The Nardio Review
IS Drifting Lands WORTH YOUR TIME?
No. At least not yet.
WHAT SHOULD I PLAY IT ON?
Steam PC only
HOW IT PLAYS:
Drifting Lands feels like a directionless attempt to make a shoot em up inspired by Diablo 3. The bad, at launch, Diablo 3.
I wanted to love this game.
The previews for it made it look like a choose your own way to play shoot em up adventure with tons of replay. It looked like something that I could lose myself in trying different playstyles all the while playing some well-designed shoot em up fun. The reality is, unfortunately, the opposite.
Before I go on to tearing this game apart, let me just mention that the developers are still updating the game. Fixes for complaints are being sent out. Just as I made the comparison to the horrid launch version of Diablo 3, I need to point out that even that mess of a game was improved over time. I hope, I really, really hope that Drifting Lands follows in the foot steps of Diablo 3 and evolves into a better game. As is, I honestly cannot recommend it, but there is a ton of potential here.
I will say first and foremost that Drifting Lands does not feel like a final release of a game. I am sad this is now out of Early Access. To many parts of this game feel unpolished, not thought out properly and just sloppy.
Is this worth $20?
Randomized weapons that are mostly useless mixed in with skills that are also mostly useless. The base skills are vastly superior to their powered up versions for the most part. Finally, the gameplay isn’t really about testing yourself in stages that require skill, it’s about grinding to make money to power up your ship to be able to survive waves of unavoidable damage.
Drifting Lands is a huge letdown.
The preview trailer showed enemy bullets that were easy to see and attacks that made sense. In reality, the enemy bullets are pathetically tiny and hard to see. Even worse they often get lost in the background. This was true for my fifteen-inch laptop and my 42-inch plasma. Later on, bullets come out of every defeated enemy. You get so many impossible to see bullets flying up your ass you just learn to try and fall into a mind-numbing pattern of self-healing, hiding, and self-healing some more when you are able to.
Now its not always like this. Thanks to the games randomized nature you will find yourself torn between fun levels/runs that happen to few times to really savor. Boring level/runs that seem to happen a lot. Runs where the levels are filled with cheap mines that make the game feel like the developers said screw it and shipped and finally levels that are straight up the worst possible combination of things meant to screw you hard and make you fail.
Having a few good runs where you push yourself as a player and have satisfying victories is horribly undercut when you find yourself totally screwed in an impossible level soon after. Sure you have the option to quit the level if you survive long enough, but I found myself often dying because of surprise burst damage from unavoidable attacks and suffering from destroyed gear. That isn’t fun, but sadly it’s normal in Drifting Lands.
But wait it gets worse!
You see because the game is randomized you can find yourself struggling to beat something several times over and over again. Now the player inside of you will try and learn and adapt and maybe even grind a bit to get through it. Only then to be treated to a run that is pathetically easy and you get to feel the joy of an empty victory.
So I mentioned grinding...
You see the ONLY ways to progress in Drifting Lands are by:
1. Beating levels over and over again trying to farm pathetic amounts of gold to then invest into your ship. There are three nonsensical categories that you need to constantly keep upgrading into to power your ship up and equip gear.
2. Randomized gear drops.
3.Buying new ships.
All of these design decisions hurt Drifting Lands.
You have to replay the levels over and over again if you want to find gear, get gold and then to progress. Unfortunately the level design for most of the earlier levels are boring and uninspired. Straight paths to the right…over and over and over again.. The only things that differentiate the levels are occasional changes in the backgrounds and the amount of mines and enemies in the stages.
I will point out here that enemy variety was pathetically limited in my ten hours of play time. Even worse the money you earn in game is so bad it makes me seriously wonder if this started off as a freemium game. Even worse the cost of upgrading your ship keeps rising and soon enough it feels pointless. Sure investing into the three spots helps you survive longer. But it never feels like progression because the same enemies you fight over and over again get stronger as time passes with you. Soon enough they start to get harder randomly as well. Some runs on the same level will have enemies that seem to hit harder for no real reason. Upgrading feels pointless.
The same can be said for the games marketplace where you are supposed to be able to buy upgrades. Prices there are insane and there aren’t any good items permanently for sale. So you don’t even have the ability to work towards good upgrades to offset the randomized gear drops.
So yea those gear drops…
Let us explore the fail of getting random gear drops…
The gear that drops for your ship is convoluted to an insane degree. With tons of stats that are confusing and never properly explained and randomized flaws that make what would be great weapons, trash.
Welcome to Drifting Lands core progression system.
