I could sit and talk about the long history of this game's development, all the hurdles the developers have had to overcome (really bad E3 '06 showing, lawsuit with Epic over Unreal Engine 3, etc.) but the truth is none of that matters. It explains why we are getting the game now in 2008 as opposed to an earlier date, but that's about it. Fortunately, those things have nothing to do with the game and what it is.
Too Human is the latest game from developer Silicon Knights, who made the highly successful Eternal Darkness on the GameCube, and is the first title in a planned trilogy.
The story is a unique take on Norse mythology. It is based way back in our world's past, when the myths were, we're told, all true. But there's a twist - the Gods were not actually gods, but humans with advanced cybernetic implants making them god-like. The monsters, elves, undead, and even the giants the Vikings battled were actually machines, or "cybernetically animated corpses" (cool, I know) trying to wipe out all of mankind.
It's an interesting concept for a story, but the telling of it leaves a little to be desired. There is a lot of stuff that is referred to without you actually being told what it is until much later in the game, which hurts the flow of the story. The biggest problem is that this is the beginning of a trilogy, but this first part doesn't really have a self-contained story of its own. Take a game such as Mass Effect - it also is the first in a planned trilogy, but that first game also had its own story with beginning, middle and end - as well as leading into content for its sequels. Too Human fails to have its own meaningful beginning, middle and end for its story.
Having said that, the story over the entire trilogy looks like it will be very good (and up to the usual Silicon Knights standard). By the end of this game there are a few really interesting twists and turns that definitely left me curious to see what's going to happen in the next game. The ending is very strong, leaving things in an interesting place dramatically as well as hinting at the much bigger things to come in the sequel.
The characters involved in the story all do their part. They aren't the most interesting bunch, but hopefully they will develop more as the trilogy carries on. You definitely get a sense that they all know each other, but the problem is we do not know them and aren't really given an opportunity to.
The voice acting is good and definitely does an admirable job, especially towards the end of the game when things become a lot more dramatic. This is also accompanied by some truly fantastic music. The orchestra sound pieces set the mood and tone perfectly throughout the game, along with all the appropriate sounds you hear during combat or finding that extra rare item while playing.
The gameplay in Too Human is trying to be a perfect fusion between the RPG genre and the action genre. For the most part, it succeeds. Not only will you be spending hours addicted to levelling up and hunting down for that new set of armour or better weapon (similar to games like Diablo or even World of Warcraft) but in order to stay alive you will have to learn to depend on more than just this gear; you will need to use your head and your own skill as well. This game has a lot more depth than most people will first realise going into it, both in its RPG and action attributes.
Instead of the traditional control scheme for action games, you won't be tapping on buttons like a certain demon hunter or Greek god killer, but instead pointing the right analogue stick in the direction of the thing you want dead. It takes a bit of getting used to and might turn some people off at first, but if you give it a bit of time you will see it actually works really well - and best of all, it allows you to play for many hours on end without your hand start to hurt (something I suffered greatly from in my Warcraft days!).
The downside to this control scheme is that you have almost no control over the camera, and as is common in many action games you will inevitably get some bad angles making it difficult to fight or see what all the upcoming threats are. You will get used to this, though, and it just takes a quick button click to reposition the camera looking ahead of you.
An interesting thing about Too Human is that it was the first game in a long time to have so many people fighting on forums about how much they loved or hated it months before the game (or the demo for that matter) was even out. One of the common criticisms was that it looked repetitive. I can understand that concern, but to be fair, if you aren't going to complain about Diablo and World of Warcraft's constant mouse clicking being repetitive too, you don't really have a leg to stand on when levelling the same complaint at Too Human, as it does require you to be a bit more active while in combat. With that said, I must admit after pouring about 45 hours into the game alone I found it became a little tedious. This is where online co-op can come to save the day, but I will talk about that more later.
The graphics span the gamut from between being really amazing and breathtaking in some places, all the way down to looking like a last-gen game in others (mostly due to some poor textures or lack of physics in some cutscenes). Generally though, the graphics engine the game is built on is actually very good. The character models and details are impressive, but for the gameplay the camera is often pulled so far back it is hard to appreciate it.
Most impressive from a technical feat is the complete lack of loading screens. As soon as you load the game once (which doesn't take long at all) you won't see another load time; which is amazing considering the quick cuts from gameplay to cutscenes throughout the single-player game.
Unfortunately, parts of Too Human do seem a bit unpolished - most notable when doors take a while to open before triggering a cutscene, or the one time I fell through the floor into oblivion because the world outside the door in front of me hadn't loaded by the time I stepped through it. While this is bad and definitely should not have made it through to a final product, all it took was a short reload and I was back into things very quickly without losing anything because of it.
The environments are enormous and very impressive. But, while the developers have clearly put a lot of artistic love into each level, I doubt the average player will really notice or appreciate it, which is really a shame. On the bright side, between all the different mission levels, plus a main hub city and Cyberspace (which ironically is the only place that is not mechanically based but more nature-like in appearance) there is quite a decent variety in environments offered. It is also in Cyberspace where you will get a lot of the equipment you will use to boost your character's stats and items.
It is in this loot system that Too Human has the bulk of its RPG elements. There seems to be an enormous amount of different equipment that you can find. They all come in a variety or rarity, and can have their colours changed for customisation. Besides weapons and armour you will also find runes, which are upgrades that you can attach to your weapons and armour. You may also find Charm Quests. These grant bonuses to your character, but in order to get them you have to achieve a certain goal (kill 300 enemies, for example) and attach the appropriate runes to them. This goes even deeper as you have charms of higher level and rarity (granting better abilities) that then require lower level completed charms attached to them. It can be a bit complicated to understand at first but once you get your head around it, it will make complete sense - and adds a lot of depth to the game (as well as adding a sort of achievement system into the game; one that comes with rewards).