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Hyper Light Drifter

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A classic 16-bit action RPG inspired by Zelda, Diablo and more - with dash jumps, swords and many guns

Pros

  • Strong action RPG gameplay with a great narrative back story
  • Fresh approach to the platformer with dash jumping
  • Dynamic combat with enhanced enemy AI
  • An assortment of weapons to suit all playstyles
  • Classic 16-bit graphics with echoes of Diablo, Zelda, and other classic titles
  • Puzzles, helpers, and collectibles for the completionists
  • Gameplay-driven (no in-game dialogue)

Cons

  • Objects can sometimes be difficult to discern from the environment

Hyper Light Drifter is an indie, retro arcade-style action RPG game, developed by Heart Machine (Alex Preston) as a kickstarter, in which the player ('the Drifter') must navigate through a long forgotten world to cure an illness that he carries. 

What it's All About

Kickstarters are popping up everywhere, and yet again we have come across a gem. Scheduled for official release in early 2015 for PC, Hyper Light Drifter embraces a 16-bit world drawing inspiration from Studio Ghibli for its narrative, and Diablo for its presentation. The game delivers on all accounts. When you begin, you are presented with a classic 16-bit environment and your character, known only as 'the Drifter'. Having contracted a fatal illness and been shunned from civilization, ths drifter must navigate through a forgotten civilzation filled with dangerous creatures in hopes of finding a cure.

Gameplay

Behind the narrative, it is the core gameplay mechanics, with echoes of classic SNES titles such as the Legend of Zelda, that make this game interesting. The environments are in a classic Diablo style: top-down, at an angle, and highly interactive. Color schemes resemble classic SNES games, with clean metallic finishes and primary colors. Objects in the game are dynamic, with plenty of breakable walls, pillars, and other containers. The game also has an assortment of puzzles frequently requiring the player to examine areas closely for switches or keys. Controls are simple, offering options for firing your weapon, moving the drifter in all directions, and interacting with or picking up objects. The game takes on pseudo-platformer elements with the inclusion of the drifter's dash jump, a creative way to speed across gaps between platforms. For many this is the signature feature of the game. 

Navigating through environments is thoroughly enjoyable. After you have sufficiently explored an area, you will be granted items which can be used to open doors, either to continue on or at a previously unaccessible point.  Environments are tough, though, with enemies abound to challenge you. The UI for combat is presented a lot like Zelda games, with information such as ammunition and health being displayed in the top corner. Also like Zelda is the inclusion of a helper, known as the 'ghost', who follows the drifter around and aids him whenever possible. Your ammunition will regenerate over time, as well as your health. Weapons range from swords to simple pistols with single fire to shotguns with a less accurate, but more deadly, spread of shells. Playstyle is entirely dependent on the player, offering the option of being a more precise, long range fighter or a short range gung-ho type. 

Fighting in the game can be quite difficult at first. Enemy AI is impressive, they will rarely walk into your attacks. Firing at a single point will prompt them to take cover

Fighting in the game can be quite difficult at first. Enemy AI is impressive, they will rarely walk into your attacks. Firing at a single point will prompt them to take cover. Enemies are rather diverse, as well, requiring you to learn how to fight them. Some are heavily armed, others have shields, and so on. Next, irrespective of the enemy, whether using simple projectiles or larger ones, all attacks will damage you if they connect. With a small amount of health at the beginning of the game, dying will be a frequent occurrence if you are not careful. Reaching low HP will cause the drifter's heart to beat - quite dramatic indeed. The player need not worry, though. If you have recently progressed through a gate, it will act as a checkpoint. Your helper will also heal you if you give him the time. 

Peripheral elements such as sound effects and music come to the forefront in this game, too. Sounds have been crafted precisely to match all actions including pressing switches, opening doors, firing weapons, and more. The music, while intermittent, complements the environment by providing a suitable ambiance. 

More to Come

As an unfinished title, the game has much more to come. Even so, we can already see signs of greatness. Colors are sharp, gameplay is crisp and responsive, graphics are minimal but distinctive, allowing for easy navigation of environments. Enemies are challenging, but not overly so, and AI is adaptive. Best of all for me, however, are the sound effects. Whether dash jumping, firing a weapon, or pressing a switch, the fine tuned sound effects make the game intensely real and exciting. For an excellent tribute to the action RPG, to Diablo, Zelda and many other titles, why not check this one out? You won't be disappointed. 

Hyper Light Drifter icon

Type Video

Version Video

Size 19.72 MB

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