All I can say is that I wish I had played this game in 2016 because it probably would have a spot on my top ten list. What a wonderful mix of concepts from Zelda and Dark Souls with a visual style that is pixel perfect (heh). Hyper Light Drifter is an amazing accomplishment of tight control with great mechanics and pathways to play the way you want.
Where to even start.
Hyper Light Drifter is one of those games that I kept on my steam wishlist for way too long. If I had known what would be laid before me, I would have definitely paid full price for this marvel. There really isn’t much of a story to go off of and it some ways, that makes it a bit more interesting than your typical indie game. The whole thing is told through pictures and very short cutscenes, no dialogue whatsoever. You’re probably not going to get what is going on really unless you look it up, but that’s not the true draw to the game. All I really got from it is that you seem to be a wanderer that has an illness who’s trying to stop the corruption that unfolds itself as you explore the paths. You don’t know why or how or what the world even is but it doesn’t end up mattering that much because the game is so atmospheric and grim.
Another thing that definitely lends to its favor is its systems and controls. The game feels challenging but very fair. When you make a mistake or overextend, you get punished (or make an incredibly lucky escape). Essentially combat boils down to three things. You have a dash, a sword, and a gun. When you slash things, your gun ammo is filled back up so there is a balance of when to fire and when to get close. The dash feels very tight and is essential to approaching enemies in tight quarters or escaping a bad situation. You can get upgrades for all of the above like better movement options, more ammo, or a reflect for your sword. You purchase the upgrades with gear bits you find in the dungeons.
HLD does dungeons very well. As you make your way down one of the four pathways from the hub town, you’ll encounter a new set of enemies that train you for what is to come. There is an objective in each area, to get at least 4 shards and open the boss door so you can activate the pillar that connects back to the hub. Once you’ve done so in all the areas, the final boss elevator opens up. But back to the dungeons. As you make your way through there will be a set of challenges with a boss at the end. The challenges themselves feel like a big accomplishment and your little dude even swings and sticks his sword in the ground when you beat a particularly tough one. Each boss is very unique and offers a new pattern for you to learn and master because it will probably take you a couple of tries to beat them. At the end, you’ll be rewarded with some currency and a new gun that shoots different than the rest, like a railgun or shotgun!
Overall, this game is incredibly atmospheric. If this was a guided narrative through this world, I think I’d enjoy it just as much. But even better than that, it has amazing combat and strategy to learn alongside the visuals. You begin to feel for your wanderer even though he doesn’t speak a word. Although the game feels a little short, it is definitely complete. You get to play the way you want and feel challenged the entire way. For you completionists out there, there are so many things to collect that I didn’t even try. Hyper Light Drifter is one dope game to say the very least. In the end, I give it 5 out of 5 eagle wizards.