Drifting Lands is a game that initially came across the ethereal surface of my existential wooden desk via the Evolve PR hub wherein many tasty and yet perhaps lesser known new or upcoming titles reside. The game looked like good senseless fun and I thought it a dutiful exploration of gaming to check out this game, which firmly rests in a genre that takes me squarely out of my wheelhouse. What I found was a fun and engaging experience that is actually ongoing (i.e. I will still be playing this game long after this review goes live).

Story

The story in Drifting Lands, such as it is, is a quirky, fun, and tongue in cheek homage to all those cheesy Sci-Fi flicks you grew up with. Humanity and the world is being destroyed and most of the surviving people live on the Ark, which for all intents and purposes is the Ark of the Flood, only in flight, and the flood is actually robots. There are people also living in hidden communities upon the drifting lands as well.

The dialogue is exactly what you would expect from an 80’s “B” movie or 3 AM overnight popcorn flick. Entertaining but obviously not something that will have you pondering its meaning at all.

For what it is, and what it intends to be, the story in Drifting Lands can be considered a success. It is simple light hearted fun that enhances rather than guides the game and makes the interludes between battles that much more interesting.

7 out of 10

Gameplay

Gameplay in a bullet hell SHMUP is obviously very important, and Drifting Lands is successful in this regard. I could find no flaws at all in it, and despite the fact that after several hours, you’ve seen the same robots/ships repeatedly, this does nothing to detract from the fun.

This is side scrolling action, and your missions will have you traveling small snippets of airspace battling said robots while dodging bullets and other things such as mines. The battle formations are similar to Galaga in reality, although side to side rather than top of screen down, and of course the programming here is far superior allowing for more variations of flight patterns and attacks. The boss battles carry far more complexity and the mini bosses can even really muck up your leisurely flight by forcing you to employ actual tactics, lol. As it should be.

You can choose from three ships, essentially the heavy, medium, and light builds that reflect your emphasis on battle capabilities over storage space. As you destroy enemies, you will have opportunities to fill up said storage with parts detached from destroyed robots like weapons, armor, and objects that serve as healing buffs and so on. You will also get paid for wreckage you pick up as well as for completing missions in general. However, in annoying fashion, the Ark claims 90% of your earnings to keep the place going, lol, so you will be a perpetually poor and heavily leaned upon pilot for a while.

Your ship and in fact you the pilot are upgrade-able via equipment upgrades and three stat categories along with the ability to upgrade actual abilities as well. Healing and shields are just as important as attack abilities. However, it is a bullet hell, so having massive destruction abilities at your fingertip will be essential. Every ability has a cool down period, so you can’t just spam the cool abilities. You will actually need to become a decent pilot as well.

While on the Ark, you have a couple basic areas available to you: the Hangar (this is where upgrades and repairs happen; the Market, where you can buy and sell the copious loot you will find or need; the Command Center, where you accept missions. Technically, you might receive quests anywhere, including the random bars you find yourself i from time to time, but generally, these are handed out in the Command Center or the Hangar.

There is plenty more to chat about with regards to gameplay, but I think I will leave off here for now.

9 out of 10

Graphics

The graphics in Drifting Lands look cool as hell. They are bold, well designed, and although they carry an almost cartoonish cel-shadish look, they do not fail to please. Very lush and colorful backdrops against the actual robot and ship designs make this a very nice looking game. The actual battle designs are pretty sweet and the bullet hell aspects can get pretty terrifying as you see what is happening and have the realization of an inescapable fate. Is it groundbreaking? No. Doesn’t really need to be. You will definitely like the way this game looks though.

8 out of 10

Audio

The audio tracks in Drifting Lands sound pretty awesome. First off, the music is straight out of the aforementioned 80’s “B” movie/3 AM popcorn flick New Wave Sci-Fi playbook. Sounds fairly epic and never gets boring.

The actual in game sounds such as combat sounds equally cool, and the two interweave successfully to form an audio experience that helps to keep driving you forward.

8 out of 10

Verdict

Drifting Lands is a game you can easily find yourself playing for a long time to come. With over 100 levels which each take a couple minutes to complete and the story interludes, plus the time you can spend on ship design and upgrades, I would think you will get no less than ten hours of enjoyment out of this game and probably much much more. Additionally, this is very much a pick up and play game with a mild learning curve that makes it easy for gamers who don’t typically play this style of game to step in and have no issues grasping the gameplay mechanics. Think of Drifting Lands as Battlestar Galactica-lite meets Galaga while you are standing in an Arcade.

A straight 8 Ceylons hunting down the last vestiges of humanity as….oh wait, wrong show….well anyway…..out of 10 possible. Pretty sure the other two are posing as humans in a bar somewhere.