I know I’m late to the party here but I recently finished playing Too Human for the X-Box 360 by Silicon Knights.
I’m a big fan of the whole Norse god thing and I was really excited about this game the moment I saw the initial screen shots and heard the main character’s name – Balder. While this isn’t mean to be a review, I will get something right out of the way: I liked the game, it was well done. But it had some problems too. For me, I just wanted to think about what these guys did right and what they could have done better – I’m hoping to learn something for my craft here.
From the story perspective I think Too Human was a lot of fun. What they’ve done with Norse mythology is a hoot and I really enjoyed finding all the links and references. The folks did their homework, showed a real respect and love for the cannon and also weren’t afraid to take their own wildly different angle on the whole package – well done fellas! Though Odin’s role and nature remain obscure, I’m expecting them to roll that out in later installments (a little more on that later…). Driving the story forward are a lot of well done cinematic sequences that include diverse characters, Freya, and hints of intrigue…did I mention Freya? But this is the first place where the ambition o the game went too far in my mind. The cinematics are cool, but over the course of the game they become too long and can get tedious at times. At some points there are two or more sequences that are broken up only by a 30 second ‘task’ for me to run to the next set. So at several points I found myself wanting to rush the scenes forward or skip them just to get on with the game…that’s a bad sign. Connected to this is how the characters are acted. Overall I think the voices and everything were good but the main character, Balder, needed a lot more pathos. In the mythology Balder is the beautiful god that all the other gods love dearly for his grace and kindness. Here we have a widowed Balder who can seem too flat. We just get the one Clint Eastwood look on his face and a kind of stern resolve to avenge his wife, but vengeance gets old and distasteful after a while and I loose my ability to care as much for him. I hope he shows more range of emotion in future chapters.
Speaking of chapters – that was another interesting choice here – if I understand it right, Too Human has been conceived of as a trilogy from the get go and this was just just the first installment. I’m not convinced that the plan will work here because I came away from Too Human feeling like it was too short and that will make me think twice about chapters two and three but who knows. The strategy is a good one in concept I think, it’s something we want to do at Soma as well, but it seems difficult to balance serialized content with a AAA title price point.
The artwork in Too Human seems to have a similar blend of good and bad in my mind. Many of the sets are just fantastic with giant statues and sweeping vistas…but I spend most of the gameplay underground in caves. I guess overall I really liked the visual aspects of the game – it was Epic! Though the scale of the sets (built by the giants so…so you know…everything is really big) also is the cause for my biggest beef with the game – there is an endless amount of running. This is especially bad in cyberspace where I run and run and run to open some gate and then run and run and run to get back to the place the gate opened…and then back again. That got very, very old. What’s a shame is that the first time I’m walking around through Asgard I’m checking out all the monstrous architecture and it’s wonderful! The fifteenth time I’m spending ten minutes to get from my ship to the world tree – that’s just a drag. Big levels are only fun if the gameplay moves me through the map naturally or if they give a sense of openness that makes we want to explore. Too Human did neither and the levels mostly just felt like a very long hallway that contained a lot of enemies between here and there. (BTW, ODST has some of the coolest level design I’ve ever seen. THAT’S how you build a level map!)
Anyway, I don’t mean to B&M. All in all I liked this game and will play it again using different character classes, but as I look at it critically I feel like there was a lot for me to learn here, both what they did right and what could have been better. Either way, I’m looking forward to the sequel and the day Soma makes a game half as good as Too Human I’ll be proud.