Previews

Too Human

Finally new info on the Xbox's Diablo

Since that ill-fateful, frankly disastrous E3 video there's not been much revealed about Too Human - a game that, for a long time, has had bad news written all over it. Burdened by an ever-increasing development time and a stack of 'issues', it's become an unkempt black hole; swallowing vast quantities of cash and giving almost nothing in return. The only news has been Silicon Knight's court case with Epic, and it's a tale that's eclipsed any interest in the game's languishing production. Until now, that is.

Much has been said about the Nordic adventure's unique story. The sci-fi twist is a left-field approach considering the Norse mythology inspirations, and playable flashback sequences crop up with some regularity to deepen the tale. But although the story is a crucial part of any RPG, this game can't be pigeonholed so easily. Too Human isn't simply about stats and numbers, as Denis Dyack explained to us in last month's killer interview.

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"Too Human is a fusion between action and RPG," he said. So it's like Mass Effect then? Er, no. What he described was something quite different. Think of Devil May Cry meets Diablo and you're nearer the mark. Spread over four levels you'll take your character Baldur and turn him into the man you want to play as. Five classes - that's Commando, Defender, Bio-Mechanic, Beserker and Champion - are on offer to cater for every taste, and after making that decision you can tweak every move, weapon and armour piece to your heart's content. In fact, aside from Baldur's physique, you can customise absolutely anything you want.

Fourplay
Four levels doesn't sound like much, and it wouldn't be by conventional thinking. But despite its generally generic design, Too Human is far from conventional, and as it shares more in common with Phantasy Star Online (another game with four 'levels', and it stole a year of Xbox World writer's Gapper's life) than anything else we're confident that there's plenty of gaming to be had.

These are not four point-to-point sprints, where you can see and do it all in the first visit; they're sprawling worlds to return to time and time again in the search for ever-better item drops.

Extra locations make an appearance, and you'll also be able to explore an area known as cyberspace - a different plane of existence that shares parallels with the 'real world' and focuses on puzzles rather than combat - all mixing things up a little bit.

So far, so Phantasy Star, you may be grumbling - and, well, you'd be right to think so. Too Human will thrive on its online community, only this time around there's no monthly subscription fee to fork out for. The entire world levels in order to challenge any team of which you're a part, so there's always a fresh challenge on the horizon. Say you and three mates team up over Xbox Live.

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You may all be at the same level, but what if one player is massively more powerful? Too Human calculates any combination, so in this situation it would throw a couple of powerful enemies your way for the strongest member to battle, and plenty of weaker enemies that need mopping up by the rest. If they fail, the swarm will swamp the stronger member, so the system ensures that everybody has an equally important role to play regardless of rank and bicep-size.

The game has a level cap of 50, so you can't begin Too Human 2 (Too Human Too?) as a level 99 superhero. That's not to say that things are over once you've hit the big five-oh. Part of the draw of Too Human is the search for rare items, and there's a frighteningly long list of weapons and armour to find. There should be more than enough to tide you over until the sequel's out, anyway.

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