Too Human, created by Silicon Knights, has something major in common with Duke Nukem Forever, in that its development time approached almost a full decade. It originally started life off as a title for the Playstation that was to span 4 disks, though with Silicon Knights acquisition by Nintendo production shifted to the Gamecube, however it eventually got left behind and Microsoft had them finish development on it as an XBOX 360 exclusive game. The game was bad, so it shares that with Duke Nukem Forever as well… but was it really that bad a game overall? I’m not so sure…
For everything negative that got said about the game and the game play, which in its self has a ton of issues but I’ll be addressing them later on, the premise of the game itself is actually fantastic and something I find really engrossing to watch and play in and it bugs the hell out of me that there is so little expansion on it in the game itself. Set in an apocalyptic Sci Fi world humanity is on the brink of extinction from an expanded world of mechanical creatures and the last of humanity has taken refuge in Midgard; the one last city and worships O.D.I.N., not the god but a computer system set up to monitor the outside world and keep them safe, and the other ‘Gods’; Thor, Heimdall, Helga etc. if you’ve not got it yet the whole game is a futuristic take on Norse mythology and where traditionally there were gods we now have a bunch of chosen human warriors that have cybernetic implants that make them like gods and are worshipped as such. ODIN is a computer system, technically the All Father but in a different twisted way, Heimdall is seen as ODIN’S second in command and master general to the other ‘Gods’ or Æsir as their known as. You play as Balder, the least technically enhanced of the Æsir, hence the name Too Human, and yes the game also has a spin on his personal story as well.
The main story of the game however is told over the games 4 levels, yes 10 years in development and we get 4 levels, dealing with the death of Baldur’s Wife, the betrayal of Loki, the world serpent and the death of Balder himself which happened prior to the start of the game but he doesn’t remember being rebuilt. It’s a fantastic premise capped by the problem that it doesn’t get nearly enough attention in the game, it really feels second to everything and during every scene you feel like you missed something important in between. There are hidden scenes to search out between missions but they seem to leave you asking more questions than actually answering everything. The story isn’t even definitive, 3 massive cliff hangers at the end of the game as this was intended to be the first of a trilogy.
When it comes to the game itself its constructed very well, the Midgard city acts as a hub you can transport to and from at will once you complete the first level, it looks pretty and is really the only time when you see how technically advanced the world is, given when even you go outside the city the locations are degraded landscapes from the after mass of many wars. Of the 4 levels only 1 really looks any good with the rest just being boring, you explore a set of old ruins, giant mechanical towers within a glacier, a scientific machine and the worlds equivalent of hell. It’s a shame as even when the worlds do look OK they feel highly repetitive and tend to drag on far more then they need to, but then there would be no game given that all we get in level format… though there is one more thing that deserves a mention which kind of feels like a level…
Within the game you can travel into cyberspace and perform tasks that effect the outside world, opening doors etc. this should count as a world it’s self as in has its own hub within Midgard as well as many sub areas found within the levels. No combat ever takes place there and it mostly seems reserved for unlocking your main path in the story and finding items. It seems the perfect excuse for puzzles but there are never any, you can go forward if you have the correct ability and if not then you can’t, abilities are given to you through the story as well so there’s no sense of freedom or real reason to explore other than finding items which gets boring very quickly. The real fascinating thing about the cyberspace world however is that it its actually more stunning then the main game, while the real world is populated with destroyed structures after year of the inside of cyberspace seems more like a magical landscape, full of green; trees, grass and the sounds of nature. It’s actually a site to behold and so much more then then the main game provides visually. Again in a reference to Norse mythology this is the world representation of the world tree; in this case the tree is a giant network hub made of millions of wires that extend across the world and you’re inside it, it’s a clever way represent it and at its heart that is what Too Human does best of all, better than anything else in the game and that just adds to the disappointment as again it’s not nearly expanded on enough as what it should be.
