Silicon Knights can finally rest as they send out their ten year project into the anticipating arms of gamers around the globe. Too Human is an ambitious title that is striving to create something unique for gamers to bite into. However, like any good advertisement the meal can look better than it tastes.
Too Human is hard game to pin down. Developer Silicon Knights (Eternal Darkness) high ambition to create an epic gaming franchise stretches the game away from everything it wants to be. This science fiction take on Norse mythology can talk like the gods, but when it comes down to the core gameplay mechanics Too Human is just a mortal man. Too Human easily falls from an engaging conceptual idea into the trappings of a standard hack n’ slash action adventure game. Can you say disappointment?
For a direct comparison you could reference the medieval slasher Baulders Gate or Activision’s Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Both games consist of top down gameplay that involves a lot of hack n’ slash combat with grab-and-loot collection. This comparison only stays true concerning the gameplay aspect of Too Human. The story-line is where Too Human pulls away from conventional dungeon lore or licensed characters and mixes an original pot of cyber-electronics and alternative realities with Tolken-esq characters into something that could be called Blade Runner meets Lord of the Rings. Thankfully, Too Human’s radical god-like battles help keep the game on track with its flirtation between humanity and the gods.
In Too Human’s world humanity lives under the watch of gods that walk amongst human kind. Using the concept of Norse mythology wrapped around a futuristic timeline is a great idea that gives Too Human its own original identity. The story in the game follows the Odin’s second son Baldur who is the middle of a war with a race of evil mechanical creatures. The story quickly starts off with a bar room brawl with a flesh eating machine and then turns to an internal squabble between the gods. Too Human’s sets out to be a promising adventure with a fairly untapped concept until the story arch starts to thin, then all you are left with is an idea that teases a intellectual route of gaming enlightenment and then falls into a predictable turn of events.
Let the game do the talking
Now that we are caught up with the human gods and all their problems, we can get into the action game called Too Human. Embarking into the world of Too Human I was excited to see what my fellow Ontario natives have cooked up with their highly publicized production. Sure, I had expectations of Too Human being the next great game, so as you can imagine when I didn’t play the next “big thing”, I was a little dishearted. You have to wonder if Too Human’s publicized ten years of development and infamous publisher Microsoft hasn’t hindered the response Too Human has already been gathering. Truth is, even with this amount of pressure it comes down to the game. No matter how much people are blamed in the development cycle or other outside factors it comes down to one thing in the end, the final product. In Too Human’s case it’s a good attempt at something special which never seems to materialize because it’s plagued with highly repetitive gameplay elements with a routine execution.
This doesn’t mean Too Human is a bust; it’s an enjoyable run if you’re not going to sit down for extended periods of time and don't mind having your brain shut off. I put in my time with Too Human and after about four hours of straight Human action I started to zone out without a care in the world to the in game action. I found Too Human is like a sprinter that starts off too fast and doesn’t have enough energy to finish the race. The first hour and half of Too Human was an absolute blast. I was into the action, the button mashing was kept to a good balance within the story and then bam! You advance to the second half of the storyline arch and Too Human puts Baulder on the treadmill marching up a tower of repetitive enemies that seems like it will never end. The great balance between story, gameplay, and discovery is lost. What started as a strong game sadly reverted to generic hacking overload. For the next eight hours I really never found the pull into the game as the enemies piled on the screen in order to get decimated, the term disposable heroes applies. Too Human finally finds it stride near the end of the game (the last hour), but that really wasn’t good enough to satisfy the filler that you had to put up with in the middle of the game. Too Human has some great ideas that needed to be balanced a little better to keep all gamers besides the loot-whores entertained.
One reason the combat isn’t satisfying in Too Human is because of the dumbed down A.I. that seems like child’s play. You won’t find much of a challenge slashing through the armour of your enemies until you have to deal with a “giant” enemy like a mechanic spider, or a floating ball of flesh. These enemies aren't much of a challenge either as they can easily be disposed by simply dodging, jumping in swinging without much effort. Aside from these enemies that are thrown in every once and while, Too Human's enemy hordes are as generic as they come.
Even without the weak artificial intelligence the game feels under whelming because Too Human never seems to punish the player for being killed during the game. This care-free attitude doesn’t help press the importance of the storyline in any way, especially when you know you can just die and be respawned without penalty. You basically take off right where you left the action and enemies will remain damaged from your last encounter, this goes for the boss battles as well. The only real punishment for loosing all your health in Too Human is waiting for the slowly descending Valkyries that seems to take forever when you’re in the heat of the moment.
