Hyper Light Drifter – A Mea Culpa, Further Thoughts

Last week I played Hyper Light Drifter [official site] and wrote my thoughts – thoughts stymied by reaching a boss I couldn’t even get close to killing, and believing my progress was blocked. It seems I was wrong. Sorry about that. Due to a combination of incorrect assumptions I’d made while playing, and some poor communication from the game, I had failed to notice I could have gone off in other directions that weren’t flagged as now open, and gathered more abilities, before making another attempt on that boss, and indeed the others. So I’ve gone back to the game to reappraise based on this.

Thank you to people who got in touch to politely point this out to me. It’s extremely helpful and always very welcome to know when a mistake has been made.

I think it’s really important to be clear about one thing: expectation is heavily relied upon when games are as deliberately obtuse as this. In fact, I’d praised HLD in my original piece for being so obtuse! I enjoyed that it wanted players to use their experience of games to make leaps in this one – not something I’d like to see many games doing as it’s so alienating to the new. Yet, I got caught out by it. Here’s what I thought had happened:

The game doesn’t use much comprehensible language to communicate. Instead it relies on ambiguity and pictographic allusions. I had the strong impression when playing that the game had opened up a path to the North, while the other three directions were still blocked off by guards. I’d remembered seeing those guards blocking the exits. I’ve no idea why I was drawn to the North first, but that was the direction that quickly had symbols on the map, and targets to aim for. When I reached the boss at the end of it, the map only had one symbol left, and it was something I couldn’t do until the boss was defeated.

It’s a real shame I didn’t go back and check the other directions, and that’s certainly on me. I also think it’s an example of a game getting hoisted by its own petard, where not communicating some degree of potential opportunity is a failing, rather than “not holding the player’s hand”. That’s triply the case when you present players with massive difficulty spikes on their path, and a lack of suggestion that it’s not yet time. Many will disagree.

So, what happens when I do go elsewhere? For a good while, I have a lot of fun. The path to the South appears blocked, but East and West offer an experience mostly similar to North, with a different array of enemies. West is perhaps the most interesting direction, packed as it is with secret passages and hidden entrances, but I’d also argue those elements are deeply unfairly disguised. It becomes a process of trying to run into every hedge and edge just in case it’s the unmarked exit you need.

However, once I’m in an area packed with enemies, routes to find, triangles to discover, the game grabs me all over again. The combat is excellent, the enemy types distinct with different tactics necessary for each. Clearing an area is very satisfying, especially when it ends with a locked door opening and more progress awaiting.

And where it falls down is when that locked door doesn’t open, and progress is blocked yet again. There seems to be no effort to communicate why a particular door won’t open, why these blocks are currently in the way, nor what you could do to change that. Deep underground in the West I’ve had a splendid time clearing out a dungeon, found the triangle symbol, and essentially completed it – but there’s an area I can’t reach, with treasure I want, and a door nearby that’s locked and didn’t open when I’d meticulously removed every clackering ice-beast from the area.

I’ve no idea why. There’s no switch on the floor, and I’m left with turning around and going back to do something else. And with the map so poor (it’s astonishingly dreadful) there’s no useful way to remember where I could return later, and certainly no locked doors marked. Again, for a game that is deserving of celebration for this opaqueness, it often crosses the line into needlessly unhelpful.

It’s clear that a lot of people enjoy games that frequently offer them dead ends. I’m not sure why – it frustrates me greatly if that dead end isn’t in some way a clue as to what to do next. (There’s a reason why we write “Wot I Think” at the top of our reviews.) So oddly enough, despite having had a lot more of the game to enjoy, I’m too often left with the same sense of being pushed away by Hyper Light Drifter.
Obviously dreary sorts will say, “You’re just validating your bias,” but put it far less eloquently, and I can’t really prove that I’m not beyond saying so. HLD is a game I want to play a lot more than I can, if that makes sense. It’s just too obscure, just too alienating, just too remote, to pull me deeply enough in. And that’s despite utterly beautiful graphics, and a difficulty level that makes the non-boss areas sublime to play.

Other people like different things.

My opinion is so very mixed. I’ve had a splendid few hours pottering around elsewhere in the game, but always ending in a dead end, boss fight I haven’t the patience for, or nothing to do but turn around and go back. I’ve collected so very many triangles in the West, but I’ve still no idea why. I’ve fought a big range of enemies and enjoyed learning the micro-tactics necessary for each, but I’ve lost track of how many times pressing ‘heal’ has failed to trigger causing me to have to repeat swathes of those fights again and again. I’ve dashed my way out of enemy fire like a hero, and I’ve dashed my way off barely marked edges and fallen to my death like a pissed off games player.

Hyper Light Drifter has a firmly established fanbase born of its Kickstarter, and within their ranks are those who will not hear a negative word about the game. Nothing any games critic writes is ever for them. But there are those who adore games with much higher difficulty than the norm, and while HLD doesn’t get close to the heights of challenge of roguelite dungeon crawlers like the magnificent Enter The Gungeon, it evokes that manner of game at times in a way that will appeal to the Nightmare Moders. Especially the boss fights, which do nothing for me other than frustrate. I shall never enjoy nor endorse wild difficulty spikes.

Hyper Light Drifter is beautiful, slightly poorly laid out, annoying, occasionally glorious, confused, and controlled wonderfully. It’s a mix. The most controversial of things to be.


  1. Author X says:

    While I appreciate that the game is very light on language and guidance, and that you’ve already been yelled at and then some and are taking a mea culpa here…. I would like to point out that the first thing I noticed when I entered the center of town and tried to figure out what I was supposed to do next, was a dog barking at me and running to the east when I approached it. So I followed it, as we know all barking dogs lead to something important in video games. And that was how I ended up going to (arguably) the easiest province first, despite the lack of flashing letters saying “HEY THIS WAY IS A BIT LESS ROUGH ON THE OLD THUMBS AND HAS A GOOD GUN AT THE END ====>”

    • Author X says:

      My response was kind of curt, so I do want to say, I can appreciate that a lot of the mystery and open-endedness that I think makes the game brilliant can be frustrating if you’re hitting walls and don’t know if it’s supposed to be a dead end or a secret or something you have to come back to later. That’s a perfectly valid experience and an important one to communicate to people that also do not have fun feeling lost and stuck in video games.

