Drifiting Lands is a horizontal shoot-em-up, in the same vein as R-type and the like, however Drifting Lands seeks to mix it up by adding RPG elements such as skills, stat levelling and loot acquiring. There is something immensely satisfying about a good piece of gear dropping from an enemy, and that feeling is no different in Drifting Lands. Adding these RPG elements to this genre of game makes all the difference, and let Drifting Lands stand out as a strong addition to the genre.
These RPG elements also helps the game alleviate some of the difficulty for those that are not very good at games like this, like me. Bullet shields, auto retreat so you don’t lose your ship and items when you die, and healing skills all helped make the game more manageable for those afraid of the difficulty. Even something as simple as a stronger weapon made all the difference when fighting a particularly difficult level or boss.
Rest assured those looking for a challenge, you are not required to equip these skills that prevent perma-death. There are also a variety of ships to choose from, ranging from light and speedy to heavy and slow. Naturally I chose heavy and slow for its survivability, but the speedier ship is clearly geared towards those good at these games as it is quick and powerful, but lacking in defense.
The game is broken down into missions, with a wealth of missions to do, as well as side missions, some of which had their own story to them. Missions are broken into to grades ranging from 1-10, and each grade is more difficult, often adding more enemies who also do more damage, but also better rewards. At specific grades, you also get the ability to buy stronger ships, but you will need to pay money to upgrade the stats on that new ship, skills do carry over however.
If I ever got stuck on a mission I never felt like I couldn’t progress as I knew I could always do a side mission for gear and money, used to upgrade stats, buy skills and buy gear if needed. You could even go back and do older missions to grind up some money and gear if you get stuck.
The graphics in the game are very good, with its hand drawn character art during the conversations, and unique looking levels. My biggest issue was the levels didn’t feel that varied with the only difference between each level was what the background looked like. And while the backgrounds did look nice, during confrontations with large groups of enemies I hardly noticed their presence.
Another issue was the variety in enemy design. Each enemy was defined by what sort of attacks that it did, such as shooting lasers in specific patterns or dropping mines, but their looks weren’t unique and sometimes even bland. Each enemy did have a distinct style though that fit the faction that the enemies belonged to, and each faction had distinct enemy patterns and styles, so it made the issue not all that important or always noticeable.
Of course I have to mention the music, as I always do. The music in the game was quite good and felt very fitting when I was amid an intense battle. The music contained elements of rock with its heavy bass, drum beats and electric guitar but also scifi sounds. It was all pretty memorable, and often ramped up the intensity of a battle when 100s of bullets were flying at me.
Drifting Lands stands as an excellent horizontal shoot-em-up for newcomers and longtime fans alike. Don’t be fooled by its accessibility, at its core it is a difficult game, but for those afraid of the difficulty there is plenty to help make progress. Despite having a difficult to follow story at times, and forgettable enemy and level design, I found myself addicted. With its excellent progression and addictive loot system, Drifting Lands stands as a wonderful addition to a genre we see very few games from these days. 9/10
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