Review | Hyper Light Drifter

A character holds an item of great value, and he must protect it, but he is ridden with an illness that he must find a cure for. It’s a game with SNES styled graphics, breathtaking music, and a story you need to follow.
Hyper Light Drifter
Snowy mountains and drifty drifters.

Hyper Light Drifter is a game that opens itself up with a very long and dramatic intro scene, for a while I wasn’t sure what was going on because there’s no voice acting, it’s told only through animations, still images, and impressive music. In fact, the story actually isn’t very clear at all. You’re introduced to weird, puzzling symbols, or mechanics, which then lead to an explosion. Then comes forth your character, The Drifter, donning a long red cape, wielding an energy sword, and coughing up blood. The Drifter appears to be running from creatures, and we see this unwell person stood on top of some steps, facing what look like nightmarish titans bearing down on the character. The gameplay begins when you’re sat next to a campfire.

Hyper Light Drifter
I killed them all in style. I’m badass.

It’s quite clear that this game is slightly based on the, The Legend of Zelda franchise from way back to the Links Awakening period, with a iconic top down view of your character and world, and even the bushes are similar! The world surrounding you has a gentle 3D perspective, some walls you can scale, some gaps you can jump.  As for The Drifter, you begin with an energy sword that can hack, slash, and chop. Eventually you get new weapons or upgrades available, be that from finding them on your adventures or from the marketplaces available, slowly progressing your character to become quicker, and stronger.

The main thing that gets me about Hyper Light Drifter is how it’s essentially told through it’s visuals and music, like a wonderful thought provoking theatre performance.

Hyper Light Drifter
It’s time to shop for attac…oh, I don’t have any purple triangles.

 

The combat is executed really well, there’s that hack n’ slash element at your fingertips that’s easily prompted with just a mouse click, with the additional feature of using ranged weapons alongside the primary weapon using the right mouse button. String these two weapons together with some dashing and…nothing really happens, except a possible epic killing spree that looks awesome.

The map is actually pretty big. I tip my hat to it.
The map is actually pretty big. I tip my hat to it.

For quite a while, the combat is fairly gentle, with at least 2-3 enemies making their way to battle you. Eventually the game gradually brings about 5 enemies in total towards you before suddenly, you’re fending off about 24 all at once, both ground and airborne creatures. Finger-mashing, button-smashing is the way forward. Sadly there are moments where your game will save when you don’t want it too, so The Drifter, will respawn with one bar of HP, and you’ll have to fend off several enemies that you just can’t. Multiple deaths result and frustration brews, leaving you feeling like the death/respawning fade to black is getting longer and longer.

You venture on land, and below land in dungeons that are situation around the map, you’re not really given much information except seeing a few static images from a character you come across telling you what thing you need to collect. Most of the time you’re trying to figure out if some things are relevant to your current quest, then you’re trying to figure out where they are relevant. There’s not a whole lotta on screen help except the occasional, “Use these to teleport between checkpoints” or “Press E to bring up the HUD”.

Oh look, dungeons with moving walls...my favourite.
Oh look, dungeons with moving walls…my favourite.

Most of the time you’re trying to figure out if some things are relevant to your current quest, then you’re trying to figure out where they are relevant.

 

Beautiful scenery, captivating music...I like.
Beautiful scenery, captivating music…I like.

The main thing that gets me about Hyper Light Drifter is how it’s essentially told through it’s visuals and music, like a wonderful thought provoking theatre performance. There’s a moment near the beginning where you’re wandering along after battling a few enemies, then you come to a ledge. The camera crabs round to the left and you see a city before you, stood proudly in the distance, the music at this point swells dramatically and a wave of fascination overcomes you. There are many other fantastic pieces of the OST used throughout and it compliments the games visual style that comes over as being very glitchy, and science fiction’esque.
And that’s the thing about the graphics, it really is very science fiction ridden in a 16 bit inspired world. There are also elements that blend seamlessly well together, be that the 2D characters venturing alongside the 3D enviroments, or be it the smooth FPS of the particle effects that hide amongst the glitchy, 16 bit themed animations that move at a far slower FPS. It’s a style that works seamlessly.

After a bloody adventure game, filled with violence and a beautiful story telling style? Then Hyper Light Drifter is certainly a game you’ll want to get your hands on. Uncover the dangerous dungeons, battle uniquely designed enemies, and try to understand the storyline through just pictures. Enjoy!

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