Hyper Light Drifter Review
Who am I? Where am I? Hyper Light Drifter is what happens when Dark Souls has a baby with a pixelated 80's anime.
You jump into the world of Hyper Light Drifter with no sense of who you are, what you're doing or how you contracted a mysterious illness that occasionally causes you to cough up pints of blood. Hyper Light Drifter's charm is that it makes you curious about everyone and everything that comes your way. Once you get through the game you find it does an admirable job of world building. One thing is for sure, though. You can kick some major ass.
Hyper Light Drifter oozes with style at every turn. A lot of thought and care went on creating a world that has a story to tell. It communicates so much to the player without needed to provide flavor text, dialogue or even a tutorial. Hyper Light Drifter makes you feel like a visitor in a foreign country with no grasp of the language or its customs. Characters speak in this garbled tongue and provide each conversation with helpful pictorials. Early on, you'll come across someone, who you find out was a former slave, has a conversation you with a series of pictures showing you his harrowing escape.
How did you die? You must have blinked.
At a glance engaging in combat seems a bit harrowing at first. The speed at which everything moves can be a bit jarring. The ramp up from manageable combat encounters to absolutely bonkers sometimes very from room to room and what skills you've unlocked so far. Once you find the combat's rhythm, it all makes a little bit more sense. Of course, what I mean is that you'll die an awful lot trying to memorize enemy movement and combat patterns.
A successful fight consists of artfully stringing together drifts and strikes where even the most masterful coordinated attack can be brought down in an instant with one miscalculation. Those with poor reflexes will surely find the combat breathtakingly frustrating. Boss fights are epic tests of all the little tricks and skills you've learned so far with an unusually fair challenge despite the unfair difficulty curve of the room to room combat.
The penalty for dying and let's face it, you will, isn't as severe as you would expect with dying only sending you back a checkpoint where you'll have to recollect whatever goodies you picked up on your way to your death, with the only real loss being time.
I feel like I've been here before.
Your true enemy is Hyper Light Drifter is the map. The stunning visuals will encourage you to inspect every patch of land since each of the four zones have their own stories to tell. Trying to navigate said world is another story entirely.
You'll get lost on more than one occaison and end up retreading old ground thinking you still have work to do there when you don't. In order to complete each zone it requires you to find four nodes located sporadically around each area. If you're extra adventurous you can try to find secret nodes to open up new areas and goodies.
Sadly, looking for these nodes is nothing more than just a pixel hunt which is a bit of chore considering how easy it to get lost. This is when Hyper Light Drifter's lack of communication works against its favor because exploring off the beaten path hardly seems worth the trouble. This is an absolute shame considering how gorgeous the world is.
Final Thought: All flash, no pizzazz...
Hyper Light Drifter is a case of style over substance. It's a beautfil action filled adventure romp can sometimes be slogged down by it's lack of overall direction in both its narrative and exploration. If slick combat at a breakneck pace is more your thing then I would definitely put Hyper Light Drifter through its paces.