Hyper Light Drifter is one of my favorite indie games of the last decade. It mixes tight top-down arcade action with an evocative pixel art style and moody world building. Spiritual successor Hyper Light Breaker is looking more and more like an incredibly ambitious expansion of those inspirations, and I hope the developers at Heart Machine can deliver.
A new trailer via IGN gave us our first good look at the upcoming action RPG’s gameplay, and it comes complete with nods to some of the biggest blockbusters around. Heart Machine promises “infinite open worlds” that look as vibrant as the ones you’d find in No Man’s Sky.
One part of the trailer shows the main character hang gliding onto some stone ruins, reminiscent of Breath of the Wild. And another highlights the varied loadouts players can build, complete with a ton of guns. Not quite a Borderlands loot chase, but combat is clearly at the forefront (and it juxtaposes with music by Joel Corelitz and Troupe Gammage in the best way).
At its core, however, Hyper Light Breaker is a roguelite that utilizes procedural generation so that every time you die the world you return to is different. Originally conceived of as a fragmented map with lots of individual biomes, Heart Machine revealed earlier this year that it had opted instead to combine everything into a single, ever-changing map to simplify things (there’s also a great Noclip documentary about the game’s development with more insight on how things have evolved).
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Heart Machine first announced Hyper Light Breaker last April following the 2021 release of its imaginative but flawed action platformer Solar Ash. Prior to that, the studio had spent years making Hyper Light Drifter, a Kickstarter project that immediately gained a cult following and later made good on its promises with one of the best indie games of 2016.
Rather than try to re-capture that magic with a strict sequel, however, Hyper Light Breaker appears to be a bold attempt to take the themes and mood of the original in a completely new direction. As the newest trailer shows, it has a lot going on. Plus there’s online co-op. It probably won’t be exactly what fans of the first game might have hoped for—the roguelite genre is already an instant turn-off for some—but I remain cautiously optimistic. Hyper Light Breaker is scheduled to come to Early Access on Steam sometime in fall 2023.