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Hyper Light Drifter Hands-On Preview

by Danny Vittore

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I’m a little too young to be able to be hit by the nostalgia train whenever I see an 8 or 16-bit 2D RPG game. However, if that’s what you’re looking for, Hyper Light Drifter is your game. Throughout my play-through of the preview build, the same thought kept crossing my mind: “This game is alright, but I wish I understood more about what was going on.”

This game, as are many indie games coming out nowadays, is a throwback. Specifically a throwback to the older 8-bit and 16-bit games of the early 90s. The gameplay isn’t anything particularly revolutionary, but it works. You have a top-down view, you swing your sword as your primary and you get a ranged secondary weapon (be it a rapid firing pistol or a charged rifle). You can’t move when you’re shooting your weapons and you can do this sort of dash/teleport ability to get you from platform to platform which are separated by deep chasms, or just to generally move faster.

Much of this gameplay is going to be subject to change, but I thought what I played was pretty enjoyable. It could be frustrating at times when you die and have to start the room all over again, but it comes with the territory in this sort of game and the combat is pretty sound overall.

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I’m personally a guy who is really into the beautiful, realistic visuals of the Ryses, GTA Vs and Crysises, but I can absolutely understand the appeal of the bit-ified graphics of Hyper Light Drifter. The art-style is pretty great and the environment and characters are an effective, modern and visually appealing take on the 8-bit/16-bit graphics style. It may be made to look like it was 8/16-bit, but don’t be fooled. You aren’t getting the clunky graphics of years past, but smooth and well animated motions and effects.

Unfortunately, the scope of the preview didn’t really include figuring out what was actually going on. Why am I walking through this freaky laboratory? Why are these zombie-like creatures attacking me? Why am I massacring them with such glee? So many questions! So few answers. From what can be gleaned from the Kickstarter page, you play as a “drifter,” a collector of lost knowledge and technologies in a ruined world. You, specifically, are going on a mission to heal your own illness (which could probably explain what you’re doing in a bio-lab).

And while the game plays fine, that alone isn’t going to make this game a great. It’s going to need the gameplay and the story to intertwine into a thing of beauty and be a truly memorable game. However, I’m fully confident that if the preview build plays this well then, unless they decide to defenestrate all their progress, it can only really get even better from here.

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If I was going to fault this game about anything, it’d probably be about how it wasn’t overly obvious what were destructible boxes or not and the lack of a point to actually destroying boxes, due to there being no drops. This is probably a preview issue, however, as I’m sure in the final version, there will be drops of some sort of currency or another, but as such a thing wasn’t within the scope of the preview, it’s just something that I wasn’t able to try. Oh, and enemy path-finding is a bit off. They would frequently group around corners, not able to go around it, but I’m sure this will get evened out in the final version.

Like I said at the beginning, if you’re looking for a 2D top-down RPG that will hit you right in the nostalgia feels, you are going to like this game. If you’re looking for something that has an interesting and gripping story, this could possibly be the game for you, but there is no way for me to know just from the preview build. Regardless, it will be worth your time to keep an eye on Hyper Light Drifter.

Hyper Light Drifter is set to come out on PC (Windows, Mac and Linux), Xbox One, PS4, PSVita, WiiU and Ouya sometime in 2015.

Does Hyper Light Drifter sound appealing to you? Let us know in the comments below!

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