As I began my preview of Hyper Light Drifter, I knew that its graphics would be the selling point for its Kickstarter backers. I also figured that the combat wouldn’t be innovate, yet it would feature enough action for a heavily stylized action RPG. However, as I neared the end, I realized that the sheer, Metroid-like isolation the game emits contributed to what could be one of the most thoughtfully paced adventures I’ve experience in some time, and keep in mind I’m only talking about the preview version of Hyper Light Drifter.
I began the game on a desolate advanced planet, standing in front of a gigantic door that looks as if it’s been abandoned long enough for nature to sink its roots into it. From previous research, I knew that I was a Drifter who suffers from a severe illness, and his only salvation could only be found within the ruins filled with ancient technology that’s comparably more advanced than ours. I left the somewhat comforting nature behind for cold, enignmatic mechanical temple. For a while, all was quiet, and I was able to activate the temple’s many computerized runes to open new pathways. The ambient soundtrack only contributed to my feelings of isolation; that is until I ran into my first set of enemies.
Combat is equal parts fun and frustrating. While the protagonist can move in any direction, he can ultimately attack in the direction that he’s facing; this is accompolished via the mouse. However, enemies came at me from all directions, and I needed sharp reflexes in order to connect with the perfect slash, riddle them with bullets, or simply dash out of the way. As you might expect, this often led to me completely missing my enemy or dashing off the ledge.
I didn’t have a completely frustrating time with Hyper Light Drifter, however. While, yes, it takes time to adjust to the control scheme, I managed to do it, and I even found the frantic combat to be enjoyable. Even though Hyper Light Drifter is currently not finished, I didn’t notice any problems with hit-detection or anything else. The only other problems were that certain pathways begged for me to take them, but graphical glitches made it to where I would only fall to my untimely death.
Regardless of my feelings on the controls, I understood that Hyper Light Drifter is fair. The Drifter’s sword strikes and gun shots are efficiently brutal, yet enemies are numerous and somewhat intelligent. I took cover from their gunshots, but I also had to maneuver around their cover; in one instance, I needed to dash to a different platform, which was impossible to reach by foot alone, so I could align my mouse with my enemy for a clear shot. If I ran out of ammo, I simply ditched the gun in favor of the close-quarters combat. Enemies are also powerful, but the Drifter is tough, and health items were strewn throughout the futuristic temple. At certain points, I was able to switch between different weapons, hinting that the dynamics of combat would shift throughout the story’s progression.
Hyper Light Drifter impressed me was its pacing, which complemented its graphical prowess splendidly. After I defeated all of my enemies and collected all of the keys, I returned to the moody ambiance that contributed to my feelings of isolation from earlier. As I walked along the catwalk, I looked below and discovered broken, yet still menacing, titan. Curiosity filled my mind, soon to be followed by dread concerning what what would surely become danger. Simply put, I felt immersed within the world of Hyper Light Drifter.
Hyper Light Drifter will not innovate how we approach top-down action RPGs in terms of combat. If you’ve played The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Diablo, then you’ll have a vague idea of what to expect, plus a gorgeous presentation. However, there’s more to this presentation than meets the eye thanks to Hyper Light Drifter’s superb pacing and ambiance.
This preview of Hyper Light Drifter is based on the Steam Preview Build provided by Heart Machine.