When you're thinking up ideas for the setting of a new action RPG game, a 'cybernetic future based around ancient Norse mythology' has got to be pretty far down the list. Don't get me wrong, the combination is definitely intriguing and strangely appealing, but it's also a little 'random', so to speak. This is the concept that Canadian developers Silicon Knights settled on for their reasonably well hyped game Too Human, which saw release on the 360 in the past week or so. Unfortunately, the premise behind
the game remains its sole interesting aspect as this is basically as generic as an action RPG gets in today's gaming world.
Too Human places gamers in the shoes of the mythological god Baldur, son of Odin, who finds himself in the middle of a war that threatens the existence of humanity, which he and the clan of gods he belongs to, known as the 'Aesir', have sworn to protect. While the basics behind the story are relatively standard, i.e. good vs evil, Too Human adopts much in the way of Norse mythology in its cybernetic world, drawing from the ancient religion in many ways while also introducing some new elements.
The meshing together of these two creates a rather interesting, albeit sometimes hard to follow storyline, with a premise for gameplay that allows for both ancient style hand to hand combat and futuristic laser weaponry.
Before starting on your quest to save humanity as Baldur, the game asks you to choose from five classes for your character, which are more or less consistent with most RPG characters in similar games we've seen before. This includes the resilient and crafty Bio-Engineer, the gun toting Commando, the all-rounder Champion, the tough-to-bring-down Defender and the melee obsessed Beserker. As stated though, you control Baldur throughout the game so this initial choice isn't so much a character selection than it
is simply a trait selection, allowing you to define your strengths and weaknesses.
Of course, the one thing this initial selection will do is dictate how best you play the game. As mentioned, being a futuristic take on the Norse mythology grants Too Human the ability to feature both close range traditional combat with swords and hammers, while at the same time the ability to whip out a laser cannon and take down enemies from a distance. The result of this is combat gameplay that is very action packed and very consistent from start tofinish in the game, as you jump around slashing
and bashing while seamlessly grabbing for your gun on demand thanks to a control and auto-aim system which is probably the easiest to use in any action RPG to date, revolving entirely around pushing or even just holding the right analog stick towards the direction you want to swing your weapon, and holding down the right trigger to shoot at a target the game chooses for you.
Unfortunately though, the combat in Too Human has its weaknesses, and these really run deep into the game's design. Firstly, this very simple combat control system can really take the fun out of the gameplay, replacing it with boredom, which is quite an achievement given how much action the game will throw at you. To rack up combos in this game, you're best bet is to simply hold the right analog stick in the direction of enemies, which takes little if any effort at all. At times it seems you may as
well just be watching the computer do it all for you. And then comes the shooting, which is just as problematic with its simplicity. While you can choose targets yourself, it is often much more beneficial to just hold down the trigger and let the game choose the target for you, which is usually the closest. Besides the boredom that can ensue as a result of this very easy control system, repetition can also set in very hard, which really makes it a challenge to play this game for any extended period of time. From
start to finish, you're really only killing a handful of different enemies despite thousands being thrown at you, so not only is the control system unchanged throughout, but so is your tactics to a large degree. Even the boss characters you occasionally face seem to feature the same patterns, which become tired and tedious pretty quickly.
And it gets worse. Not only is the combat and hence gameplay terribly repetitive, but the simple fact is you can't really die at all in Too Human. Now, I'm no expert in Norse mythology, but it is my understanding that when a warrior's spirit is taken to Valhalla, he isn't instantly taken back to the battlefield where he was slain, as is the case in Too Human when you die in battle. What happens in this game is one of Odin's 'Valkyries' comes down from the heavens in all their angelic
metallic glory, collects your body, ascends you up, and then all of a sudden you respawn a few feet away from where you died like nothing happened. In an attempt to add some sort of detractor to dying in the game, developers Silicon Knights added a 'state' rating for all armor pieces and weapons, and when you die, anything you're wearing or holding will lose 'state' points, eventually rendering them useless. The problem with this is, at just about any point in the game, you can simply pause, return to the
Aesir, repair your armor and weapon state, and then return back to the battlefield where you left off. So basically, the whole 'losing state' thing is rendered pointless. This is a very perplexing mechanic in the game and one I can't imagine was thought through nearly enough.