Drifting Lands review for PC

Platform: PC
Publisher: Alkemi
Developer: Alkemi
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

Have you ever heard of an action RPG Shoot-em up? Well, now you have, with the release of Drifting Lands on PC, which came out of Early Access earlier this month. While the SHMUP side of the game falls more into the bullet-hell style of shooter, the ARPG mechanics, particularly the loot, are very reminiscent of the ever-popular Diablo franchise. And as a huge Diablo fan, that?s definitely a good thing.

The story premise for Drifting Lands is relatively basic, you?re banded together with a group of independents and mercs, featuring drama and conflict when it comes to leadership and overall goals. The actual plot is a little light and not very flashy, so much so that it failed to capture my attention very well. The story progresses via dialogue boxes and still characters placed against different backgrounds, so there?s a little lacking in the overall presentation.

But, ideally, you?re not coming to Drifting Lands for the plot. Instead, you?ll easily be impressed with the diverse amount of loot and customization options at your disposal. The game features three different ship classes, and a number of slots to equip gear between each ship. Gear has different degrees of rarity, which in turn will grant additional bonus stats as you move up in tiers. To go along with that, you can spend in-game currency to enhance three core skills, which also dictates what gear you can equip. Finally, there are a number of special skills you can equip, essentially allowing you to create a number of various builds centered around defense, evasion, melee, and so on. This is clearly the best aspect of Drifting Lands, and works really well within a shoot-em up shell.

Unfortunately, the action shooter side of the game is a little less impressive. The controls are fine, you?ll have little issue navigating your diminutive ship around enemy bullets as the stage scrolls sideways. Depending on your skill builds, you can either deflect bullets, engage temporary invincibility, slow down time, and so on. The various skills definitely help to keep the combat feel fresh, but it wasn?t enough to keep me completely entertained.

Enemy ships fly in from various directions as you move forward, and the game seems to procedurally generate the enemies you?ll encounter. So if you re-do a stage for whatever reason, you?ll not seem the same waves over and over again. The enemy ship designs are solid, and will change their attack patterns up as you play, which in turn will keep you on your toes. But the biggest drawback for me is the really bland stage design and lack of significant boss fights.

Stages are essentially just a background image, which unfortunately there are not enough of. You?ll see the same background recycled a lot, and there is no terrain or other obstacles to navigate. I suppose for new players this will help them focus on the bullet dodging, but it really makes the overall design feel a little too bland, which is unfortunate. Likewise, boss fights are too few and far between, and lack any real meaningful unique mechanics or designs. They?re mostly bullet sponges with different bullet patterns, and don?t do enough to stand out from the standard enemy ships.

Still, there?s definitely things that work in Drifting Lands, and I?d love to see this idea refined a bit more down the road. I think a lot of the ARPG mechanics are solid right out of the gate, but I wish the shoot-em up side of the game was just a little flashier, more diverse, and overall just more enjoyable to play. I?d still recommend checking out Drifting Lands however, it?s a neat concept and there?s enough here that you?ll easily squeeze some enjoyment out of the components that work.

Grade: B