toohumanintro
While Too Human does have some scrapes and bruises, it comes off as a relatively decent game.

I’ve been spending a majority of my gaming time playing Too Human lately, and I’ve gone through enough of the game (beat it with one of my characters already) to write up a review. I’m still pretty into the game (can’t wait to go home and play it tonight) so I believe it is underrated. It’s not a AAA title either, but it has certain qualities that I found enjoyable. Of course, I tend to be a fan of treasure hunting action RPG games, so maybe my bias is a little higher than most on it. I even got my brother to get it so we can get our co-op on whenever he has time. Read on if you’re curious about this action-RPG and why I think it’s better than what the “professional reviewers” say.

The Good:
– Enjoyable combat system
– Music is excellent
– Addictive “just five more minutes” system for progression and loot rewarding

The Bad:
– Uncontrollable camera
– Itemization and tech trees not as deep as the Diablo series
– Lack of 4-player co-op

Intro
Too Human comes from Denis Dyack’s team at Silicon Knights, the Canadian team responsible for the original Legacy of Kain game on the PS1 and Eternal Darkness on the Gamecube. Both of those games had quite a cult following, so the development team had been pretty respected. After a brief stint releasing the Metal Gear Solid 1 remake on the Gamecube, the team devoted their time to Too Human on the 360. What’s interesting is that the game was originally supposed to be a 4-disc PS1 game, shown back in 1999. It never made it out as PS1 or a Gamecube game, but eventually Silicon Knights agreed with Microsoft to a Too Human trilogy for the 360 system.

The game showed a lot of promise early on, but after some E3 demos and announcements, fans were disappointed in the news they discovered. First of all, the idea that melee was controlled simply with the right analog stick instead of the buttons to swing made people question how intuitive it would be. On top of that, the previously announced 4-player online co-op was cut short to just 2 players. Dyack cited that the balance of the game would be thrown way off with 4 players, but many fans believe that Silicon Knight simply didn’t have the technical power to run the game in a challenging enough way for 4 players.

On top of the negative E3 announcements and the rumored 9-year development time (which ultimately wasn’t quite true since the team wasn’t working on it for nine straight years since it was announced on the SP1), Denis Dyack himself is quite a controversial character. He came into the negative press light when he first started criticizing the gaming press for negatively slamming a preview of his game. He felt that the gaming press should not see a video game until it is fully completed, because they basically don’t know what they’re talking about until the game is actually done. Combine that with the fact that he decided to sue Epic because his team was not able to use the Unreal Engine III middleware that they paid for, and he was pretty much set to become disliked by the gaming press.

He even went so far as to promote his game as among the best of the year for the hardcore NeoGAF community, betting them that if when the game released and it got good reviews, those that said it was going to suck would have to have the tag “Owned by Too Human” next to their name, but if the reviews were bad, he would have to have the tag “Owned by NeoGAF” next to his name. The reviews came out, and to practically no one’s surprise, they pretty much tore apart his game. I believe that the reviews were far too harsh, most likely a result of Dyack’s constant meddling with the press, but the damage was done. He even went so far as to complain about the NeoGAF forum, saying there was no accountability there and it needed reform. He has since been banned from the site.

toohumanstory
The storyline in Too Human is largely forgettable, but not necessarily a big deal due to the premise of the game

Storyline and Premise
Enough about the controversial Dyack. What about the actual game? The storyline is relatively forgettable but it’s not that big a deal as other action-RPG games like Diablo don’t have much of a story either. When the premise to the game is simply to kill, level up, find better gear, and repeat the cycle over and over, the storyline sort of takes a back seat.

But for those that do care about the storyline, it revolves around Norse mythology and sci-fi where the Norse gods like Thor, Loki, and Odin are cybernetically enhanced humans. The main character in the game, Baldur, son of Odin, is also a cybernetically enhanced human, but unlike the other gods, Baldur is thought to be weaker, and “too human”. On the opposite side are the cybernetic enemies who are harvesting humans to figure out a way to become more human themselves. Thus many of the enemies appear to be robotic in nature, but in the end the struggle seems to be between humans that are exploring cybernetic enhancements against cybernetics that are exploring human enhancements.

The main storyline is about 10 hours long, broken up into four major acts containing about four or five sections each. Even after beating the game, an action-RPG loot-hunt game like this encourages multiple playthroughs, as better gear continues to drop as you level up. A single playthrough playing by yourself gets you to about level 25, and the max cap in the game is 50.

toohumandarkelfleader
The Dark Elf leader is a named mob in several of the later levels that hangs back and fires arrows at you while the grunts rush you

Gameplay Mechanics
General Combat
The general combat to this action-RPG actually reminds me of Mass Effect. It’s sci-fi based, and while you can also use ranged weaponry in both games, Too Human also has a strong focus on melee based fighting. It’s also more action oriented than Mass Effect, as it has a deeper and more enjoyable fighting system. The combat system has a definite learning curve, as the player will have to learn to deal with not only meleeing with just the right analog stick, but a non-controllable camera as well. The camera can be a make or a break nuisance for some people, but for me I was fine with it as I’ve played games with much worse camera control.