So now let’s talk about the game play itself; there’s really only one way to sum it is… average and boring! While I’ll give it good marks for when you’re playing as a berserker and you’re sliding from one foe to the next killing in one strike, but the novelty wears off quickly as one hit foes only come on their own for the first few areas of the game. It gives all its best in the first 5 seconds of the game. While it works as a very linear RPG, going from one place to the next, fighting hundreds of mechanical enemies as you go, at gets repetitive quickly, whatever class you choose to play as the game play still feels boring and cheap at some points. Combat is done by the use of the right analogue stick, pointing in the direction that you want to attack and balder will slide (or shoot) in that direction and attack, it’s done with very little input from you and will work 80% of the time until an enemies has a shield when you need to apply tactics, of taping the right stick again to launch them into the air, that’s all the tactics you’ll need along with the dodge roll button to avoid projectiles. While this kind of control scheme has been used in a few action games before, Jet Li’s Rise to Honour is perhaps the best example I’ve seen to date it just simply doesn’t work here, for one as a giant adventure game and not straight close quarters action you’ll need a decent amount of control over the camera which thanks to the right stick being used for swordplay that leaves only one button used to centre the camera behind Balder, it’s just not good enough given you can be attacked from any side and you need to have free control and when all you do is hold the stick in a direction half the time this could have easily been changed to work with a button. The combat is up responsive itself half the time, with the stick not always able to register you holding it forward and making a quick tap, it gets even worse when you do a force attack involving both sticks being shoved forward quickly at the same time, this should have been designated to a button, in Rise to Honour the system worked much better by having a semi scripted camera and having the whole system based around flicking the right analogue stick and combo system based around the speed and pace of the attacks. That was a game from the last generation and it still managed to be more responsive then it is here.
The exploration and action plays out in the vein of an MMO, with enemies and random structures in and out of cyberspace dropping tons of items including weapons, armour, blueprints and runes. Runes are the crux of the crafting in this game and come in a range of different forms, they can be placed into weapons, armour and give you special skills once you complete a set task that comes with them; defeat 50 goblins etc. You can also put a set inside a higher level rune to lever it up, it’s quite expansive and you could be well into your third play through before you even see the highest level runes to get the ultimate ones. Weapons and armour are also quite expansive, there are hundreds of weapons and armour sets to find, weapons are also based around classes, of which there are 5 in all with each one having a specific focus and you’ll die very quickly if you don’t adapt to your classes play style.
There’s one other form of growth available to you in the game, after the first level is complete you’ll be able to choose between having a set of cybernetic implants or staying human, this is an un-reversible decision and effects the skills on your skill tree, having the enhancements gives you power based things to choose from and choosing human gives you more skill based skills to learn. Each tree has 3 sub paths to suit your plays style so there’s a lot to experiment with, and you gain more points to put into these skills as you level up. While it works great gameplay wise from a narrative standpoint it’s ridiculous, the title of the game is Too Human… that’s Baldur’s crux, he’s the most human of the Gods. If you choose the cybernetic path you’re essentially going against everything Baldur is… I wonder if this was ever going to be address in the game at any point as it seems a fundamental flaw in the whole story allowing you to make this change without people reacting lesser to you, but there’s never any sort of interaction with general people anyway.
There’s also a multiplayer option, though your limited to playing co-op and only then it’s with one other person, there’s nothing special you get from doing it and there’s no special modes you get from playing together. It’s not even that fun, I can’[t help but think how much fun this could have been with a bigger team of allies against armies of enemies in a hoard mode or challenge mode of sorts, but again it’s just underwhelming.
All in all Too Human feels like a let-down, while its true it had nearly a Decade worth of hype to match up to the result that we ended up with still feels unfinished, it shows that over its years of development so much work went into the story of the great world that the developers created but it’s just a shame to see such a great concept go to waste in a mediocre action RPG hybrid that’s slow, boring and just a let-down overall. It’s still worth trying and I’ve seen copies on store shelves for £3 in my local CEX and Gamestation stores so it’s cheap enough to warrant a try and see the world Silicon Knights created and dwell, like I did; on what could have so easily been a fantastic game and wonderful trilogy is that game itself was on par with the lore they created for it!
Posted on 02/13/2012, in Other, Text Reviews/Articles and tagged 360, asgard, baldur, bifrost, duke nukem, eternal darkness, forever, goblin, jet Li, marvel, midgard, mmo, mythology, norms, norse, odin, Reviews, rise to honour, RPG, ryatta, serpent, silicon knights, thor, too human, world tree, XBOX. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.