      However, I do find it funny that after a mountain of responses suggesting that the East would be easier and provide a gentler difficulty climb, you went west and complained again about the difficulty.

      • John Walker says:

        I’m pretty darned sure I said the difficulty was “sublime”.

        And indeed mentioned I went both East and West.

        • Author X says:

          Fair enough, I suppose I should have reigned in the prickishness.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      I played the game after reading Walker’s review and comments. I observed that yeah, the game actually does push you towards the north – in the initial room you start in, there’s a map on the desk. And in that map, the northern zone is highlighted in a square. So while there was the barking dog, there was also that thing hinting you to go the ‘wrong way’.

      Secondly, I did go east, and… no, the game is *still* frustratingly hard. Indeed from what I’ve seen, the difficulty of the eastern and northern dungeon is about the same, actually. The net result was that I bashed my head against the wall on the supposedly easy eastern route for an hour or so, considered that the other routes were even harder… and uninstalled and refunded the game.

      Sorry, but this game right now is not for me, and not for a lot of people, and folks should know that.

      • DelrueOfDetroit says:

        That isn’t a map in your house, that’s an image telling you that the diamonds are important and how to find them.

        • Hmm-Hmm. says:

          Then again, the game doesn’t exactly tell you that. So I think it’s understandable that the vagueness of the games’ signals can easily cause misunderstandings. That’s not on the player, because some interpretations will vary wildly.. increasingly so with increasing vagueness.

          What is on the player is how much they want to persevere nonetheless and be willing to try out different things. But that’s more to do with how much one likes the game and is detemined to play it.

      • PanFaceSpoonFeet says:

        You took a refund because the game was too hard for you?

        • Premium User Badge

          FhnuZoag says:

          Yup. Indeed there was a checkbox you could tick for that when requesting the refund.

        • Marclev says:

          One of the things about growing up is the ability to pick one’s battles irrespective of being called a chicken by the kids in the next car over.

          Getting a refund for some of those one chooses not to persevere with is a bonus!

  2. SMGreer says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with the majority of these criticisms but all opinions are welcome and I don’t think you’ll be alone in this reaction to the game, which is a perfectly reasonable one to have.

    Whilst it’s opaque at times what is required of the player, I see people missing a lot of little clues to guide them but maybe those clues aren’t enough for some. I found every secret on my own and enjoyed doing so.

    I enjoy picking apart a game like this, a real puzzle box that makes the moment to moment stuff exciting between the long term navigation/exploration. Sometimes it’s nice to jump into something and be left clueless, to know there’s hours if not days and months of unraveling to be had. So few games evoke that feeling these days that I relish the few I get, especially when they’re done this well, every inch oozing atmosphere.

    Also, the first time I looked at the map it seemed glaringly obvious all directions were options? Maybe it was just me.

    I’ll add that I went in to the game clueless as to what it would actually play like, my initial interest was solely the music and pretty images. Was not expecting this Zelda/Souls-like beast though I was pleasantly surprised.

    • Cronstintein says:

      It wasn’t just you.

      I opted for North first and I didn’t find it overly difficult with no upgrades. I think that is actually the best starter area because it’s harder to get lost and the enemies seemed a bit easier.
      I thought east was harder with it’s spread-pattern bullet formations. It really benefits from bullet-centric upgrades in the dash or sword store.

      As someone who enjoys exploration and challenging combat, I LOVE this game. One small tip for anyone having trouble: you get your hp refilled when you warp.

  3. Anthile says:

    It’s a very good game but fails at being great. The beginning is too rough, the sword upgrades feel too essential. It almost seems like the game sets you up to fail. It’s hard to tell how much of that is intentional. Some rooms are basically bullet hell and it’s extremely difficult to avoid getting damaged without reflection or multi dash.
    Your damage output is also incredibly low without the shotgun or the charged sword attack – but you don’t know these even exist when you start out so you just sit there and you’re not having a good time. I think it would have been much smarter if they made these upgrades part of the exploration process. You know, like in Zelda. It’s how they handled the guns as well so they obviously know how it works.
    If I had to play the game again I’d probably just collect enough cash from all three main areas in order to buy chain dash and sword charge, get the shotgun and then proceed to play the game how it was meant to be.

    • Beefenstein says:

      Obviously difficulty is subjective. I completed the north boss without any upgrades at all. It only took about three tries and learning the pattern.

      • Anthile says:

        I beat him on my first try with most of the upgrades. I didn’t even need to really learn a pattern because I could just kill him before he killed me. Upgrades make a huge difference.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      The shotgun is far from being essential. I’ve beaten most of the game barely using it. Your starting pistol fires fast enough to render the shotgun useless.

      • Cronstintein says:

        From point-blank range the shotty can do 5 pips of damage per shell, so I’m pretty sure it’s objectively superior when dealing with dangerous enemies. It’s certainly my most effective weapon (though I haven’t finished this yet).

        • DelrueOfDetroit says:

          I’ve used it a bit more and yes, it is really effective against high HP enemies. I still find the pistol to be an overall better weapon because once you are that close you may as well be using your sword, especially if you have the charge swing. For example, against the Krystal King in the West you empty your entire clip into him while he is using the crystal attack and then charge the clip by getting in hits with your sword in between slashes.

          The game definitely allows for different play styles which keeps things interesting.

    • FreshHands says:

      Your last sentence sums up my impression of HLD’s difficulty: There is one way to do things the easy way and that’s dash, charge and shotgun.

      Not that problematic if you’re just into the graphics but the game being so vague about everything works against itself in this case.

  4. flibbidy says:

    In that blocked part you’re talking about (almost certainly) there’s a switch you can shoot, but only with a certain type of gun – i felt that was a bit cheap too. spent a long time pissing about there until i looked it up online.

