So, was it worth the wait?...
It’s been nearly a decade since Dennis Dyack and his Silicon Knights started development of their Too Human title. Hopping from one generation to the next, things have finally been settled and the cyber-Norse trilogy finds its way to the public’s hands on the 360. Ten years is a seemingly eternity for game development—especially when you look at some of the cycles out there—but after spending around 30 hours hacking, shooting and grinding my way through the game (numerous times) it’s not hard to say that maybe ten years wasn’t enough.
If you’re an expert in Norse mythology—you know, like Thor, Odin, Hel, Freya, etc.—then Too Human’s story might pique your interest a bit more than Sega’s Viking-filled adventure from earlier this year. As it is, the game’s story is one of deception, war and, somewhat, love. From years of battling with the Ymir (sentient machines created by man, but which now propagate only to fight), humans live in a single stronghold, Midgard, where they congregate since powerful weapons have left the world a frozen wasteland. Humans are not alone in their fight, however, as enhanced cybernetic creations, dubbed “gods,” are relied upon to protect Midgard, as well as restore the world to the beauty which once was.
You play as Baldur, one of the gods and Son of Odin, and it is through various adventures that you learn of the weakening confidence in the Aesir (the gods), and their betrayal by one of their own.
Odin is a super-computer, and Hel is a cybernetic organism, but it works…
It may feel a bit too much like the Matrix, but Too Human’s canon is an intriguing recreation of ancient mythology. The dichotomy of legend and tangible, half-organic, half-mechanic characters and locales creates an exciting and fresh realization of Norwegian lore. Every character has their own incarnation in the game, and is representative of their respective persona. To the point, everything in the game makes logical sense, albeit with concession to science-fiction, but putting the essence of gods, heaven and hell into a “real-world” battle is a fun, escapist adventure.
Writing and dialogue not intended for elementary schoolers, in a game? Who knew…
Far be it from anything Shakespeare or any other notable decades-past writer, Too Human’s script is actually fairly impressive. While there are some cheesy and questionable lines spouted by the more brutish characters in the game—Thor’s “This best not be the best you have to offer, Loki” line comes to mind—for the most part, the game contains some exceptional dialogue, spoke by some very well done voice acting. Each actor delivers convincing performances as Thor’s rough hubris and bullheadedness contrasts with Baldur’s heroic-yet-forceful determination, for example.
The cutscenes may not look all that spectacular, running in-game, but they’re a treat to listen to.
It’s a role-playing game, and yes, there’s a lot of loot…
What kind of action-adventure RPG would be complete without all different kinds of items to collect, buy, sell and customize you’re character with?
While much of the gameplay may get tiring, repetitive and frustrating (we’ll get to that in a bit), there sure wasn’t a short supply of creativity or effort put forth in terms of art direction for collectables. Though it’s quite possible to find duplicates of even some rarer items in the game, outfitting Baldur with different sets of armor and weapons as you level up keeps things classical with so much loot to find and equip, ranging from medieval to futuristic styles. You’re also able to add specialized attributes and characters by finding and applying Runes to equipment.
Though fun to collect, it’s too bad item management can be a headache with so much to pick up, constantly; half of your time can be spent with the game paused, equipping your character, even with an auto-salvage system (cashing in items for money) in place.
Oh, hell no:
Must have looked good on paper…
While much of the above applauds Too Human for delivering a competent story-driven aspect to the game, its gameplay is where things are cut short, literally. For the most part, the game is a straightforward grinder that only takes about 12 hours to finish. Along with the loot aspect, the game employs various RPG elements, familiar to any player out there: character classes, skill-trees, mini-quests, and the mother of them all, grinding for levels and items.
You can start the game with one of five classes (tank, healer, all-around, range and melee), and each has their own skill-tree to master as you gain experience. The problem, however, is there isn’t much variance between the types of characters, less the Bio-Engineer (healer), and the skill sets themselves aren’t horribly interesting, either.
No matter whom you choose, you’ll always have a ranged and melee weapon, and you’ll probably always stick with the same formula of attacks.
Achievement unlocked: Kill 20,000 enemies…
However cool sliding between enemies to kill them with a giant sword, hammer or staff may be (by using intuitive and strategic joystick movements), having to do it over, and over, and over, and over, and over…okay, I think you get it. Unfortunately, Too Human’s action is so bare-boned that you begin to feel like more could have been achieved if the developers stuck your character in a box with respawning characters; there’s almost no need to have distinct levels here, and there are only four of them to boot. Each area takes a significant amount of time to progress through, but spending two to three hours in one level killing three or four enemy types, repeatedly, becomes work, not excitement.
There are side quests to complete, by fulfilling criteria from Charms, but these also boil down to simple equations of “Kill X number of enemies with X attack,” etc. You may be able to use special Ruiner attacks for large amounts of radial damage, which vary depending on different weapons, but there’s little noticeable change between them as they become routine.
True, while all RPGs may be reduced to a similar equation as Too Human, they at least do well in masking the repetition with strategy and varying action.
Ten years and still issues…
Repetitious action may be overlooked by those who get a kick out of searching for the best gear in a game. However, doing so in an environment that looks bland, and not especially interesting for this generation, only adds to the monotony. Though less clippy, glitchy and poppy than Mass Effect, Too Human doesn’t look much better than the earlier BioWare favorite, Knights of the Old Republic—though, the game does have its moments, however few and far between.
That isn’t to say, however, that the game is free of bugs, because it’s not. Animation glitches will occur every once in awhile, framerates dip and there is some texture popping, but the most annoying aspect of the game, though intentional, is the lack of story in the multiplayer portion of the game. If the storytelling and cutscenes are the highlight here, cutting them completely out of Xbox LIVE play is a serious detriment for the mostly lackluster title. You can also trade items with players, but then what's the point of even playing through the game if you get the best items efortlessly.
Bottom line, the multiplayer offered here isn't horribly exciting.
Now we wait, again…
So, we've finally gotten our hands on Too Human, but what we’re delivered is a RPG heavy on grinding, its least appealing element, and light on story development, its most interesting offering—even if does feel haphazardly thrown together at times. What’s on-hand for launch is quick-and-dirty RPG play, but here’s to hoping Microsoft and Silicon Knights will utilize XBL for some DLC.
Ultimately, despite the game's disappointments with a short length and excessive battling, we’re intrigued to see what becomes of Baldur and the Aesir in the coming sequels.