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Drifting Lands (PC) review

Drifting Lands logo
Drifting Lands logo
Drifting Lands logo

At a Glance...

Formats: PC (reviewed), Mac OSX
Genre: ,
Final Score
7/ 10

User Rating
no ratings yet


We liked?

  • While not a perfect blend, manages to take the taste of two different genres and mix them together
  • Lots of different skill and equipment builds to try out
  • Actually quite pretty. Not many background tracks, but what there are are catchy enough

Not so much?

  • Progress is more dependant on gear and grinding than it is on skill.
  • Attack patterns become recognisable quicker than you'd expect, suggesting few variations.

Posted June 25, 2017 by

Full Fiendish Findings...

You would think that the mixing of a traditional shoot-em-up and the grind of an action-RPG should be an unholy fusion not fit for polite conversation. Yet we’ve seen shmup’s mixed with turned-based strategy, so that thought instead becomes a matter of “…why not?” Drifting Lands pulls the two genres together, and almost makes them meet.

The moment to moment gameplay barely needs explanation – controlling a spacecraft, viewed side on and firing lasers at enemy ships that in turn attempt to ram or shoot you, occasionally interrupted by bigger boss ships. Naming the inspiration for this would reel off some of the classics of gaming as a whole – R-type; Gradius; Thunderforce – and you’ll settle into the role pretty quickly. Except there is the ARPG twist, just to mix things up again.
Drifting Lands screen
To be fair, when we refer to the game as having ARPG elements – which even Drifting Lands’ own publicity mentions – it’s actually referring to the loot-grind of games like Diablo or Path of Exile rather than an XP-based progression (although your cash does double up for this, buying extra stat points when needed). Enemies will drop equipment, of the common/uncommon/rare/legendary flavours familiar to the genre, which can be equipped on the ship between missions. While most of the pieces will simply give statistic boosts – a few points in the ship’s “structure” stat, or a +5% cash bonus, for example – the legendary pieces can also add perks to your skills.

And with skills we have another slice of the ARPG pie, as the ship can equip four active and two passive ones, taken from a pool of over a dozen which are further divided into four or more variations each. The active skills all tend to have cooldowns and resource costs, meaning their use is more tactical than twitch-reflex, and you’ll be relying on your basic flying and gunning skills more than deflecting bullets back at enemies or releasing waves of fire around yourself.
Drifting Lands screen
Ultimately though, the grind is required. It’d be nice to think that pure shoot-em-up skills would take you through the game, but the ARPG grind side of things means after a while you’ll need to have better weapons to be able to scratch basic enemies, let alone bosses. Earlier levels can be replayed freely, so if progress comes to a halt you can try your luck for better gear at a more comfortable stage; and to keep things a little fresher, levels are formed from randomised attack sequences, although before long you’ll start to recognise them even if the order presented has changed.

This imbalance between the two genres is probably the biggest criticism to throw at the game; the shmup levels are fun, and no amount of grinding will help you become undefeatable. But the grinding does feel more important, because when you hit a progression wall – and you will – then relying on just the right loot drop for an upgrade can mean rerunning stages repeatedly.
Drifting Lands screen
All that said, it is enjoyable. If you’re ok with putting in time in the hope of slightly shinier loot dropping, Drifting Lands offers a surprising amount of ship customisation, and some fun gameplay to try your builds out.

The product under review has been purchased by the site or reviewer and has not been supplied by a third party. Please see our site review policy for more information.


Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.


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