The game’s combat system is a lot of fun and should not be overlooked for this game. I feel that the combat for this game is the game’s most enjoyable feature, as it combines the twitch shooting and combo-oriented gameplay of arcades with a home console’s action/adventure style controls. Shooting is very similar to any other console shooter – each class can equip both a rifle based firearm or two pistols – one in each hand. Shooting the rifle’s main ammo is with the right trigger, while the left trigger launches its grenade launcher. For pistols, each trigger corresponds to the specific gun in the left and right hands. Ammo is unlimited – grenades use a large chunk of ammo but it all comes from a depleting ammo bar that has unlimited reloads. A player can simply choose the commando, the gun based class, and tear through the game as a regular shooter with no major problems.

The big departure that Too Human makes from other action-RPGs is the use of the right analog stick for melee strikes. Gamers are traditionally used to a system where you control where your character is facing, and you hit a button to swing your character’s sword in that direction. Too Human goes for a more arcade style approach, where the analog stick’s movement always has an implied weapon swing at the end. If you move the analog stick with a hard right, it will cause your character to perform a slide towards the nearest enemy on the right and perform a strong attack. Tapping the stick in any direction softly will result in a regular attack that can be performed multiple times. Double tapping the stick in any direction will cause your character to launch the enemy in the air, allowing you to either shoot him in the air or to jump up after him and continue to melee combo him. As you can see, the melee system can take some getting used to but the idea really was to allow a player, surrounded by dozens of enemies, to simply move the stick only to slide back and forth among all of the enemies and striking them while moving to the next one – almost like a pinball machine. Enemies also drop health, which make the game even more offensively oriented.

The right stick melee combat system is further accentuated by a pretty satisfying combo system that allows for benefits from keeping a combo going and using a variety of attacks. As you continue to attack enemies in relatively quick succession, you have a combo meter that builds up like a fighting game that can max out at level 3 (or higher, with the right skill tree points). This combo meter allows your character to perform special attacks such as an area of effect attack, a boost on a timer for yourself and your allies, or even other abilities you can learn from your tech tree. In short, to utilize your most powerful “super attacks”, you need to combo the dozens of enemies that the game throws at you. This makes the game more fun, as you’re able to even cancel your combo attacks with launchers and specials, giving the game a somewhat simplistic fighting game feel that makes it more enjoyable to play.

To make the game even more challenging, certain enemies often come out in hordes of the regular ones that have certain status ailments that will be exploded onto the player if the player kills the enemy too close to him. Besides the major damage that can be caused from the monster’s explosion, certain status effects can be passed onto the player such as a fire-based damage over time debuff, a poison-based damage over time debuff, or one that simply freezes the player in place for several seconds. Some enemies simply explode upon contact with the player, so the combination of being frozen and then exploded is a nasty way to die. These “debuff exploder” type enemies often have less life than regular ones, so the player needs to keep an eye out on the enemies when they appear to take them out at range. They never really prove to be a total nuisance but give the game a little more challenge by keeping the player on his toes while he’s comboing.

Classes

There are five available classes in the game:

1. Berzerker
Able to equip a one handed weapon in each hand, the Berzerker class is the fastest melee class in the game. He is able to bounce around from enemy to enemy in the blink of an eye, but consequently, both his life bar and ranged attacks are small.

2. Defender
Another melee class like the Berzerker, the Defender instead trades one of the two one-handed weapons for a shield, giving him a huge boost in life/defense at the expense of speed and damage output. He is also weak with ranged attacks.

3. Champion
The Champion is the middle class in the game. He is equally skilled at fighting with melee weapons and ranged attacks, and basically fits the role of “jack of all trades but master of none”. I think this is the best class to start the game with to learn which fighting style you enjoy most and specialize with another character after that.

4. Commando
The Commando is the strongest ranged weapon user in the game. His melee and life are terrible, but he makes up with it with sheer firepower. With this class, enemies can do some major damage up close but the Commando is strong enough from range to rarely encounter that.

5. Bio-Engineer
The Bio-Engineer is the medic class of the game, but I would liken him more towards a Paladin class in fantasy themed games. The Bio-Engineer class is decent at both melee and firearms, but still weaker than the Champion due to the fact that he can heal and has an invulnerability “bubble”. His defense is also weak like the Commando and Berzerker though.

The Skill Tree
Each class has a minor skill tree they go through in the game, with points for the tree being awarded at every level up. Unlike Diablo, the skill trees in Too Human are simplistic at best, and only made a bit more complicated with the ability for the player to choose to either go with a cybernetic or human build for their character. Choosing one of these two alignments presents a second tree for the player (Diablo II had three skill trees available for each class) giving the skill trees a bit more depth. But in general, they aren’t that deep as many points have to often be sunk into one skill before going to the next skill.