    It is the kind of thing dark souls and monster hunter is praised for though – the friend/community communication required to fully understand the game.. i’m not entirely convinced by that but it did get me to look up fan communities, for what it’s worth.

    • Anthile says:

      I had to look that up as well. I have no idea how you are supposed to figure that out on your own.

      • DelrueOfDetroit says:

        The switch reacts to you shooting it so it’s obvious that it can be interacted with, just not with what you currently have. When you do get the gun it gives you one of those switches almost immediately. The hard part is remembering where you came across them previously.

        • Godwhacker says:

          I’d hardly call that obvious. I turned up with no upgrades and assumed there had to be a way to get over there to hit it with the sword. Still haven’t found the thing I need, and not in a wild hurry to do so.

          It’s Dark Souls meets Shadow of the Colossus meets Zelda, but that doesn’t mean they’ve only picked the good stuff from those games- there’s a fair bit of SotC’s aimless wandering and getting unpleasantly lost too.

          • DelrueOfDetroit says:

            I said it was obvious you could interact with it. When shot they light up and make a noise that suggests you are doing the wrong thing. Specifically what you need to do is not obvious but eventually you are going to come to the conclusion that you need something you don’t currently have.

      • Beefenstein says:

        I figured it out on my own by thinking “hey, I just got a rifle… could I shoot that?” It’s pretty much standard game logic.

      • Cronstintein says:

        I luckily tried it right away since it’s pretty far, so the gun in question made sense to try and hit it. But I think it’s a little lame that the pistol didn’t work as well.

        • flibbidy says:

          I went west first, so when i first encountered it i wasn’t even aware there were multiple guns..

        • Anthile says:

          I used the improved pistol at first but it obviously didn’t work. Maybe I need the bombs for this, I thought, but you can’t even throw them across a chasm. I thought I was missing something essential, some hidden switch or some upgrade but no, it’s just one specific weapon. Maybe it’s more obvious if you pick it up earlier but I wish there would have been better feedback.

      • Uglyduckly says:

        Like everything else in HLD the games it obvious in a very nonobvious way. Those pillars you need to shoot with the gun has a specific symbol on them, a square with 4 lines pointing in each direction, and funnily enough so does the gun needed to unlock them. When you first seem them you are stumped, but when you get the gun it is immediatly obvious what you should do. :) Amazing game.

  5. PancakeWizard says:

    I enjoy the game, but I certainly didn’t think your first impressions were unwarranted or unfair, and I think it’s more than fair you gave it another shot and another article. Fair play to you, John.

    • Oozo says:

      I, on the other hand, am glad that John gave it another chance. I expressed my irritation in the comments under the “Impressions” piece, because I thought that while I understood John’s frustration, I was equally frustrated by the fact that the his wrong assumptions were presented as facts, pointing a misleading picture of the game.

      This here? It’s fair. I mean, I am a backer, and I’m enjoying myself, including the challenge, even though I’m not a god when it comes to reflexes or hand-eye-coordination. Still, I can accept the fact the the opaqueness of the game might turn some people off. (A lot of secrets can only be found by walking to each edge of the screen, swinging the sword wildly in the hope that you might stumble upon a hidden container or passage. Sometimes, you can guess where a room might be because you have seen parts of it from another position, other times, there are subtle visual clues. Often, though, it’s blind guesswork, turning exploration in an exercise in thoroughness. And the dark cave in the North? It’s optional, but it’s still pure bullshit.)

      What I want to say is: it’s a great game, I do love it. But it’s hardly flawless. That makes it interesting. And you know what? People will react differently to those flaws, and that’s ok, too.

  6. cafeoh says:

    This game makes me feel uncomfortable, and for the wrong reasons, not because it gloriously kicks you out of your comfort zone like would a Souls. It gives me a headache (very saturated colors, low framerate, fast camera movement), and I share the consensus that it’s a game I would love to love, but just don’t enjoy.

  7. Dr.Ded says:

    This is such a half-hearted “mea culpa”. You’re entitled to your opinion but it feels like you’ve been actively trying to find faults with the game ever since your first piece (as opposed to being critical in a fair way). I could go down the list of criticisms and illustrate that you are not going into this game with an open mind but rather judging the game based on how it measures up to your subjective expectations about game design (for instance, the medkits “don’t work” at times because the game is designed so that you can’t just spam the button while you’re face to face with an enemy). Hopefully someone else writes about this game from now on because it’s not some mega huge budget game you need to knock off of its high horse, but a lovingly crafted indie title that more people should play.

    • yusefsmith says:

      “lovingly crafted” “indie”

      Doesn’t say anything about the quality or merits of the game. And, uh, he literally DID say the game was ‘wonderful’ anyway.

      “Hopefully someone else writes about this game from now on”

      If you want a review that doesn’t mention ANYTHING negative about the game, feel free to read the publisher’s press release.

    • Catsplosion says:

      Couldn’t agree more.

      The game has some faults and is lacking in some areas but this seems to be the developers first official indie title and it is a great one at that.

      It also seemed very obvious to me that I had the ability to go in any direction when looking at the map but even that’s irrelevant. The game is vague and ambiguous but isn’t that the point? It wants you to explore and figure things out for yourself. It’s not a big budget shooter leading you from point a through c. It’s a game about exploring, collecting and figuring out how to progress the story whilst doing so.

      • Premium User Badge

        FhnuZoag says:

        That a feature is designed doesn’t mean it can’t be frustrating. I’d also kinda argue that the way the game works, with depleting health that is not restored to full on checkpoints, and respawning enemies, actually discourages exploration.

        • DelrueOfDetroit says:

          You get a full health bar if you warp or activate a warp spot. Health packs are all over the place. Enemies and health packs only spawn if you warp. You shouldn’t be warping all the time. It can be faster to backtrack instead of warping and then having to fight all the monsters again. This system encourages exploration because you need to comb for health packs if you don’t want to repsawn everything.

        • Cronstintein says:

          There are a TON of healthpacks hiding in nooks and crannies. If you aren’t exploring, that might be contributing to your health problems.

