|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Silicon Knights||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug.19, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Like a debutante coming of age, Too Human has finally made its way onto the gaming scene after years of development. Silicon Knights has been utterly consumed by this project, and it is good to see they're finally finished. A lot of the early buzz and churning of the rumor mill has been quite harsh for creator Dennis Dyack and company, but I'm happy to report the end product is a fairly polished title and a thoroughly enjoyable action/RPG. Nevertheless, it is true that the game is not the amazing gem we had hoped for, but it is a solid starting point for a trilogy that will surely improve with subsequent entries.
Too Human retells the all-too-familiar story of a massive, millennia-long war between man and machine. Yet, the addition of Norse mythology and the Aesir pantheon of gods into the mix does provide for an interesting twist on the formula. Players will join the fight as Lord Baldur, a tragic demigod that uses both his innately human qualities and powerful cybernetic enhancements to lead the remaining few million humans to glory in the face of an ever-growing threat from bloodthirsty machines. In addition to the mechanical menace, a rift has formed between the gods. As such, the goodly sons and daughters of ODIN (Organically Distributed Intelligence Network), including Baldur, Thor, Freya, Heimdall, Tyr, and Idunn will have to face off against the treacherous Loki and his scorned daughter, Hel. Before playing the game, I didn't know how the blending of ancient Norse legend and futuristic technology would fare, but in the end, the seemingly disparate themes were melded expertly. The story, though at times corny, is both fresh and interesting.
Gameplay in Too Human is a fusion of heavy action gaming (like that of God of War, Ninja Gaiden, and the Devil May Cry series) with dungeon crawling and loot-collecting RPG mechanics (like that of the Diablo games). One would think comparing a title to those four franchises would spell amazing results, but it seems as if Too Human can't quite hybridize the best of those masterful experiences into one cohesive title. That's not to say fans of action titles and those of RPGs won't find a lot to like here - on the contrary. It's just that the game never fully realizes its potential, and it ends up getting caught between both genres. But I don't want to get stuck on the negatives for now let's start by taking a look at what gamers are going to like about Too Human.
First, the unique control system in Too Human is incredibly user-friendly. Silicon Knights has given players access to all the stylized fighting they could hope for, while doing away with oppressive and monotonous button mashing. This is achieved by mapping nearly all the move combinations to the analog sticks. By holding down, tapping, rotating, and clicking RS, players will have access to nearly the entirety of their melee repertoire. As you progress in the game, certain uber-skills will get mapped to the X, Y, and RB buttons, and ranged attacks are achieved by holding down either the RT or LT buttons. This unique control scheme feels awkward during the first couple of fights, but after a half hour of gameplay, I was kicking some serious waste-disposing apparatus. Gracefully sliding from enemy to enemy, launching them into mid-air, filling them full of lead, flinging out energy from my fierce attack, and then smashing the final group of baddies with a Ruiner or finishing move was effortless. In fact, it is quite easy to dispatch a room full of enemies (20-50) in under a minute. The result is a highly stylized and cinematic approach that is fairly satisfying.
Second, the RPG conventions of character improvement and equipment upgrading are rather extensive. Players can choose from five different classes, each with their own benefits and weaknesses. The Berserker is a melee master; the Bio Engineer can heal both himself and allies; the Champion is an all-around bad ass; the Commando is a gun-toting master of ranged weaponry; and the Defender can take damage like no other. Except for the storyline, the game plays quite differently with each class. Plus, players have six save slots available to them, so they can develop various builds and find their favorite Baldur.
Also, the amount of random loot drops is astounding. Players will find tons of ranged weapons, swords, hammers, pauldrons, gauntlets, boots, helms, etc. that can be augmented with runes to be more powerful and, of course, more stylish. In addition to the bevy of mundane items, there are also a wide variety of elite items that imbue players with extremely useful modifiers. Moreover, the game features sets of armor and weapons that, when paired together, give their wearer abilities beyond their normal scope. Finally, scrolls called blueprints allow players to craft unique, elite items. By accumulating and then spending Bounty (the game's currency) players can forge high-level goodies to boost their attributes and battle prowess. This loot drop mechanic will definitely attract item hounds and is a great way to customize and distinguish your champion. If organizing and managing inventories is not your thing, don't worry too much. The game provides players with auto-salvage functions that convert obsolete items to Bounty once your inventory is full.
In addition to powerful weaponry, players constantly gain experience. This XP is then converted to improved abilities and skill points. The skill tree in Too Human is another aspect of the game that allows for great customization. By placing skill points into the branching skill path progression, players can take advantage of their class' most rewarding talents. This really gives character development the appropriate amount of complexity.