Irrsinn.net: taking joy in human unreason

Too Human Was… Too Human

Sorry, I really couldn’t come up with anything wittier than that.

I finished Too Human about a month ago at this point, I think.

Let’s celebrate that for a moment. Given my propensity for games like Sims, GalCiv 2, and Civ 4, getting to finish a game is always a miracle.

Guy totally warned me about some of the game’s disappointments, so I went in with eyes open.

It was… alright. Kinda fun early on. Really frustrating later. I want more, but not more of what was in Too Human. (I’m restarting Fallout 3–which I never finished–as the balm for my ache.)

A couple of nights ago, Greg and I enumerated about 15 flaws in the game. Here are some of the highlights, ordered by their importance to me. I played through with the Berserker class, which is something of a glass cannon: very fast, but not a huge damage dealer and pretty fragile.

Unhelpful leveling mechanism

I’m pretty sure I felt less powerful at the end of the game than at the beginning, which is just goofy. All the monsters were kind enough to level with me and add their own effects (freezing, exploding), resulting lots of death and broken equipment.

To be fair, I’d say the benefits of leveling really just flatlined. Early on, adding skills to increase the rate of growth of my combo meter was really noticeable. Mid-game, adding an extra point in the “big bear” skill didn’t seem to make a difference.

Combo meter

It was frigging awesome when it built up. Big roaring bears o’ death and spiders and rune hoola hoops. But when it didn’t…

Death is nasty to a character that depends so heavily on the combo meter–which pretty much empties on death–and dying again and again in some combats is pretty much the bee’s ass in terms of fun. I spent several battles near the end just chipping away at some enemies between deaths. One combat in particular was brutal in that every time I died, the mass of enemies moved closer to my spawn point. I spent a life or two just running to the other end of the room before I died in order to get some room when I respawned.

And this was not a game in which I started with a skill deficit. I played from start to finish solo, always comfortable with the controls, tactics, and mechanisms of the game. And, of course, I couldn’t cheat, because it was a console game.

Greg described the combo meter well as improperly rewarding a player that’s doing well by making it easier for them to do well.

Collapsing story

I really liked the strong opening focus on the “party” NPCs, the flashback-y mode of telling Baldur’s past, the pretty prison room at the hub, the cyberspace NORNs, etc.

But then it all fizzled out. We were left with translucent (in more ways than one) and disappearing party NPCs, a room whose only purpose was to host a cutscene, an aborted plot, and a useless maze of cyberspace.

What was the advantage of going through cyberspace and getting the four manipulation techniques? As slowly as Baldur plodded along, they should have provided a map and given me something more interesting for my troubles than item blueprints.

Like some more story.

Useless Human/Cybernetic choice

When I reached the point of deciding between human and cybernetic, I had absolutely no idea what the effect of the choice would be. The game gave no clue, there was no build-up, and no one in the world really seemed to care what I picked.

So I stopped, searched the internet to find the differences in skills, felt like it still didn’t matter, and picked “human”. So what?

To add insult to injury, it was around then when I started getting 2 skill points instead of 3, and yet had a whole new tree to fill out.

Lack of world-building

Like Guy, I’d love to play in a RPG in this world. What are the origins of the Aesir? What’s in that city underneath Asgard? How do the local folks live? What if I want to be, like, Omega Wolf instead of Alpha Wolf?

Why do the gods talk so formally to each other? (“Brother, we must band together…”)

The world’s got a lot of potential that the game only glanced at as it progressed.

Item complicatedness

I won’t call it “item management”, because maintaining the inventory itself wasn’t the issue, but why have such an RPG-ish item setup when the world was so linear? I liked the blueprint idea well enough, but the whole socketed-item, complete-quests-for-item-based-benefits (charms) thing felt far more Disgaea (or Diablo) than this world supported. There was no real world exploration–you took what you were handed… and liked it.

I never saw any noticeable effect from the charms. It was unclear if the damage on pistols was really double that of rifles (since you’d shoot with two at once), making it hard to compare the two.

And, because it’s obligatory:

The unskippable death cutscene

Over and over and over… This was surprisingly low on my list of annoyances, given my hatred of forced repetition of small scenes in games. I just started to zone out as soon as my body thudded to the ground and came to once the weapons unsheathed again.

That said, it was pointless and unnecessary. The Valkyrie metaphor was clear very early on. I should have been able to skip it subsequently.

To play or not to play?

Well, I certainly won’t be playing it again, that’s for sure. I’d love to see a sequel done to the nines, preferably without the Duke Nukem Forever-ish development issues.

The game has zero replayability if you don’t play multiplayer (and who really wants to pay to play games online? Get a PC instead!). I even started up a new game with the Bioengineer, spent 5 minutes enjoying having actual health, and then quit when all the same exact lines were delivered, the same steps made.

The first 20% was awesome. The next 30% was flawed but still fun. The final half had me already looking to my next game.