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Review: Drifting Lands

by onJune 22, 2017
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Drifting Lands bills itself as a mix between a classical shmup and action RPG. It definitely piqued my interest, as I was curious to see how they worked it out. After a surprisingly well-animated tutorial, the game’s intro tutorial tossed a lot of information my way and I dove right in.

For the most part, Drifting Lands is a straightforward enough shmup. You choose from three standard ship types: Fast, Balanced, or Heavy. Of course, the game quickly adds in a couple features to earn its RPG cred. For one, you have active and passive abilities. You get four actives (with cooldown timers of course) and two passives. These abilities range from defensive ones like protective shields and self-repair to offensive ones like blowing up everything around you or launching a fire sword.

The other RPG element is the upgrade interface in between missions. While it feels cluttered initially, you quickly get the hang of it and start switching out your gear. This is where it gets Diablo-esque, as you do the math and figure out the stats, and of course work out what playstyle and gear you want. You can also upgrade your base stats and equip new abilities.

Here’s the big problem though: Drifting Lands isn’t that good as a shmup. While the abilities do mix things up in terms of gameplay, the actual core of the game isn’t that remarkable. Levels feel repetitive, and enemy types are decently varied but not that special. Aside from that, the shooting action doesn’t feel that fun. Weapons don’t give you that sensation of having real impact, as enemies generally sponge up a ton of damage. That’s one problem with tossing RPG DNA into a shooter; you end up taking away that fun sensation of shooting something and watching it just explode, and instead you shoot something and watch numbers appear on screen. And of course you don’t get the classic shmup experience of colleting powerups and turning into an unstoppable killing machine by the end of a level, considering the fact that you only change up your gear in between levels. The RPG elements are sitting on top of a shmup that didn’t work hard enough on setting itself apart.

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The game has a backstory that’s given some screen time, but it’s nothing too remarkable (post-apocalyptic society where humans try and survive), so there’s really not that much to keep you in the game. Additionally, while the cutscenes and story sections are well-animated, the art design in the game is pretty bog standard 2.5D

Drifting Lands has more content than most shmups and its RPG elements mean you’ll have more to do in-game. But for people that don’t like RPG’s as much, it won’t be as absorbing an experience.

Drifting Lands was reviewed using a PC downloadable code of the game provided by Alkemi. The review was tested by Mazen Abdallah on a PC running Windows 10, with an 8GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1070 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.

What we liked

• A diverse set of skills to master
• Fleshed out loot system
• A thorough combat tutorial

What is not fun

• Levels are repetitive
• Shooting action doesn’t feel fun
• UI takes some getting used to

Editor Rating
 
Concept
8.5

 
Graphics
8.5

 
Sound
8.1

 
Playability
8.2

 
Entertainment
7.0

 
Replay Value
7.0

Final Score
7.9


Our final verdict
 

A capable RPG sitting atop a lackluster shmup, Drifting Lands is much more focused on the looting and upgrading than it is on sidescrolling shmup action. Fans of ARPGs who enjoy the sidescrolling shooter format might enjoy this one, but it’s a tough sell for purists who want a more varied shooter.

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