romp through an interesting world, it feels like it's over before it really gets started. The single-player campaign will only last you around 16 hours at the most. As many action RPG fans will tell you, though, the campaign is just the beginning. Once you've been through the game once, you can go through it subsequent times with tougher enemies to continue leveling up your character. It will take at least two times playing through the campaign to reach the maximum level of 50, at which point you will still need to sink more time into the game to find the "Epic" equipment to match your character's class. Dedicated players will want to play through again with another class, but I can't see even the most hardcore genre fan wanting to level up more than two or three characters to level 50.
The only multiplayer option available in Too Human is a two-player co-op expedition through the same levels you play in the campaign, with the story stripped out and the enemy count greatly increased. This is a great alternative to single-player for leveling up your character and finding loot, but once you're maxed out, there's not much point to the multiplayer anymore. I don't think the combat engine in Too Human is suited to player-vs-player action, but a competitive time trial or any sort of contest could have vastly increased the replayability of this title.
Overall, Too Human is a fun adventure with many shortcomings. While the core of the game, the combat, is very solid, there were parts of the game that felt incomplete. For action RPG fans or loot hounds, this could very well be the game they've been waiting for, and for even the most average of gamers, I believe it's worth a rent to experience one of the most original games to come out in a long time, however short the experience may be. One can only hope that Silicon Knights tightens up everything for the forthcoming sequels.
Final Score: 7/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 08/25/08
Game Release: Too Human (US, 08/19/08)
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