Last week Bobby covered Firewatch, an upcoming indie game backed by a ‘holy trinity’ of game development. It’s sure-to-be-gorgeous-design reminded me of another beautiful up & coming game that I’ve had on my radar: Hyper Light Drifter. Video games are a huge passion of mine, and I’m not quick to gush over a title (especially one that I haven’t had the opportunity to play). Yet, here I am, gushing. In a world of increasingly creative and imaginative indie games, Heart Machine’s Hyper Light Drifter already stands out as one of the shining pillars of gameplay, art direction, and design.
“Hyper Light Drifter is a 2D Action RPG in the vein of the best 8-bit and 16-bit classics, with modernized mechanics and designs on a much grander scale. Explore a beautiful, vast and ruined world riddled with unknown dangers and lost technologies. Inspired by nightmares and dreams alike.”
Hyper Light Drifter modestly entered the world as a Kickstarter campaign. The goal? $27,000. The result? $645,000 of some 24,000 backers. As you can see, the game caught the attention of gamers like wildfire to a dry forest. Rightfully so, Hyper Light Drifter is the full package. The team behind it all: director Alex Preston, programmer Beau Blyth (of Samurai Gunn fame), and composure Disasterpeace (of FEZ fame), are at the top of their game.
At the heart of Hyper Light Drifter is adventure. “Something dark and fantastic, with giant forests to navigate, huge floating structures to explore, deep crumbling ruins to loot, massive throngs of enemies to rend, and behemoths both flesh and mechanical to overcome.” According to Preston, Hyper Light Drifter has taken cues from titles such as Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Diablo.
To me, what comes to mind is Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP or Bastion, contemporary indie titles that redefined the genre. Those two titles carried with them such an atmopshere that made the games so easy to get lost within. Hyper Light Drifter seems to fall in line. No world is complete without a story to push it forward, Preston has mentioned that “story is pretty paramount for us, I think good story in games is a rarity, so it’s something that we’re concentrating pretty heavily on.” Scant details have been revealed in regards to the narrative, they’re hoping to keep it a surprise till release.
“The game is accessible and easy to pick up, but difficult to master and complete.” To distinguish itself from the other games in the genre, the team have focused heavily on gameplay. “Lightning fast combat, more mobility, an array of tactical options, more numerous and intelligent enemies, and a larger world with a twisted past to do it all in.”
Preston comments that “Whereas A Link to the Past’s combat was about being in the way of the puzzles, this is much more about the combat being integral to the experience.” Heart Machine seems to be very in touch with classic games and what makes that medium so strong. Hyper Light Drifter is a reworked amalgamation of the designers’ favourite elements of gaming’s past, incorporating everything from difficulty to local multiplayer.
Simply put, Hyper Light Drifter looks sexy. It’s the game’s unique art style that drew me in and keeps me excited. Almost all the designers are illustrators in their own right, putting a lot of conceptual work into the mix before it ever reaches the game, which seems to be having a unique effect on the game’s visuals, when translated to pixel. “[Hyper Light Drifers] to be as beautiful as possible… The visuals will be a major factor in forging the tone and intention of the spaces. Each environment uses a striking and specific palette to highlight landmarks, and they’re littered with touches like reactive wildlife and intricate architecture.” It’s refreshing to see pixel art executed so exceptionally well and with a unique approach—Preston had been honing in on a style far before the game’s development.
Beauty doesn’t just encapsulate visuals, it also encompasses the audio. Hyper Light Drifter’s soundtrack is being created by Rich Vreeland, better known as Disasterpeace, famous for his FEZ soundtrack (Bobby has written about the game and its tunes in the past). His presence on Hyper Light Drifter has been quoted as “huge.” Of Disasterpeaces involvement, Preston noted “it’s kind of like a dream come true getting him to do the soundtrack.”
Thanks to the rampant success of the Kickstarter campaign and the community’s support, Hyper Light Drifter is going to be virtually available on almost every modern platform (PC, Mac, Linux, PSVita/3/4, XBoxOne, and Wii U). The game is slated for a mid-late 2014 release. Until then, follow the game’s progress on twitter, the dev blog, or Steam Greenlight. Happy drifting, folks.