      • Dominare says:

        If I’m reading a game review I don’t really give a toss if its the developer’s first game or the size of their budget. What I care about is whether the game is any good, and it certainly doesn’t get any bonus points out of pity for its developer.

    • Menthalion says:

      If the game doesn’t even communicate relatively simplistic and low-level mechanics like the aforementioned med packs, and you need to look up info to find out it is unuseable / has a cooldown in certain situation, that sort of just confirms the view in this article rather than disprove it.

      • Swordfishtrombone says:

        The game does tell you how to use the medicine at the start, and I felt that the fact it doesn’t act instantaneously is fairly evident from the animation itself.

        • AshEnke says:

          Well the fact is it’s surprisingly and frustratingly a bit too slow. Which is fine, because it’s how it was designed. But the fact that in the first patch the duration of the animation was slightly decreased maybe indicates that it was a bit too long to begin with ?

          • HugoBert says:

            It’s probably more due to the fact, that some people complaint about it being too long, when all it takes is to get the concept of knowing, when it is actually safe to heal/attack/dash forward, because your enemy has just ended his attack animation and is unable to act.

            then again, i was familiar with this concept from playing souls games, so maybe I am not the right one to judge…

          • Swordfishtrombone says:

            It would be interesting to measure any difference in opinion on HLD between those who have and those who haven’t played any of the ‘Souls’ games.

    • John Walker says:

      Wow, the article you imagined sounds dreadful!

      • Arkayjiya says:

        I do have one point of reproach about the article. The psychological block that led you to believe that other paths were blocked, I don’t see how that one is on the game. Nothing in the game should lead you to believe that.

        All of them are visibly completely out of the way, the road is marked clearly on the ground and none of the guard is standing on it (except the south guard, which is appropriate since this is the only road you can’t take at first). The figure in the centre of the town make it abundantly clear that there are 4 paths, especially combined with the kind of map in the home.

        The game perfectly communicates that at least 3 ways are open, you just failed to register that.

        Other than that, I think that the rest of the piece is pretty fair (I especially agree with the map, the exterior one is fine, it’s detailed but doesn’t ruin the exploration. The dungeon one is kind of ugly and very very unhelpful, it might as well not exist for how much I uses it), although the healing part is working as intended (it basically works like Dark Souls 1, so you can’t just click on a button and expect instant non-interruptible refill). You make it sound like a bug, which if you’ve encountered one it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of it, not seen it mentioned on the reddit. Heal didn’t even fail once to work for me.

        • Arkayjiya says:

          “All of them are visibly completely out of the way”

          All of the guards I mean, damn lack of edit.

    • Viral Frog says:

      So, you’re saying that he took a critical look at the game, and offered up a half-hearted mea culpa after the critical analysis of the game expanded even further upon what’s bad about it? You don’t understand what critics do, do you? They critically examine A Thing (games in John’s case) and write about what they find.

      I personally love John’s WIT articles. He seems to have fairly similar tastes to my own when it comes to games, so I’ve never felt led astray by his subjective opinion (hence the reason WIT is called WIT, as mentioned by John himself). I find that he injects just the right amount of subjectivity, while also providing the right balants of facts that support his opinions.

    • MrWolf says:

      This has to be said:

      “lovingly crafted indie title” =/= a game “that more people should play”.

      Personally, I adore this game and had a very different response to it than Mr. Walker. That’s part of being human. But to assert that just because a game is a “lovingly crafted indie title” then it is inherently somehow more worthy of attention and praise than any other title is simply silly.

    • flibbidy says:

      they have since patched healing to be 2 frames faster, fwiw!

    • Sarfrin says:

      I just knew there would be a comment saying John’s mea culpa wasn’t mea culpa enough. Hilarious.

      • Urthman says:

        If John genuinely wanted to apologize for his own mistake and not blame it on the game, he would have put the words “My Fault” in the headline instead of that weird Mea Culpa nonsense, whatever that means.

        • Ragnar says:

          Yes, why would he use unusual words, that you may not know or understand, instead of simple and obvious ones when writing about how the game is often obtuse and confusing?

        • Marr says:

          If only there were some easy way to look up the meaning of unfamiliar words. John’s really not being obscure with language there, Mea Culpa is a common enough phrase in the UK, especially so if you have a religious background. Ad Nauseum, Bona Fide, Caveat Emptor, Deus Ex…

  8. jcvandan says:

    I love the game, but I admit it took me a while to figure out what the game was trying to tell me with its symbols, map etc. I was really confused by the map for about an hour, mainly because the character on the map doesn’t move and it seemed like the map wasn’t a depiction of what I was seeing in the game. Even after I figured it out I still find it takes a few flicks between map/world before I can make any sort of sense of it, and in the East where I am currently playing it is even more difficult due to all the trees. Did anyone else find this or am I just thick?

  9. Luke says:

    I have loved the non-verbal stuff, personally. I get those AHA! moments when I figure stuff out. It’s pretty clever.

    My one criticism, which has put a big damper on my experience, is the uselessness of the map. I spent a fair time wandering around the eastern section going back and forth looking for a way to the boss until I happened on a path I had missed through sheer luck. The map was almost worthless to me and in some ways misleading. That does seem like an unnecessary layer of opacity. I would like a map that marks the location of locked doors, for example, so yu can find them again once you meet the condions.

    • Josh W says:

      Yes, that’s extremely true, players being able to put markers on the map marking out things they are curious about would have fixed things dramatically, even keeping the particularly unhelpful map.

      (Which we sort of understood the reasons for when working out some of the dungeon layout secrets in the east.)

      We’ve got to the point that we’ve started methodically sweeping the west for secrets, which isn’t half as fun as the first few times you run into them.

  10. Faren22 says:

    Fair enough! The only reason I knew to stay away from the north during my playtime is because of the comments on your original HLD piece, where they stated that the east was a better place to start out with.

