Yet another refugee from the camp of horrifyingly delayed and kicked around development cycles, Too Human is intended to be the first in a trilogy of epic action/RPGs aspiring to Diablo-esque status. While what may eventually come of episodes two and three remains to be seen, what stands completed as the first chapter is an intriguing, ambitious, and ultimately very flawed product that will suck in a few with it’s addictive progress-quest dynamic and frustrate a great many with its awkward controls, rebellious camera, and repetitive gameplay.
To its credit, Too Human features one of the most original ideas for a story in quite some time. Mixing classic elements of Norse mythology with a strange apocalyptic cyberpunk future, it safely skates on by the dreaded been-there-done-that’s. Sadly though, for all its potential narrative interest the manner in which that story is told is less than ideal, frequently confusing matters with poorly presented information and often disrupting the action rather than enhancing it. Though not without some merit it lacks good storytelling technique, and that’s a shame for such a novel concept.
Again to its credit, Too Human hits the nail squarely on the head in that elusive mix of action and role-playing elements. Twitch skills alone may get you by the early going, but taking on the game’s ever scaling difficulty requires not just a well played character but a well built one, and that is as it should be. Also well done is that constant barrage of mini-rewards and cyber-cookies of all kinds. If you’re a power-leveling loot-whore (not that there’s anything wrong with that), there’s a good chance Too Human is going to get its hooks into you.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Too Human brings a lot of little flaws along for the ride. The controls, which use the right analog stick for targeting rather than camera control, take some getting used to. Still they never lose an awkward imprecision that can be extremely annoying in a game where death is just moments away under even the best circumstances. The other fallout from this is a camera whose ideas of what you should be looking at you are left to the not-so-tender mercy of. Most of the time it behaves, but oh boy when it doesn’t you’re really in for a treat.
By far Too Human’s greatest failing though is in its inability to continually present interesting challenges for you to overcome. The character building elements are there. The action elements, while slightly dodgy, are in place. What’s lacking is the sandbox for playing with all those toys. Over the course of four very linear levels you’ll face the same handful of enemy types over and over in very similar battlegrounds. The amount of randomness is minimal, and for a game which wants you to want to play through multiple times with multiple characters it is simply insufficient. Playing through the game in two player co-op greatly improves the minute to minute action, but it doesn’t make up for the game’s intrinsic faults.
Diablo got to be the icon and the benchmark that it is by giving players great tools for building countless different character types and then throwing them mercilessly into a constantly changing proving ground of monster slaying mayhem. Too Human may be working off that same blueprint for success, but, like so many other imitators before it, it never quite gets there. The character building is decent, the rewards are in place, and the gameplay is not without its exciting moments and visceral thrills. What’s really missing here is a compelling reason to keep playing beyond a single go at the story and a little messing around for good measure. Two player co-op is a nice feature, and one that allows the more specialized character classes a chance to shine, but even it can’t raise Too Human up from the weight of its own mediocrity. The end result is a game that will still appeal to loot and level junkies, but lacks the polish and variety of challenges to be considered a real contender for the action/RPG title.