By Odin’s Beard! – Too Human Review

Game: Too Human

Platform: Xbox 360

Silicon Knights dared to do something different with their Action/RPG hybrid loot fest, Too Human, and the world has taken notice. Too Human is probably one of the most difficult games I have ever played before, one that has pushed me to my limits as a gamer. There have been other games that have challenged me by daring to do something new using standard game conventions, frustrating me because I couldn’t come to terms with how the developers wanted me to play the game. Too Human is one of those games, and I notice I am not alone in feeling this way. But too many reviewers and regular gamers alike fall for the trap called “This game is hard, to Helheim with it!”, and that is something that disappoints me. Too Human is a flawed game but are the flaws much greater than the game itself?

Too Human mixes a delightful blend of loot fest, dungeon crawling, and action gameplay with a hint of spice and notes of berries to create the most threatening cup of black coffee you’ve ever seen. Within the murky depths of the black goo lies a complex and rich experience, so long as you survive the first sip. Many parts of the game have already been done by other games, but are used in a unique way in Too Human. The camera, which has been the subject of much ridicule, dynamically changes angles to give you the most cinematic view of the area you are in. It also tries to act as a radar by calling to your attention an enemy that may be a bigger threat than the little vanilla baddies. The player has little control over the camera, but so long as you learn the camera’s likes and dislikes you will have a long and healthy relationship. Just don’t leave the toilet seat up.

The controls are another thing that Too Human has received much criticism for, with some players claiming it was the “worst control scheme” they’ve ever played. In a stroke of creativity Silicon Knights took a more standard control scheme for a third person action title, hacked off the right analog stick and pasted the right analog stick from the popular XBLA title Geometry Wars. Using the right analog stick, you make Baldur zip around and attack enemies rather than mashing a button after walking up to them. While button mashing and stick mashing are not but a few centimeters away from each other, the players that learn how the stick works will find that the combat goes about as smooth as other popular action titles. It is this new way of playing that has made a lot of gamers put the controller down in frustration and claim that Eternal Darkness never happened.

Part of the reason for this is that the game doesn’t do much in the way of explaining to you the finer points of combat. While it gives you instructions (in the start menu) on how to do some of the more helpful moves such as finishers, it cannot tell you how effectively you are using the attack stick to perform maneuvers. This lack of guidance can be seen as either the worst “welcome to the real world”, or the best “we don’t need no stinkin’ tutorials”. The game is guilty of not holding the players hand for any of the many aspects of the game that may have benefited from better in-game explanations. Some of the status effects given to you by special effects in runes or weapons and armor may go completely unnoticed by you because you didn’t know what “Annulment” meant. I’m still finding new effects that I haven’t the slightest idea what they do, but I enjoy finding out mid combat that effect X actually means “Totally fucking killing your face, Goblin Man!” There are some places around the Aesir hub world you can push the A button next to to get a rundown of some of the enemy types and special effects but these are often so far out of the way and have no real attention drawn to them.

The game is also rather unforgiving for you not being able to figure out that a glowing blue enemy means that they’re going to freeze you in place if you kill them. Status effects from special enemies, Polarities (enemies that charge up for an explosion when shot), and even bulletproof enemies are abound, just to name a few. Just you wait until you see your first Ice Troll, you’re going to hate it and wish that he never left his Rankin/Bass television special wonderland. Not to mention missile launching, plasma sniping, bomb lobbing, beer drinking, hell raising enemies that will probably ruin your day unless you learn how to dispose of them effectively. All of this action happening on screen is a lot for players to take in and unless you are paying full attention you won’t notice that you’re headed straight for a ticking time bomb ready to explode while you’re mid-swing. Dodging and jumping will be your best friends, learn to use them or you are going to die a lot. And as much as that Valkyrie needs her Valhalla “customers served” count up I’m sure she’d appreciate it if you stopped dying all the time and started killing the enemy.

Too Human is such a fast paced title (when not stuck in the sluggish menu system checking out new loot) that if I am in any way tired I will simply get slaughtered by it. If I try to play it late at night I will have to nap or drink a decently sized cup of coffee to kick-start myself into the right mode for Too Human. If you are first coming into the world of Too Human I suggest you do it while you are well rested as this will help prevent frustration and fatigue from getting in the way of learning all of the ins and outs. With 5 classes to choose from, you may pick a class only to realize that the style of gameplay required for that class to be successful isn’t the way you want to play. You have 6 slots for characters so you can go nuts. You have runes and charms which require some work to build up but when built up in the right combination along with our chosen skill tree set will make you nigh unstoppable, dare I say Godlike? This intense and deep customization will reward players that dip into the charm quests to get that extra hitch in their giddy-up.

Online Co-Op is a thing of beauty. If you and a friend invest in this game you can create duets of death for all things robot-kind. My Bezerker friend and my Commando character were a perfect match for each other, with other dastardly duos being just as, if not more efficient at killing. Even meeting up with a random person online can introduce you to a new way of playing that you may be tempted to try yourself. A few bugs aside caused by lag, the online play is smooth and looks and feels just as good as single player.

The real meat and potatoes of the game is the loot. It makes the world go round for Too Human, and if you are a loot lover it will make you go around and around through the game’s four areas trying to get that last piece of armor in a set or that one really cool weapon your friend told you about. The weapons and armor look beautiful, you can tell that the design team had a field day. My only real complaint is that I wish there was a better way to get a look at your weapons and more control over the camera when you push the right stick in to get a closer look. I feel that the hard work and polygons aren’t being put to good use because I can’t behold them as close and personal as I would wish. Just before going to bed every night, my Baldur will tuck himself in with his rifle of choice and recite the following mantra:

This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. Before Odin I swear this creed: my rifle and myself are defenders of Humanity, we are the masters of my enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.

But I cannot join him in this chant because I cannot even see my rifle, it just evaporates.

Speaking of movies, the story of Too Human is something that should not be overlooked. The plot is at its basic Venn Diagram stages a retelling of Norse Mythology, Some character relationships are not explained and may require you to to some research. This is a little bothersome because while I knew that Frey and Freya were brother and sister you would never be able to tell because the story never touches on these characters. It also made the whole “I’ve slept with everyone but Thor” joke that much more disturbing to me. At times the voice acting feels cheesy and at one point I slipped into a state of mind where I swore I was watching an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but for the most part it gets the point across. The Cyberspace element can also be a little confusing because of how natural their world is compared to the real in-game world. Such is the nature of the beast, I suppose.

When you take a step back and admire Too Human, you see a few areas where you might have wanted to use a little less water to dilute the paint. But in the end, when you learn to appreciate the intricacies the game has to offer you are given an intense experience that you have to learn to get the feel for before you become the best you can be. I cannot tell you how many times I started a level just to blow through and gain a few levels and in the end would look at the clock and realized I just lost 6 hours of my day without blinking. This confirms for me that Too Human is a fine game, as very few games can keep me stuck to my TV that long without looking at a clock. Too Human is a game that I am proud of having on my shelf, and I feel that my last few years of waiting and the $60 I spent was well worth it. It is not for everyone and for those who did not enjoy it I apologize it wasn’t all you wanted it to be. But for those of us who have found a good home in Too Human, let us raise our swords and staves and hammers and guns to the sky and thank Odin for this day. We shall fight valiantly to prove that we are worth entry to Valhalla, protecting humanity with fierce attacks, ruiners, finishers and battle cries. We will meet in battle and show the forces of evil who they’re messing with.

We are the Aesir.

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Published in: on September 3, 2008 at 3:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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