    I feel like aiming for the retro-Zelda style is, like you said, hoisting itself by its own petard. It was a different time then, when that one game was basically all one had to play, and the Internet wasn’t as all-encompassing as it is today. The expectation now is that the game had better explain itself pretty well so that we don’t have to look things up about it or talk about it when we get stuck. With so many games vying for our attention, deliberate obtuseness is a strike against the game, rather than a mark of quality.

    And yet this game captures my attention the way that the Dark Souls games never could; I find myself wishing that I could fight the Western boss again, now that I’ve learned all of his attack patterns. Maybe it’s the pixel art style or the soothing music from Disasterpiece… or the fact that, yes, I backed it on Kickstarter, so I have more than a little attachment to it already.

    Your last paragraph was totally spot on, but just because a game is flawed doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing (see the first Witcher and Mass Effect games).

  11. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I like it enough, i agree with a lot of john’s criticisms and have a few of my own but i think it’s down a pretty good job. The developer (heart machine) has a lot to learn but i think they will & it’ll be glorious.

  12. LennyLeonardo says:

    “John always goes out of his way to find fault in games. Let’s go out of our way to find fault in his writing.”

    Or actually read it, that’s also an option.

  13. Dare_Wreck says:

    This reminds me so much of my situation with the first Dark Souls – I got as far as the Bell Gargoyles and after a couple dozen attempts to beat them, rage quit and never looked back. That is, until two days ago.

    With all the recent talk about Dark Souls III, I decided to go back and try it again, though admittedly after looking for help online as to what tactics I should have been using to beat them. Dark Souls does very little to explain its mechanics (other than, if I remember correctly, a brief tutorial bit in the beginning?), so I never fully understood how endurance, blocking, parrying, and riposte work.

    Now well armed with knowledge about Dark Souls’ inner workings, I went back and fought the Bell Gargoyles again and again and again (probably another couple dozen times), and I FINALLY beat them last night! I still can’t believe it happened. Incidentally, I think I have around 10 hours of playtime accumulated in my run, and easily 4 or 5 of that is simply running up those steps and defeating those same 3 skeletons, knight, and zombies before getting getting trounced by the gargoyles. (*Sigh* my kingdom for a save point right before the roof entrance…).

    • Skabooga says:

      Huh, this is really weird, but I had basically the same experience as you. I played Dark Souls half a year ago, got to the Bell Gargoyles, couldn’t defeat them after bashing my head against them repeatedly, skipped a day of playing it, and then I just never went back. But like you, all this talk about Dark Souls 3 got me thinking about my time with the game, so I booted it up two days ago, stuck with it a little longer, and I beat them!

      And I’m glad that I went back! The I’m starting to explore more areas that I overlooked, and I’m really clicking with the game now.

      • Tobberoth says:

        This is why we need more games like Dark Souls, games which are designed to be challenging. The games industry today has produced so much easy crap that as soon as a boss puts up any form of challenge, players give up and stop playing. Tell me, just how good did it feel when “Victory Achieved” filled your screen as you killed the last gargoyle? I’ve been in that situation, so I know: It feels amazing. Not because some achievement badge popped up on your screen, but because you literally overcame a real challenge.

        Once you pop, you can’t stop, and in the case of challenging games, it’s when you get the high of satisfaction which only comes from overcoming a challenge which actually forced you to work for it.

        • Dare_Wreck says:

          Honestly? It didn’t feel amazing, it felt like a huge relief that I could now see the rest of the game. I mean come on – if you’re going to design really difficult bosses, you should allow the player to restart right before that point, not to have to go through a couple minutes of minor enemies to get back to them. If I’m going to get knocked off a cliff or splattered by a gigantic axe within moments, it gets incredibly frustrating fast. Why should I have to keep doing a few minutes of tedious busywork when I want to get right back into the boss fight and learn its patterns in order to defeat it? (Old school example: think Mega Man, where you would restart right before a boss’s lair if you died there, versus classic R-Type where you had to do the whole level over). I don’t like when a game wastes my time, regardless of the difficulty.

          Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy I finally beat the Bell Gargoyles, but I can’t justify the game design that made it such that I almost never came back to the game.

          • baozi says:

            Seconded, and I did finish DaS 1 and 2 (leaving out a few optional bosses).

          • Tobberoth says:

            It’s a slippery slope, but the point is to be punishing. Failing comes with a cost, otherwise it won’t feel like failure, and if it doesn’t feel like you’re failing, you won’t feel like you succeeded. I feel like Dark Souls in general has hit a sweet spot since you don’t literally respawn right where you die, but it also only takes a few seconds to run back to the gate. It gives you enough of a space to consider what you did right/wrong in the fight and step back in fresh, without feeling like it will actually be a challenge to get back to the fight.

            There are exceptions though. Specifically for new players who don’t know the backdoor down to Capra demon, since running back to that boss is not really an option, it’s a very tight corridor with dogs screwing you up, you pretty much have to progress back to it every time.

          • Ragnar says:

            I too don’t mind challenging games, but have no patience for games that waste my time.

            “Death has to be punishing or it doesn’t matter” is nonsense spouted by those masochists who play games with hardcore Ironman options on. Death is fail state, it already sucks. It doesn’t need to kick you in the groin too. Forcing you to go through effortless enemies to get to the challenging boss is what MMOs do to pad out their play times. It’s not needed in standard games.

            I love the Fire Emblem games, but I particularly love the new Casual option where a lost character is only out for the battle and not permanently killed. Losing a character still feels like a failure, because it is, but now I don’t feel compelled to restart the whole mission (as most people did) because of a single mistake. And because it doesn’t waste my time that way I’m playing on a higher difficulty than I would otherwise.

    • Matroska says:

      I went back to Dark Souls 1 recently as well. Back when the game came out I died a few times on the Taurus Demon, a few times on the Gargoyles and eventually stopped at Quelaag, boss of Blight Town. This time I was struck by how easy the game seemed. It always annoyed me when people would say “lol, this game is easy, why are you struggling” before. It seemed like a really forced bit of arrogance that could only backfire and make the speaker seem like a twat.

