Reviewed By: Carlos Hernandez
Played On: Steam with controller support
Drifting Lands is a unique mix that would incite the hardcore and those that are fans of the action RPG and Shoot'em'up genres. You will find plenty of challenges in what Alkemi has created. Diversity in enemy patterns are plenty, but repetitiveness can be found elsewhere.
You play as one of the pilots in a ship called the Ark, a space station that houses mercenaries and other characters. odd jobs will come your way from them and it will always lead you into destroying corporate-made machines for cash. It’s a predictable little story but the real fun in Drifting Lands is the hunt for better loot and to overcome the game’s tougher challenges. As you start the game, you are given a choice of playing the game on “Forgiving Mode” or “Normal Mode”. That alone will give you the idea that this will be no cakewalk.
Nothing Normal in “Normal Mode”
It’s definitely a bullet hell shooter in its own right. The screen will be filled with bullets. Is the bullet hell as crazy as certain shmup classics? That's open for discussion, but I found myself bracing for impact instead of finding a pattern in hopes to lessen the blow. But they have skills that help with those difficult situations. Some skills can absorb certain enemy fire for a few seconds, while one skill can slow down time, making escape possible. Some skills are offensive while some are passive. It becomes more of the player finding if the skills he/she have equipped will complement my current ship and gear. It's a welcomed challenge to find that perfect balance of offense and defense before a sortie. There is one skill though that I have yet refused to remove since I started playing the game – Automatic Retreat. This is one of your passive skills and is equipped at the start. It lets you retreat the mission once your ship’s life hits 0 but losing all your loot in the process. Without Auto Retreat, once your life hits 0, you actually lose your whole ship. All the upgrades and gear will be gone. But don't think Auto Retreat saves you from any setbacks. There is also chances of gear breaking if you trigger Auto Retreat. So in the end, dying could slowly set you back if you are unlucky.
The typical power ups that are common in games like these are replaced with loot. Completeing a mission allows you to come home with new gear to try out. In action RPG style, you can equip new engines, weapons, boosters, armour, CPU, and more to improve the stats of your ship. Some items give bonuses to certain skills while some actually give drawbacks for using it. Certain items will sometimes include a flaw which can be more of a big problem that what it can give your ship. Keeping an eye on what you equip is essential here, and knowing what play style you are aiming for seems more crucial in Drifting Lands. This is the biggest highlight for Drifting Lands. I found myself stuck in my hangar for hours, trying out different items, to see if they pair up well with each other.
The addition of flawed stats and the chance of losing your ship add more challenge for those that are looking for it. You can easily avoid these to make it easier, but it's great to see Alkemi giving players options to push themselves.
Repetitiveness, but not in Combat
Enemy AI patterns tend to change, which adds variety to combat. If you are forced to retreat, retry the same level and you'll be going against different wave of enemies. There's less memorization required and more of quick reactions during the mission. Bosses don't change so you can prepare for them, and trust me when I say you'll need to prepare for them. There are also side missions that are objective-based. Some might require you to drop certain items when you are given the signal. Some might ask you to destroy this much enemy cargo. Most are worth doing since you are given blueprints, which allows you to craft specific items for a price at the shop. Drifting Lands definitely attempts to changes things up but the repetitiveness is there in a different form. The music, despite it being amazing, lose its feel once you heard it countless times. The background design also lose its feel after the 15-hour mark. With 100 levels available, it was easy to notice familiar assets in the game.
There were no technical issues found during my time with Drifting Lands. It ran like butter even though the screen was mostly busy, filled with bullets and ships trying to kill one lone fighter. There are three types of ships as well that are not only different in stats but how they increase their score multiplier.
Alkemi has mixed two great genres well. The challenge is set for those that want it, and the need to hunt for better loot has never been so addicting. Repetitiveness could kick in early for some, but not for all thanks to enemy AI patterns changing during each sortie. If hunting for gear was always your thing and you miss the good old shmup gameplay, gives this a go, you’ll find yourself lost for hours. Also, don't turn off that Auto Retreat, and make sure you don’t have flaws that make it fail, you can thank me later.
+ Procedurally generated enemies, keeping combat fresh
+ Loot system, fun to experiment
+ Options placed to make it more challenging
- Repetitive level designs
- Story and characters was easily forgotten