Itemization
The itemization in the game is not bad, but I wish it were more along the lines of Diablo/World of Warcraft style loot. There are basically treasure chests, named mobs, and bosses throughout the game that drop loot, and the loot can vary from being regular to “epic”. However, the game tends to put a bit too much focus on customization of your weapon and armor through a rune/charm system.

The rune/charm system is similar to the socket system in Diablo II, where you could insert a rune/charm you found in Too Human (or a gem, in Diablo II’s case) into the weapon/armor to get a specific buff. As you continued to level up and find more powerful gear that was more rare, it would instead just be gear with a high damage or armor number but instead of various enhancements and effects (like +10% ranged damage, etc.), there’d just be more open slots for runes/charms. The thing I liked most about Diablo/WoW is the unique and set loot, where if you got a weapon or armor that was rare it actually its own item with unique properties. Those were fun to collect. In Too Human, the emphasis seems to be on making the most powerful loot yourself, which is perhaps a bit too much work for someone like me that just wants to play the game with instant gratification.

I also don’t really like the fact that any rare gear you find is actually a blueprint. This means that in order to wear it, you actually have to pay a lot of money to actually construct the item, which is definitely a drain on your bank. It’s like a voucher for being able to buy the item, and while I at first thought this system would cause me to go broke, you can still sell the blueprints themselves for a pretty good amount of money so it does have somewhat of a balanced system. All in all, the itemization in the game is not anywhere near as good as Blizzard’s games, but it’s adequate enough to keep playing. I’ve yet to have an epic drop on me though.

toohumancoop
What’s better than one player comboing his way through dozens of enemies? Two!

Multiplayer
Multiplayer works fine – I played it briefly with my brother and it’s maxed out at 2 player online co-op with no local co-op. The enemy numbers are generally increased for two players and the enemies scale up to the player with the higher level. Thus it’s possible to actually power-level a guy from level 1 to 50 just by having a level 1 pair up with a level 50 and hang out in the bank to soak up the free experience while the level 50 player fights.

I have no real criticisms to the multiplayer except perhaps the removal of 4-player online play, something that could have made the game even more fun and crazy. But with even one or two players already plowing through enemies, I can understand why it perhaps was unfeasible to add more players to the mix. There just wouldn’t be enough enemies to kill.

One thing missing from the game is dueling – no adversarial online of any kind such as dueling or competitive elements. Of course, I’ve never been a fan of dueling much myself, but those that like it may be disappointed.

toohumangui
The interface to Too Human looks very similar to Mass Effect, but unlike the latter, Too Human is more action than RPG.

Achievement System
The Achievements for the game were pretty well balanced. About a third of the 1000 points require simply playing through the game, while some points here and there are related to all of the various combat mechanics in the game and leveling up your character. The rest of the Achievements revolve around killing the different monster types, completing several charms, and beating each Act without dying. Everything is quite doable, and anyone that spends a good amount of time playing the game can easily get over 900 or so points in the game.

There is only one real taxing Achievement in the game – the one that requires finding all of the end-game Epic items (all 7) for your class. It’s almost a joke Achievement really, at 5 points, but it’s probably haunting many players stuck at 995/1000. I’m not sure whether I’m going to try to get in on that myself, as I’ve heard tales of people just grinding bosses for hours over and over in hopes of getting their epic drops. There are whole trading threads set up in various forums for people to trade epics they have for epics they want, since apparently epics from any class can drop for your character. I haven’t gotten that far yet, but I doubt I will spend my gaming time each night just trying to farm epics.

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The Too Human skill tree contains all of a class’s skills all on one small tree.

Final Thoughts
Too Human sits at a 65% on aggregate review site Metacritic.com and 69% on Gamerankings.com. Many of these reviews range from the low 50s to some in the 80s, but a majority fall in the 60s and 70s. I honestly think the scores are too low for the game. While the game does have a few annoying things such as the death sequence (reviewers complain that having to wait fifteen seconds for a cutscene after you die before you get automatically resurrected was too annoying), the overall gameplay is actually quite fun and satisfying.

I give the game a B-. It introduces an engaging combat system with addictive gameplay and an excellent soundtrack, but there are several shortcomings that prevent it from really being amazing. The easiest game to compare Too Human to is Diablo II, so the things that Too Human doesn’t do as well have to be held against it. The skill trees didn’t have much depth and seemed almost random at times (often times I’d go down one skill tree and be cursing that I had to spend points in a particular skill that was not even needed by my class), and like I mentioned earlier, the itemization wasn’t as well-designed as I’d like. I also thought the storyline was a little bland, and that the main character you play as, Baldur, looks a little too similar to Denis Dyack, the lead developer for the game. That actually turned me off from playing the game a little bit but I’m glad I gave it a try. I’ll be interested in checking out the sequel if it actually comes out, provided there’s no other better action-RPG loot-based game at the time.