Hyper Light Drifter — Review
Hyper Light Drifter, the first game by Heart Machine is a mix between Diablo, Zelda and many others with great emphasis on combat and exploration. The game was a true success on Kickstarter and I backed it myself, my error was redeeming my copy for the PS4, but the game is out now on PC, so I bought it.
And I really regret that move.
The game is gigantic inspired, on the surface, the combat is great, on the surface and the setting is marvelous, again, on the surface.
HLD wants you to go through a text-less journey across a really pretty and colorful wasteland, of course you have tiny segments of tutorials to learn the basics and nothing else, you are on your own here. And thats very bad for the game.
Because you are struggling with everything from the start just for the sake of it being “hard” and there’s no text nor context for nothing, only a dreamy sensation well nailed but, in my opinion, is not worth the lack of information about anything of the game or the world itself.
I don’t know “The Drifter” I don’t understand why I’m doing this or that. Who is wrong or right? Can I really tell what have I done so far?
No, I can’t. And that, again, is really bad for the game.
Because I don’t get along with the world or any characters, they were there but I just don’t care about them or what will happen next. That’s a big issue when you are trying to get people involved into a journey.
Beacause the game is about a journey.
The combat and the exploration are the big points about this game and, yes, fighting is fast paced, brutal and feels so good to clean a section dashing and swinging the sword, and the enviroment is full of details to embrace your thirst for more.
The setting is just 10/10 right off the bat, but you have no motive for going through them, the different areas are “theme parks” with some kind of enemies, some kind of colors and forms and a boss. But then again, you can’t trust that the player will go to the right place at the time;
In my first playthrough I headed north first and it was hard, really hard and stressful to beat it, but once I did, I had no clue where I need to go next, and the game doesn’t tell you, no, you have to figure out yourself for the sake of it being “hard”
There’s one great flaw that I hated; the game is about turning on some things, you need 4 to go to the boss, and theres 8 in the zone, but some of them, are hidden or maybe you need some certain packs of upgrades in order to reach them.
Backtracking is always an awful idea.
Let’s talk now about the combat.
It feels nice, but after awhile and after you figured out how the upgrade system works, the combat goes terminally dull, and you are just pressing the attack and dash buttons to get over another wave of enemies.
And that’s a great problem for this kind of games.
See, in Diablo or Zelda, you have plenty of weapons to resolve a situation the way you want to solve it, but in here, you are pretty limited;
You have a sword and a bunch of guns which are hard to tell the differences between them, aesthetically and functionality. After a while, any combination feels tired and boring. Why can I do anything the bosses or even mob enemies do?
Because the game wants to be hard.
I really like hard tasks and hard mobs, I really do.
But a hard combat or constant deaths doesn’t fit in every game, you can’t die in games like Animal Crossing because theres no way your character gets harmed (other than been attacked by insects) and thats totally in harmony with the DNA of the game.
I really love Ni-Oh and how you have to master the block over the attack to progress, that game is hard but it’s totally fair.
In HLD you can overpower yourself and learn fast the moves of the enemies, but the game loves to throw you a ton of enemies, wave after wave because diying is fun now.
See, in Hotline Miami, you are dead for seconds, and you can keep trying until you get the flow right, in HLD you can restart pretty fast too, but you need to go to the instance again, which is just re walking every corridor, just to try again.
And the player might get tired of a meaningless quest across a nameless land.
On a side note, before the verdict, the game is full of secrets, you can easily miss most of them if you are going on a “straight line” however this might be good or bad. It just depends, on my initial run, I opened only one “treasure room” and I really dashed here and there looking for keys, but it wasn’t fun, so I stopped and never regret it. For me, leaving “easy secrets” can be harmful for the word “secret” itself, but it is true that a little easy secret is a very good step for the player, who will want more, and more, and then they will get all of them, playing the hell out of the game.
That, of course, doesn’t happen in HLD.
The world is closed, hermetic and doesn’t want you in here. And the player will notice that and hopefully, never come back.
You can easily choose a bunch of games more fun, more interesting and more detailed than HLD. It’s full of good intentions but also, full of bad game design choices.
However, you can want something really different, something hard but short enough to get your thirst back. Then again there are plenty of games will offer just that. Hyper Light Drifter is a short, hard and hermetic game and somehow, I think thats the whole idea.
But, for me, is a bad idea which other games have done really well in the past.
For now, let the Drifter sleep.
Also, I haven’t named Dark Souls once in the whole review, kudos to me.