Hyper Light Drifter seems to say that if we can’t come to terms with and find peace with the certainty of death, then we can at least acknowledge its presence. The game’s incredible difficulty means that death will become familiar to players, contributing to what Boen Wang perceptively describes as a tone of “melancholy resignation.” The drifter’s brisk movements—dashing away from an enemy attack, and chaining the motion with a stunning sword slash or breakneck gunfire to complete the kill—renders skirmishes over in mere seconds. The quickness of battle means that the game is remarkably lonesome throughout the drifter’s pilgrimage. Even as the hub world flourishes with the inklings of a small settlement making do in the ruined, hollowed-out concrete shells of a shattered city, the surrounding barrens lie in silence. Apart from vicious wild animals and hostile rogues, only the sparse individual campsites of nomads exist in the remote frontiers of the land. This haunting emptiness suggests the precarity of it all: once there was a world here, and now it’s gone.
Read the full column at Haywire Magazine.