      Well now I guess I am the twat. It’s really important to upgrade your weapon. You can do the game without levelling up at all as long as you upgrade your weapon. Of course, if you’re really good you can do it without levelling or upgrading, but here I’m just talking about being decent and experienced at the game.

      So a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video is made up of (possibly) thousands of pictures, so here’s me fighting the gargoyles with a slighty upgraded Estoc, a weapon that can be found right at the start of the game. What a difference upgrading makes. I don’t do anything skillful here, nothing insightful or anything like that (okay, I do like that one last second dodge) and yet the gargoyles go down in seconds, especially the 2nd one.

  14. padger says:

    Thanks, John! I did roll some of my eyes when you launched into the original tirade, but I also know you are one of the games critics who bothers to be honest about things. As we can see from this piece! Lots of my fellow readers become enraged by people writing down actual thoughts and experiences, and you are a fine person for weathering that endless storm of stupidity. I am sure I have given up on dozens of games because I missed something over the years. It is only human. It’s also good that you are tough on games, and it’s clear you love them as much as any internet crazymen might claim to.


  15. vorador says:

    Yep, the map is really bad, confusing and obtuse. It’s absolutely useless, and the worst part of otherwise an stellar game.

    If you’re stuck trying to get somewhere, it’s likely you’re going at it from the wrong direction. I recommend combing the area looking for clues. It might be a pressure plate out of sight, or a invisible path that you need to be in front of it to discover (your “floating thingie” will react and show an “?” when you’re in front of an invisible path).

  16. Swordfishtrombone says:

    John, how did you feel about Fez? There’s a similar degree of abstruseness to that world, but it’s completely peaceful. I found in Fez that I really enjoyed trawling around trying to figure things out because it was such a lovely place to be: I think that HLD is similar in that sense (doubtless in no small part due to Rich Vreeland’s fantastic soundtrack in both games!), so I personally don’t mind the lack of clarity so much. I agree that HLD could certainly do with a better map though. I hereby declare that – effective immediately – all games should be forced to use Metroid Prime’s map as a starting point, and go from there.

  17. grobstein says:

    I like the game quite a bit more than this, but I appreciate this article.

    One criticism in particular that is dead on and not just a matter of taste: that map. Wow.

    1. It doesn’t tell you where you are with any particularity.
    2. It appears to depict features you can see in the main view, but even if you are near a feature on the main view, you may appear far away on the map and vice versa.
    3. The underground view is extremely difficult to read.
    4. When locations of goals are marked on the map, there is very little correspondence between map location and how to get there.
    5. If you find an interesting location that is not marked on the map, the map offers no help in returning to that location. For example, suppose I find a locked door I can’t open. I want to remember its location so I can find it later. But my position on the map is marked so vaguely that it doesn’t pin down the location of the door at all. I am not asking the map to telegraph the location of secrets — I just want to be able to return to things I’ve already found.

    The overall result is that, in navigating, you have to rely heavily on memory. But for a world so intricate, this is bad. What if I put the game down for a few days?

    I think it’s just barely possible that this is a design decision. Like: don’t give us one of those magical self-reading maps like in most games, make us work a little harder.

    If that’s what they’re trying to do, though, it doesn’t really work. The map looks too much like a typical game map, so when it fails to provide the expected conveniences it’s frustrating. And we have no tools to help ourselves, e.g. by making our own marks on the map.

    If the decision was made to give a less hand-holding, less automagical map, it should have been done a bit differently. Instead of a janky You-are-here indicator that doesn’t really work, give us no You-are-here indicator at all. Give us the ability to make our own marks on the map, if only very simple ones (e.g. you can mark one “X” at any given time). This would be a different game, though. Best of all to just give us a working map!

  18. Dorga says:

    I don’t know John, the dungeon map is useless, I give you that, but I also found the game so straight forward that I never felt the need for a map. All I had to do was litteraly go straight in one direction. Some areas had two or three exits but that was it. This is no Zelda, I was never lost, there never was a puzzle to solve, just follow the road and kill everything that stands in your way. I also don’t get the hatred for the bosses, I’m no genius at action games nor am I incredibly patient, I suck at Dark Souls and didn’t have it in me to confront Titan Souls’ bosses for the umpteemph time, yet I finished the game without ever being too frustrated.
    The pacing seemed perfect to me, seven/eight hours of action and little exploration with no dead moments.
    There are a lot of things to unlock and discover, but those are super hard, I will never get them, and it’s okay, they are an extra for those who enjoy a challange.
    I don’t know why it got you this way, it’s strange.
    But I also don’t think that all games should appeal to everybody, or that there should be an easier mode, or less obscure one, if that’s against the designer vision.
    I don’t get Dwarf Fortress, even if it seems super interesting, but I wouldn’t want it to be simpler because that would make a different thing.

  19. Risingson says:

    After reading all of you, I NEED to play this. Not to give an opinion, but because it looks like the kind of challenge I like.

  20. LazyAssMF says:

    Well, i find this game really, really great. Finished it no problem and i totaly love it.

    It’s very similar to Dark Souls series (which i also love to death): You try a random path and if it’s too hard you just try another one ’till you find one you can manage. DS also doesn’t have a map and doesn’t really tell you where to go, only what to do, which HLD also does in the first cpl of minutes. I think this is just not a game for “filthy casuals” (sorry ’bout that XD). It’s a game that DS fans and ppl seeking challenge are sure to love. :)

  21. jonahcutter says:

    In your defense, I was drawn to the north first as well. Upon hitting my skill peak there (at that time) though, I took it upon myself to challenge my assumption and went exploring elsewhere. Which made me realize the failing of the assumption had been mine, not the game’s failure to communicate.

    And flatly put, the guards don’t block the way or any such silly assertion. That’s just false. They sit there on the side of each path in the same manner. If anything, they’re a clear sign that there’s another path here to follow.

    The map is fine. It does indeed fall under the classification of “not holding your hand”. It lets you orientate into which area you are in, with general hints towards paths. But it does not map out every avenue for you nor tell you where exactly you are on the map. That is not a badly designed map. It is a different style of map than gamers are used to. Again, our assumptions.

