Review: Too Human -- Part I of II

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

Too Human has been the buzz of the enthusiast press and the gaming community since its release on August 19th. The title had been an epic, ten years in the making, and had been sold as the game that will reinvigorate dungeon crawling, action based role playing games for the current console generation. Boy that is a mouthful. With that many different components at work, will Silicon Knights be able to deliver on the promise that was made so many years ago?

In an interesting bit of storytelling, the main plot is based off of Norse mythology, but set in an age that is far in the future. The player is placed into the shoes of Baldur, as he scours the far reaches of the galaxy, in search of vengeance for his slain wife. His hunt for justice is a long winding story full of action, betrayal, and political intrigue. While the concept of the storyline is interesting, there is a glaring continuity issue. All of these Aesir characters, that are also gods, were viewed as strong, intimidating and powerful beyond belief in most mythological texts. In the game, these personalities were toned down so much, some might wonder who was actually in charge. When meeting after major battles, there was no jubilant victory celebrations shown. In fact, it was the exact opposite. It looked more like a town hall meeting.

Not only were the cutscenes tedious, several looked as if they were never finished to begin with. In most cases, there seemed to be a lack of polish, that would normally be found in a standard triple A release. The most notable issues included a lack of texture detail, audio that would not sync with lip movements, and just downright atrocious dialog.

The game begins with the player deciding what class of character Baldur will be. The different classes are as follows:

  1. Champion -- Primarily a melee attacker, that has an equal balance between offense and defense

  2. Defender -- Primarily a melee attacker, that has an emphasis on defense

  3. Berserker -- Primarily a melee attacker, that has an emphasis on offense

  4. Bio Engineer -- A weak general attacker, that has the ability to heal themselves

  5. Commando -- A weak melee attacker, with emphasis on ranged attacks
Class choice is a very important decision, that can have a direct influence on how someone would play the game. Several different sites have identified the Champion and the Berserker as the two most popular classes thus far. One would assume that these are the most popular due to their intense melee combat abilities. Fortunately, there is more than enough variety in all of the available classes, to suit the needs of almost anyone.

Once gameplay starts, the player is dropped into a conflict situation, with no context whatsoever, and expected to fend for themselves. The closest this game has to a tutorial is an instruction screen that appears for ten seconds then disappears. If this were a frequent occurrence early on, this manner of a tutorial process would be fairly acceptable. The problem is, when the information pops up on screen, it happens so infrequently that it can catch the player of guard. By the time they have shaken off the fact that they are no longer in battle, the message has disappeared, and they are thrown back into the heat of battle. In some scenarios, an interruption like this can break a combo, resulting in the player being killed. To add insult to injury, there is no straightforward way to recall these messages. Only by exploring the HUD, will players notice the ability to read past messages.

The lack of a tutorial was an interesting paradox. Silicon Knights, mainly Denis Dyack, were promoting Too Human as a game that would combine a ridiculous number of gameplay components, from several different genres, into one of the most complex and deep combat systems ever designed. Yet when you start the game, they throw you to the wolves. When users complained on the forums, the response from Dyack was a resounding, "read the manual, it is all there." While yes, it is true that the complete control scheme is contained in the instruction manual, most people did not pay sixty dollars to be lectured about the benefits of reading, they paid to play a damn game.

Tutorial complaints aside, the combat system is a refreshingly new take on third-person combat. The specifics were discussed in more detail in the preview, but the main idea is that the left stick is used to control the movement of Baldur and the right stick is thrust in the direction that the player wishes to attack. A combination of differing motions on both sticks, will launch a series of unique attacks. When perfected, this can lead to an impressive death toll and combo counts that are off the charts. As players progress through combat, experience points will accrue, eventually resulting in Baldur leveling up. This is where the depth of customization becomes very apparent.

Check out the blog on Monday for the second half of Too Human's comprehensive review.

While you eagerly wait, check the below trailer for Too Human: