The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow – Cave Doom

The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow is a point & click adventure game by Cloak and Dagger Games. It’s set in Britain during the olden times with a story steeped in British folklore, faintly sprinkled by Lovecraft. Now, I don’t want to say everything occult, otherworldly must be Lovecraft, and I wouldn’t say this was inspired by it either, until the end that is. For it’s only a small segment of the game, time-wise, but it’s a huge part of the narrative – so, there we go.

You play as Thomasina (great name by the way!) Bateman. A young antiquarian looking to write a book about the barrows of England, and her latest place of interest is Hob’s Barrow located in the little village of Bewlay. It’s get stated fairly quickly that your presence is not met with the highest of enthusiasm. There is something very mysterious about this barrow that you want to excavate. But being a stout follower of logic and reason, something absurd as folktale superstition by the yokels won’t hinder you. And so goes the story, slowly you unwrap this enigma through talking to people, helping them out, and convincing them of your plight. It’s all very slow, though, which makes me think the game might have some pacing issues getting the story across. This leads me to gameplay.

The first big part of the game is all set in, or around the small village of Bewlay. Being a point & click adventure, it is expected to do a lot of clicking, searching for clues, and talking to people, but one issue I found with this in the case of Hob’s Barrow, is that the puzzles are very tedious. Because of two reasons. They are mostly just filler stuff, finding an item for someone, then that person needs an item too before he or she can fulfill the request. And so it goes, round and round, without much actual interesting lore and story coming through. It is charming in places, and one story of loss got to me. It was the tale about the town drunk and the loss of his dear mum. But as part of the bigger picture, the mystery, it’s really slow going. You will be doing a lot of running back and forth, seeing the same backgrounds constantly. I think the developer recognized this too because he added a fast travel mechanic that instantly transports you from scene to scene.

If only someone said that to me in real life…

Now, I wouldn’t say it’s bad in the sense of it being an adventure game, it’s just a bit slow, and boring at times, because of the padding. The UI looks pretty and is functional. There are item combinations to be had, and some puzzles actually require brain activation. But as mentioned, 70-80% of the game are of the mundane type, and only the last part of the game seems to have some adventure “weight”.

And this leads to another problem for me. I don’t want to spoil anything here, so I will try to avoid it as much as possible. There are no choices to be made in the game, it’s narrative set, and it makes me feel more like an observer than a player. This is not uncommon, but in the case of this game, it was really frustrating, because the main protagonist gets so many clues that something is off, and still goes through with some really dumb decisions. So in the end, when the game is as most interesting both gameplay and narrative-wise, my brain had already checked out, due to slight boredom, and my frustration with Thomasina. The end overall, while Lovecraftian, disappointed me. It’s well written, but I didn’t like it, it made me feel like the whole thing was just a waste of time. I do think, though, that this could have been great, if you get to do some choices in the game, having the game correspond with multiple endings. Now, as mentioned, it was just an act of frustration waiting for the ending. I would argue that the ending doesn’t even have that great of a payoff when it comes to its centerpiece. There are many loose ends, and some things don’t add up when you think about it.

Just your friendly neighborhood goblin

Visually, I think it looks great. It has nice pixel art in general with impressive animations and creepy zoom-in on characters and items. But the game use “fade to black” way too often where animations and events are implied, and not shown. For some reason this really started to annoy me at the end, it’s just something unpleasant for the eyes having the screen go pitch black every 10 minutes. Every piece of dialogue is voice-acted, and I have no issues here, even if some voice actors repeat a lot. I mean, it’s a budget title, and that it even has voice acting is impressive. It adds to the Britishness of the setting, having all these people speak to you with different thicknesses of English accents. The music I did find very moody, I got to say it did stand out a great bit, and I can see myself listening to the soundtrack outside of the game – depending on my frame of mind of course.

Do I recommend The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow? Well, it’s hard to say. I didn’t dislike it as a whole, even if I found issues with it. The setting is charming, and the game is not very expensive for what you get. It’s well told, got nice music, and is another point-and-click adventure game in a genre that doesn’t get too many releases. Money-wise it’s probably no loss, but due to how the story is formed, I can’t see myself ever going back to it personally, and the atmosphere wasn’t that great to warrant another play-through for that alone. I recognize that my dislike for the ending is subjective since it got a good rating on Steam at this current moment. So people seem to like it. I would say go for it if you are genre starved, otherwise wait for a price drop.

Thanks for reading.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s