    These are elements that require more engagement that gamers are not as used to anymore. I personally enjoy that the map doesn’t pinpoint where I am. Dark Souls certainly doesn’t provide a map to pinpoint where you are at all times, or where that seemingly inaccessible soul or chest was. Exploring and learning the layout of the world is part of the experience. Who would demand such a game needs a gps-level map because the world layout is confusing at times?

    Same with difficulty spikes for bosses. They are supposed to be difficulty spikes. There are undoubtedly games that provide bosses that are mildly more difficult than the general mobs. This is not one of those games.

    The oblique communication of the game is a stylistic choice as well, not a fault. I’ll just leave it as: compare to Dark Souls again.

    The attempt at defusing the legit criticism you know is incoming notwithstanding, this is indeed a confirmation of your bias and a rather half-assed pass at a mea culpa. Lame as well, is the implication that debunking your criticisms would be akin to fanboi-ism. It’s not perfect by any means. But it is far better in whole than a reviewer who insists it should be a different game can bring himself to credit.

    Though I did find it entertaining for John Walker of all people to be sniffing about the politeness of others.

  22. Xantonze says:

    (not a backer).
    I finished the game in about 8 hours and really liked it.
    I’m usually not a fan of hardcore action games, but somehow that one clicked.

    To be fair, I went east after reading the comments to John’s first piece, and had to look up for the exact meaning of the first “dash” upgrade, which is oh so essential to the game.
    Aside from that, I had a blast canvassing and clearing the big rooms even if I died a lot, and learning the bosses patterns was also nice, as the feeling after finally beating them.

    I was annoyed by the regen model at first, but got used to it after a while: makes sence to find the right spot and timing to gulp down a potion (even the bosses are designed to let you do that).

    Aside from a somehow obscure timing system (with the moves, attacks, dash, reload and regen) and a truly shitty map, the only thing that bugged me slightly was the “reverse” difficulty curb: the beginning can be awfully frustrating, while the second half (once you get the right upgrades: in my case the infinite dash and dash through bullets, + the shotgun for the “animation cancelling” combos) feels somehow too easy (took me about 20 tries for the second boss I met -West-, 2 for the last one).

    Also, the option to speed up the “getting up” animation after dying, which came with a recent patch, was really helpful. Perhaps I would have given up without it.

  23. Faults says:

    It’s funny, because a part of me wants to pick through every single negative point this article makes and furiously dissect and refute them, because frankly, I haven’t felt such a strong affinity with a game in quite some time. It’s, for me, easily the most deeply affecting and emotionally honed games I’ve ever played, with only Fez and Panzer Dragoon Saga really matching it in terms of just how strongly I connect with the mythos and overall holistic ‘feel’ of the whole thing.

    But I can’t really say that it’s wrong either. All the things that John mentions (apart from the doors thing, that’s like soooo self-explanatory I just can’t even) are totally correct, but really just didn’t affect my enjoyment of the game at all. And that’s the wonderful thing about subjectivity I guess. I’m glad I’m able to find such worth and value in things that seem intrinsically frustrating to others, and likewise there are things that I get totally furious about that just doesn’t faze others at all.

    I’m very sorry that you had a bad time with it John. Maybe there’ll be a cool new minigame on the Vive to lift your spirits OH WAIT

  24. HugoBert says:

    So first of all, I really like that you, based on feedback, took the time to reasses the game and come to a new conclusion that did not just involve one area of the game.
    Evne though I mostly disagree with your complaints(I have some of my own though) about the game in this article, I will say that alot of it comes down to personal preference and how you enjoy games in general.

    my gripe with your article however is the following: why do you try to build up an imaginary strawman for the “inevitable criticism to come” multiple times in your text? it makes it look like you are more concerned about the feedback than the actual content of the game, makes it really irritating to read, seeing as you are being very defensive about your opinion seemingly out of nowhere as the article goes on and will not make for a good argument against the (sadly inevitable) “fanboys” out there anyway. so why bother?
    No gripes about your actual opinion on the game(although I personally really enjoed it), just something that felt really out of place.

  25. Skabooga says:

    Hahah! Reading about your experiences reminds me of my own with La-Mulana. A big, open world where you can go in any direction, but will probably die quickly and painfully if you go in a direction you don’t have the equipment for, in which doors and access to new areas are gated by puzzles that are obfuscatingly explained, sometimes to the point where I was able to discern no connection between a puzzle and a new area being opened up.

    Also, the part about running into every wall to check for secrets. I must have whipped every square inch of that game, as brute-forcing it was the only way I would have ever found some necessary paths. And I still had to fall back on a walkthrough at times.

    Still, I admit that I had a fun time with La-Mulana. Might be Stockholm Syndrome, though.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Do you also like I wanna be the Guy? Sure, that’s a special case, but La Mulana is wonderful yet takes a kind of fortitude that I at least don’t have any desire to provide for it. Love watching Let’s Plays of it, though.

      • Skabooga says:

        I admittedly bounced right off of I Want to Be the Guy within the first three screens, and I’m not sure I could tell you why stopped so early there but persevered with La-Mulana. Perhaps theme was the deciding factor? Hard to say.

  26. amateurviking says:

    Sounds like you had a similar experience to mine with Dark Souls (the repeatedly taking on the skeletons in the graveyard instead of taking the not entirely easy to notice path up to the undead burg before giving up blinded by tears of frustration’)*.

    *I went back to it after a number of months and of course immediately found the ‘right’ way to go.

    • Cronstintein says:

      Man I fought those skellies so many times!! Everyone was going on and on about how hard Dark Souls was so I figured that it was the right way. When I finally went to Undead Burg it was so easy by comparison >.<

    • Ragnar says:

      I had that same exact problem. The specter of difficulty that was built up in my mind made me think that this was how hard the game was supposed to be, so I kept bashing my head against the wall until I gave up and looked it up.

      I had the same problem with Demon’s Souls. Given two paths I’d invariably try the right path first, die instantly, become convinced that I need to go the other way, then fail time and time again taking the wrong path.

