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In my review for 2016’s Hyper Light Drifter I wrote about how it was a game I created excuses for myself to keep playing after seeing credits writing, “I didn’t do it out of necessity; I did it because I wanted to stay in Hyper Light Drifter’s world for as long as possible.” I love the color, style, music, and overall vibe of that game, which is why I was so excited to finally go hands-on with its not-quite-a-sequel, Breaker, and finally have an excuse to exist in that world again.

“It’s not a sequel – it is just in the world of Hyper Light. It will have common threads, themes, and shared components,” director Alx Preston says. “If you played Drifter you will see reappearing species and enemies and other stuff like that, but generally, you don’t have to play Dirifter to enjoy this. The story is encapsulated in its own way. But there are connections to it for sure.” Preston is even more ambiguous about its Drifter relationship when asked specific questions about the timeline saying, “It takes place not too far away from [Dirfter] on either end. It’s not like it’s taking place 1000 years later. It’s within a range of the events of Drifter.”

Breaker retains the mood of Drifter, and its sound, though Preston says returning composer Disasterpiece was mainly only involved in the beginning, but it does overall look and feel different. Breaker is a 3D action game, and I made my way through a few short runs while Preston watched and politely congratulates me on lasting longer than most. There is a quick dash for general movement and a separate combat dash for closing the gap between enemies. I found little use for it in my short time, but you can also pull out a hoverboard to move quickly over longer stretches and use a glider to prevent fall damage when jumping from high heights. Expectedly, considering developer Heart Machine’s action history, it feels good, and though I died quickly, I can already see the opportunities for skill improvement.

In my first run, I used a personal favorite, dual swords and a pistol, and for my second run, I used a single sword and something close to a machine gun. You can mix and match weapons as you progress, which I am thankful for as I would love to take the machine gun with the dual swords.

 

At the end of my playtime, I took on a boss named Dro. The gigantic wolflike creature with a big glowing yellow sword introduced himself by jumping into the arena with strange, staccato animation. It was as if he was intentionally leaving out frames, and it looked awesome. I didn’t get to see much else of him, though, because he killed me almost immediately. After leaping over a few expanding yellow attack circles on the ground, I got in about two hits before losing all my health. Preston was still polite about my run but did not offer the same compliment about how long I lasted compared to when I was out in the world.

“It’s going to be a thing where I have to figure out what to call it,” Preston says with a chuckle when I ask about if the game should be considered a proper roguelike. “It has roguelike elements for sure, but it’s also an open world with extraction elements. You can go on runs and death matters, but it’s on a different scale than a normal roguelike.”

Hyper Light Breaker Preview – Hands-On With The Not-Quite-A-Sequel To Hyper Light Drifter

You attempt runs in Breaker, and there are randomized open worlds, but you set your schedule for how you want to approach them. You have a limited time and attempts to go through a world and defeat its three bosses. If you fail you get a new world, but success also leads to a new world. There is also some agency in when you leave a given world with your earned assets, which Preston says almost makes it feel more like an extraction game. It’s a mechanic that will undoubtedly make more sense in practice but is difficult to perceive with just a few runs, not to mention developer tools to automatically transport you to Dro so he can immediately murder you.

Hyper Light Breaker is planned for Early Access this summer with the 1.0 release marking its console release. Preston, a Steam Deck fan, considers that platform a priority if for no one else but himself and offers a “never say never” response when asked about Switch.



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