Traveling to every corner of the world, each area more perilous and intriguing than the last, facing foes that only seem to get more dangerous and deadly with each step of progress that you make. Hyper Light Drifter, the creation of Heart Machine, is packed with action, adventure, and challenging obstacles to overcome; a visually stunning game with interesting lore that you uncover as you proceed. Without a doubt, any fans of action RPG games will be hooked from the get go with this title.
A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma
The player takes on the role of a character simply known as “The Drifter,” a lonesome traveler suffering from a disease that causes them to cough up blood occasionally. Not much is known about this disease, in fact, it’s never quite clarified what it is exactly. The only visible symptom is whenever The Drifter coughs up blood and the whole screen goes glitchy. In doing a bit of research, I found out that this certain aspect of the protagonist was inspired by the lead developer of Heart Machine, Alex Preston, who is suffering from heart disease. Aside from that, The Drifter travels alone, save for a small robot that floats around and helps them to access the rusted and ancient technology that is scattered around the land.
Hyper Light Drifter begins with an extraordinarily visually appealing cut scene; soon after it began, I knew I was in for one hell of a feast for the eyes. The colours are vibrant and exciting to look at, and with every new area I explored I wanted to take it all in. The graphics themselves are smooth and well done, and being a fan of bit-design games I really enjoyed just looking at this game, let alone playing it.
The opening cut scene, as beautiful as it is, tells a story, a bit of history in fact. A story of how the land was once roamed by giant mechanical beings. That is, until a massive explosion occurs that seems to have wiped them out, or perhaps shut them down permanently. As you move around the landscape, you will happen upon large structures that would appear to be said beings, now rusted in place. Some in mid sword swing, others appearing to have tried to climb up the mountainside. Needless to say, this game is extremely atmospheric and rich in mysterious lore.
I say “mysterious” because this whole game has absolutely no dialogue. Everything is told through pictures, actions, and your surroundings. This is something I was grateful for because it really got me take in more of the environment, to see if I had missed anything crucial to the plot. It reminded me very much of the game, Journey; there is no dialogue in that game at all either, and the story and history is told through visuals alone. And also the fact that The Drifter is a cloaked figure, just like the one in Journey.
The cut scenes and surroundings of the game also imply that this world has been inhabited by four unique races for a seemingly very long time. As you explore each area, you can see traces of these creatures and their culture. Each race resides in their own respective area, which The Drifter must travel to in order to reactivate each area’s power. That power comes in the form of a beacon of sorts; all this is supposedly in hopes of finding a cure for The Drifter’s strange ailment.
Throughout the game, The Drifter will receive visions of a dark entity that takes the shape of a jackal. The impression that I got was that this entity was a being of worship for the four races and is now acting as a guide for The Drifter. It’s never fully explained what this entity is exactly or why they’re prompting you to follow them.
The story is a bit fuzzy and I found myself trying to decipher what exactly some of it meant. As mentioned before, there’s no dialogue and you must rely solely on visuals to understand what’s happening, which could be a little confusing for some.
What exactly is The Drifter suffering from? Why is this shadowy jackal so keen on guiding you? What set off that bomb all that time ago that wiped out the mechanical beings? I still have a few questions, but I can’t deny that I am very interested in the world of Hyper Light Drifter.
Drift Into Action
In terms of gameplay, The Drifter has a small but effective variety of weapons at their disposal: a wicked laser sword that allows the player to slash through obstacles and cut down enemies, a long-range gun, and a powerful rechargeable bomb. The Drifter’s drift motion can also be used as a tool of attack! These weapons can be upgraded and customized if the player goes into town at the centre of the map and visits the shops.
You can also find objects hidden in little recesses of the map, like the type of currency they use to buy things in this world, keys you can collect to unlock doors, different outfits of different colour pallets for your Drifter, and health kits. Holy crap, are you gonna need those health kits. So stock up on them as much as you can because this game is quite the challenge.
Vanishing platforms, moving walls that can crush you, jutting spikes, and hoards of monsters that are all honed in on you. The boss battles can also be quite challenging if you haven’t got the right equipment (or patience for that matter). You have to be quick witted, you have to have fast reflexes, and your accuracy has to be on point. But holy hell are those boss battle themes really cool, chilling and ominous, but also gets your blood pumping and motivates you to take them down.
All things said, Hyper Light Drifter is a great game with a wonderful aesthetic, interesting concept, lore that keeps the player in a state of awe and curiosity, incredible visuals, and overall fun and challenging gameplay. I highly recommend this for any avid action RPG fans, or just any type of gamer in general that’s curious to play this.
DISCLAIMER: Hyper Light Drifter review copy provided by Heart Machine. The opinions expressed in the article above have not be affected by, dictated or edited in any way by Heart Machine. For more information please see Girls on Games’ Code of Journalistic Ethics.