The Wolf Pack are Cubs
Like the virus that is eating away at the world in Too Human, the game itself is plagued with a glitches. Most notably is The Wolf Pack that fights along your side will randomly disappear and reappear without reason. This talented bunch can even talk to you when they are dead! What tops it all off is their inability to fight or properly maneuver when a group of enemies start to attack. The Wolf Pack hardly present any reason to be in the game more than trying to put an emotional level on the mind numbing combat. This isn't only restricted for the Wolf Pack, all the NPC's have the same A.I. which doesn’t improve when another god joins your party. Even the mighty Thor enjoys standing in one spot getting hammered on by his enemies. It is simple, if you want the job done you will have to do it by yourself... or call in a friend for the supported 2 player co-op.
For controls the combat takes a different route then the standard default “button mashing” controls and ops for a dual analog stick control scheme. The button to mash in Too Human is actually the left analog stick. This plays out like other directional combat games similar to top-down arcade titles like the arcade classic Smash T.V., or for a reference to something newer, Monster Madness. This system is a welcomed switch up the normal button mashing experience; however it's not fool proof. At times Baulder's attacks can have a considerable amount of lag depending on your characters skills. I totally agree with Too Human’s decision to include skill building except when its hurts the on screen flow. To help combat the laggy combat you can increase your characters speed and athletic ability by attaching ruins to your equipment, or weapons. It really not until you reach the higher levels (30+) that Baulder’s melee attacks start to feel fluid, and by that time your finished the game. Besides a sluggish feeling in the combat, Too Human lacks any of the cool button press combos that can be fun to learn and upgrade. In Too Human you will basically be stuck with a few animations that are mapped to the analog sticks movement. The controls definitely feel like they are intuitive and at the same time a little limited.
Where does he put all that stuff?
A big part of Too Human is the collectable aspect of finding new items, equipment and weapons. Like Diablo, Too Human barrages the player with countless combination options and hundreds of items to find. If you a gamer has to have all the items in a game then Too Human will keep you busy for a while. Setting up your character is initially easy and then becomes tedious with an inventory system that is confusing on your first glance. Once you put in a few hours you will start to understand the development skill trees, ruin inserts and blueprints. If Too Human's micro-management is giving you a headache Silicon Knights added an auto salvage option that will help weed out weak or specific items from your inventory. Aside from the normal equipping frenzy salvaging your old equipment can be used to create new items from blueprints you find in the battlefield.
To put the customization into perspective, I was changing my characters set up every half hour to fifteen minutes when I collected new and better loot. A good percentage of the enemies will drop new items, and there are literally hundreds of enemies crawling through sections of the game. When you do the math the amount of inventory you acquire is staggering. Lots-o-loot isn't always a good thing, it can actually acts like a double-edged sword. Collecting loot can be fun and interesting for some gamers; however others might find it too annoying to keep changing and upgrading at a constant pace throughout the entire game... and really, does Baulder need all this stuff?
Choose Your Class
If you are counting your character is now into the hundreds for items to customize them with, but it doesn’t stop there. Too Human also features a number of character classes to choose from and each of them have their own unique skill tree that branches into different areas of attack techniques and skill sets. The five available classes are the Berserker (strength), Defender (defense), Champion (all around), Bioengineer (health) and Commando (long range). Initially each class has their own advantage and disadvantage in combat or skills which I posted above. The Bio-Engineer is the only character that isn’t a rebalancing of the other classes because of their ability to regenerate health. Beyond the first few levels in the game the classes really don’t affect the gameplay much and by the end of the game your equipment will be playing a larger role than the class you started off with.
Aside from customizing your character and loot hoarding, Too Human doesn’t have a lot of the extras that you would expect in an action adventure/ role-playing game. The level design is super linear without too many alternative paths to explore. Granted Too Human provides one central area that you can explore, but it’s basically a forest you can navigate if you want more loot. This simply is not enough. Given the volumes of atmosphere Silicon Knights try to create it’s too bad they didn’t expand on the world with some optional side-quests or made the world a little less straightforward. Hopefully Silicon Knights didn’t hold out extra content because they plan on the series to reach their planned trilogy.
Too Human wanted to be a god amongst games. Too Human’s Ideology, customizable aspects and dual thumbstick controls all beg for a great gaming experience. Unfortunately Too Human disappoints by delivering nothing more than a standard hack n’ slash adventure. Glitches, poor A.I., and generic gameplay all contribute to Too Human lackluster showing.
Even with all Too Human’s short comings there are still a few reasons to pick up to human. If you enjoyed similar titles and love Diablo-esq collecting then you’ll probably be able to bash your way through the 13hrs of gaming Too Human demands. Co-op play is also available if you need a reason to continue which will drag a friend into the compulsive nature of loot hoarding. No doubt, Silicon Knights ambitious efforts aren’t fully realized in what might be looked at as one of the biggest gaming disappointments of the year. Given expectations are astronomically high its a tough go living up to the hype. It seems that eternal darkness is a place where Too Human will ultimately rest.
Gameplay:7, Graphics:7, Sound:6.5, Innovation:6, Mojo:6 Final: 6.5 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 08.20.08