Drifting Lands is a breathtaking adventure across the skies of a shattered planet.
Drifting Lands is a horizontal shooter boasting fast-paced action and complex approaches to combat, but the biggest challenge comes with having to stay focused on the mission at hand, without getting too wonder-struck by the rich medley of colors and animations that constantly adorn the screen.
Make no mistake; Drifting Lands is a gorgeous game. However, the art style is the icing on the cake that is an engaging and rewarding experience, one that combines shoot ’em up gameplay with impressively extensive RPG systems.
Whenever I wasn’t obsessively modifying my ship with collected loot and upgradable powers, I was embarking on another mission, fighting to survive against waves of ruthless enemies, who fire more flashes of light in your direction than a Pink Floyd concert.
French studio Alkemi have implemented a progressive difficulty curve across the procedurally generated missions of
and, even in the initial missions, I had to remain focused and engaged to stay atop of everything happening on screen at once. You’ll be dodging bullets as much as firing them, and you certainly won’t be able to destroy every enemy that makes an appearance.
This adds a risk-reward dynamic to the game, as you have to make snap decisions about whether attacking and defeating an enemy for the sake of your end-level score is worth the risk of depleting your ship’s ever-vulnerable health bar. The diverse array of different ship upgrades extends this decision-making beyond the moment to moment gameplay too, with resource management becoming a challenge in itself. For example, do you equip the ability to temporarily slow time, or switch to an entirely different ship model altogether to focus on speed over firepower?
Amidst this bullet-fest, however, lies a story that provides meaningful context to the conflict. An initial description of the setting sounds, at first, pretty bleak; your planet has been shattered by a cataclysm, and monolithic corporations have taken over the various floating continents to drain the unique biosphere of its rare natural resources. Despite this dystopic set-up, your character’s circumstance as part of a group of ragtag nomadic outlaws brings a welcome sense of levity to the narrative, which also complements the vibrant art style of Drifting Lands.
Set in a world plagued by scarce resources and a crumbling ecology,
does have some things to say regarding the topical issues of climate change and sustainability, but it’s the game’s affable human characters
wouldn’t seem out of place in a Disney Pixar film – that Alkemi co-founder and
Creative Lead Alain Puget hopes will keep players truly invested in the story.
Puget spoke to me about the literary inspirations for the game’s world and story, telling me that the concept of a post-apocalyptic world full of hope and color, rather than the usual bleak dreariness of other fictional dystopias, is drawn from sources like Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and, more recently, Journey.
“I don’t consider myself to be a real writer” says Puget. “But I try to pick ideas from my favorite authors; Neil Gaiman, Robin Hobb, George Martin and so on. The storyline will be more about the community of the Ark, your fellow pilots and the relationships you develop with your allies or antagonists. It’s about group survival with a focus on human relationships and hopefully a few interesting reflections about ecology, technological progress, and artificial intelligence in the background.”
Considering this focus on group survival, it feels like a missed opportunity for
’ multiplayer component only to equate to, in Alkemi’s words, “asynchronous competition and cooperation,” since this feels like a game that is begging for some form of co-operative play. Alkemi hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a local two player mode, but don’t expect any real-time online co-op to be coming in the future. It’s more of a minor shame than a genuine issue for
, as the game is still a blast to play as a single player experience.
With a nuanced leveling system, randomly generated levels and loot, and engaging side-scrolling action all set in a gorgeously realized fantasy world, Drifting Lands looks set to offer a real treat to players looking for something to dig their teeth into.
Drifting Lands is due to release this year on PC, but you can download a free demo from Steam right now. A closed beta version of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this preview.