I’ve played a few more hours and I like Hob a lot. It’s a little frustrating, because I think if they had put a little more time into it, it would be an absolute classic. Now that I’ve played through a few areas, I can say that 1) The environmental design is incredibly ambitious and beautiful and different from any other game I’ve seen, and 2) It almost goes by too fast or under-revealed. The way it moves chunks of the landscape around is incredible, and sometimes the environmental animations are as subtle and character-ful as the character animations! But really really great games of this type do a better job of showing you how all the landscape pieces fit together: you are [here]… your goal is [there]… you can’t get [there] because of [this]. And then you navigate through that space with that knowledge, having little ah-ha! moments as you go. I get some of those with Hob, but just as often I get “There’s a lever here, so I must have to pull it. Oh yeah, look, now I can go that way.” It’s not bad, but it’s not brilliant. That’s only sad because so many other brilliant elements are there, waiting to play their part in a great symphony. Hob (so far, for me) is more like an enjoyable movie soundtrack.
If they’re going to have combat, I’m glad it plays out like it does, which is as basically a trifle. No real challenge, but I get to see some neat new enemies every once in awhile and figure out how to deal with them. I like the proportion of big threats to small ones, and the mini-boss battles (despite the first, frustrating one I mentioned above) are refreshing, and refreshingly conquerable.
Relic has done a great job. I think the game also has improved in the later areas, so maybe my estimation of their work will continue to rise.