I got so many bad/useless weapons/items so often that getting an upgrade never felt great, it felt overdue. Making matters worse, is that a majority of the drops in the game are totally useless. It feels like the person who made the weapons/items never, ever tested them in the actual game. Most of the weapons shoot unbearably slow. Sure they are powerful, but they suck in a game where you are surrounded by fast moving waves of enemies that need to die.
Even good items all to often suffer from having serious “Flaws”. Flaws are detrimental effects that can be found on every piece of gear. Now they don’t happen often, but I noticed the more I progressed in the game the more often they popped up. And again, popped up on all the gear. These flaws can cause you to randomly suffer from permadeath when you die, causing you to lose all progress. Other times they can break down randomly when having to retreat. Or just bad negative stats… This wouldn’t be so bad of the majority of the gear you got was good, but it’s not.
Yes, I get that this is sounding a bit repetitive, but the gameplay screams it louder than my written word.
Then going back to the randomized levels, that sadly, all to often, as time goes on, becoming impossible death traps, you see the game design break down. Dying and losing my gear to flaws because I lost to a hard level for not being a good enough player I can accept. But losing the only good gear I got in hours of playtime because randomly a level decided to have the hundreds of tiny swarm ships explode for high damage near me for no reason as I fought off tons of other ships while being totally surrounded by mines is not fun. It’s bad game design.
Drifting Lands gear progression is trash, covered by trash that takes to long to farm in boring, unsatisfying levels. Having weapons, armor and ship parts randomly break when I faced with impossible levels is not fun, it’s fucking stupid and horrible game design. Having some weapons and armor that would otherwise be the best or frankly only upgrades I’ve had in hours of play time break randomly when trying to retreat is fucking stupid.
I’m not even sorry for being salty here. It’s fucking stupid game design that doesn’t mesh at all with the progression and difficulty in the game.
Sure you can craft some weapons and armor off of the rare plans that drop and making plans, but the cost to do so is insanely expensive and with the randomized chance for it being useful, it’s just not worth it.
Finally, for progression, there is the ability to unlock stronger ships….
Right, when I thought I had a handle on gold farming, I unlocked my first ship that I was able to buy. After farming the gold to get it I was treated to a ship that had better stats than my ship but had none of the skill points I’ve been investing in the first ship. I couldn’t use any of the weapons, armor or parts that I needed to progress… Drifty Lands basically required that I replay all the levels I did before to earn enough money to power up the new ship to start progressing with it beyond where I was. It basically told me to farm harder or start over with the new ship…
How the hell is that fun?
Faced with a repetitive grind to have a better ship to withstand the next areas that have been getting harder and harder by unfathomable leaps and bounds I found myself fed up. What makes the game even worse is there is another ship I can upgrade to later on and more empty slots beyond that. So the grind to progress seems infinite. It is insane and it isn’t fun.I played a few more levels and just to try to get as far as I could with my base ship and see if the game got more interesting. Sadly it did not. Hours and hours in and I found myself giving up and then starting over to try to see if the forgiving mode would be better as a time sink that wasn’t as cheap. It was then I realized I’d have to play the game all over again and just gave up.
Drifting Lands is not fun.
It feels soulless, empty and half done. Without proper memorable levels or encounters for the majority of the game, it turns into one long grind, heavily peppered with cheap moments, encounters and fails.
The UI is horrible. Everything is painfully to small to read. The marketplace feels half-assed and the quest hub is a nonsensical mess.
I’m gobsmacked because this was an early access game that was released as final. This whole thing feels flawed and unfinished. Gameplay feels hollow because of it’s plethora of problems. The constant need to upgrade and grind money and talent investments is just not fun. Randomized levels make going back interesting for grinding and practice, but frustrating and pointless when trying to proceed.
The plot is nonsensical and the way it’s told is really dumb.
I spent a few days with Drifting Lands trying to like it. Wanting to love it. I think this is a good game for someone who doesn’t mind the grind and grind gameplay and finding treasure weapons and armor in the fast trash heap that is the drop system. I mean some people did enjoy Diablo 3 when it launched. Just not me, or any of the friends I had.
I think the very best way to play Drifting Lands is not it’s stupid Default, mode, but it’s forgiving mode. The game is just not built for randomized gear breakage and permadeath.
There are tons of other problems with this game, but the more I put thought into it, the more frustrated I become. I honestly feel I am putting more thought into this review than the developers did with Drifting Lands. Yes, there is potential here, but as is, it’s squandered. I really hope I can come back to this game in a few months and find it in a better state.
AVOID THIS GAME
A FREE STEAM KEY WAS GIVEN TO US TO REVIEW THIS GAME.
- For people who love endless grinding
I’m not promoting this mess.