The third entry into the Atmospheres And Aesthetics series will see us discuss the action RPG released in 2016, Hyper Light Drifter. This game was developed and published by Heart Machine and was very well received by critics and fans alike.
I wanted to begin talking about this game with a quote taken directly from developers Heart Machine’s website. “Explore a beautiful, vast and ruined world riddled with unknown dangers and lost technologies. Inspired by nightmares and dreams alike.” I used this quote as it sums up the game very well. You truly do explore the world that you are traversing. Most games have an element of exploration to them, however Hyper Light Drifter really sticks out to me as a game that does exploration to a very high standard. This is due to the fact that the locations of the keys and treasures required to progress through certain areas of the game aren’t shown to you. You aren’t even told that you actually need certain items to progress, and so the exploration element of the game begins. In some games searching for what can seem like hours for one certain item can become extremely irritable, however with Hyper Light Drifter, the more you search a certain area, the more the game opens up to you. New enemies, contrasting areas and secrets become visible to the player and this keeps the game refreshing, even when trying to search for one particular item.
Something that I absolutely love about Hyper Light Drifter is the fact that the world initially is split into four parts. North, east, south and west. Each of these four areas of the world contain very contrasting and vibrant terrains in which the player must explore. In the north we are greeted with a blizzard battered zone. In the east we are mesmerized by a zone filled with water falls and canal like structures which must be crossed by jumping over stepping stones or accross bridges. The west is home to a cosy, autumn mood which is filled with thick, lush pink trees. The sound of the wind whisks around you so elegantly that it creates a feeling of home (when you’re not being attacked by bandits). And finally in the south… Well I haven’t explored or unlocked the south zone as of yet.
All of this 2D beauty, charisma and charm is sewn together by a soundtrack crafted by the artist Disasterpeace. The electronic based OST brings a mixed bag of emotions to the player. For me I felt that the soundtrack opened up a creative void for me, as there is a mysterious and secretive element to the tracks that play within this game that creates a fruitful concoction with the fact that the game itself is very secretive and mysterious. While there are times where the soundtrack to Hyper Light Drifter can get a little frantic, the OST generally holds a very mellow and relaxed tone, and this contrasts brilliantly with the fact that Hyper Light Drifter is a very difficult game. You will die a few times during your play through of this game and the unexplained exploration within the game can get a little frustrating when it feels like you’re making no progress. However the OST will always be there. Keeping you calm through its mesmerizing and mellow beauty.
The things that I wanted to say about the ambient sounds within this game, are very similar to what I said about the OST itself. The ambient tracks within this game are some of the most tranquil that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing in a video game. The flowing waters of the east, the howling winds of the north that make you wish your character was in the warm indoors, the autumn whispers of the west. The ambiance is of such a high level that I feel like i’m in a different world when I hear those tracks. They’re so elegant that they make you feel bad for exiting the game.
Hyper Light Drifter is a very special game to me. I was recommended it by a friend and I took his word and purchased the game. After going into the game blind and discovering such a beautiful 2D world that had one of my favourite soundtracks of all time tagged with it, I was instantly hooked and I knew that Hyper Light Drifter was special. The game is so powerful that at times I will just find myself staring at the screen, taking all all of the games creative wonders until my character decides to meditate on the ground. I would recommend this game for even one of the elements of the game that I spoke about here today.