  27. Ashabel says:

    I don’t understand why so much of this article is spent on assuming which parts of it people will criticize and trying to counter them in advance. It seems to set itself up for failure because you don’t actually know what people will think about your article in advance.

    That said, I’ll just another word of advice:

    “West is perhaps the most interesting direction, packed as it is with secret passages and hidden entrances, but I’d also argue those elements are deeply unfairly disguised. It becomes a process of trying to run into every hedge and edge just in case it’s the unmarked exit you need.”

    All of the game’s locations are like that. As a rule, each area contains 8 diamond keys, around 30 databits (things you use to upgrade your weapons), three slabs with glowing words on them, plus an array of various loot such as weapons and costumes. You can expect pretty much every single room to contain a secret in one corner or another, provided you’re willing to search.

    That said, I completely disagree that any of them are unmarked. The “secret wall” passages are always marked with debris lying on the floor, the passages that need to be activated via your drone will have it light up with question marks when approached, while the rest are openly visible and simply require you to dash over a pit and onto some tiny quirky platform.

    Yes, you can blindly poke around for them, but to say there isn’t a system of visual feedback is outright false. You simply haven’t noticed it yet.

    And while other people kept recommending that you go east, I still say you should go north and finally figure out how to beat Nyarlothochicken. Beating it will provide you with a sniper rifle that makes it very easy to trigger switches that open up paths into secret areas, and also the north happens to be the only area where all secrets are accessible entirely by paying attention to your drone and cleverly using your dash.

    • Josh W says:

      We’ve worked out how to do that in the east, and are making our way through the north now with a little more difficulty, but in the west the cues seem much more muddled. Lots of face rubbing with very little payoff.

  28. Autoluck says:

    Whoever reviewed this game should consider doing something different with their time. Sorey, but this isn’t the quality I expect from RPS.

    • Josh W says:

      This is exactly the quality I expect from RPS, or one of them at least, although they surprise me with many other qualities as well.

  29. islipaway says:

    So glad you picked up on the inconsistency with the hidden (and sometimes the required) paths, and the rubbing into bushes mechanic you need to perform a lot of the time, lets not forget the – walk to a space and ping to see if there’s an invisible platform – mechanic of exploration, that’s a real puzzler.

    I feel the exploration thing is there to pad the game out and give it a few more hours of gameplay so people feel it’s a worthwhile investment, whereas my perspective is stop wasting my time on this boring nonsense!

  30. noodlecake says:

    I never really had many of these issues. Finished the game in about 8 hours. The boss in the north area gave me the most trouble as I made the mistake of going north first and it probably ended up taking me 20+ attempts to beat it. The one in the west I got stuck on again but decided to wander east which ended up being very easy and the boss there took 1 or 2 attempts and then the additional upgrades I bought made the third boss easier, and then the fourth (south) area was pretty easy, probably due to a combination of upgrades and familiarity with the mechanics.

    The end boss probably took me about 15 attempts. It was quite tricky.

    I never reached a point where I felt like I was stuck and I didn’t know where to go at any point, except when I decided to go back and try and find the extra triangles (the outside corners). I definitely don’t have the patience for that, especially as some of them don’t seem to be marked on the map.

    I guess everybody is different! Reading the criticisms I can see how certain parts of the game design could be an issue. There were parts where I would discover what I thought was an uber secret and it would turn out to be something necessary to progress, and had I not been looking so hard for hidden things the whole time I might have ended up stuck too!

    I am definitely in favour of pictures to communicate over language though. I wish more games would use this approach.

    Really enjoying Enter the Gungeon though!

  31. Focksbot says:

    It’s astonishing just how varied people’s experiences with the game are. I agree with everyone else about the map, which I now never use, but apart from that, my issues with Hyper Light Drifter are completely different.

    The bosses? So far, I’ve done north and east, and found them both to be a case of thrashing through it sloppily, beating each after about five tries. In other words, standard boss battles.

    I found the regular enemies much more frustrated initially, particularly when they come in waves in a blocked-off room, or when the game throws half a dozen of them at you at once just after you’ve made it through an insta-death block maze.

    The various secrets seem pitched perfectly – most areas have something to come back for later, when you understand a bit more about how it all fits together. I like that. I’m reading stuff on this comments page I had no idea about yet, but there’s plenty I’ve discovered for myself.

    On the other hand, it took me nearly an hour of tracking back and forth across the East area before realising that I was now allowed to go through a door that had previously been locked – the one which requires you active three quarters of the diamond. That seemed silly.

    The delay on healing is obviously a deliberate design decision that forces you to find a gap in enemy attacks to heal properly. I appreciate its cleverness even though it’s a really nasty thing to do to the player!

    But there’s a much worse thing no one has mentioned. Warping brings back all the enemies. The game never warns you of this, and it’s a real kicker. I’m so surprised no one has brought this up as a terrible feature that I’m starting to think it’s a glitch in my edition.

    Also, there are too many situations where the game teaches you that the best course of action is to let yourself be killed and start the area again. It’s rarely worth fighting on through the next wave with one health bar.

    As to how ‘opaque’ HLD is, what strikes me about this debate is that the criticisms levelled at it are all echoes of the criticisms levelled at games in general by newer players I sometimes play with. I don’t think we appreciate just how much ‘insider knowledge’ we have from playing games for many years – there’s a lot of stuff that is utterly baffling to newcomers. So I sort of appreciate HLD putting the effort in to make gaming strange again.

    • Keroscee says:

      I feel like much of the complaints are due to the fact that HLD relies on old school ‘metroidvania/Zelda’ design language, and then strips it to its bare essentials. Not a lot of hand holding, lots of exploration and wonder. For people not familar with these sorts of games, the difficulty associated with them (JAK II…) and the need for exploration and setting your own goals isn’t something that comes naturally these days of text and voice-over heavy games.

      Not a failing on the authors part, but rather the games, as it relies on the players on having too much ‘assumed knowledge’. It was fine for me, but the prologue could of done a better job of illustrating the gameplay to newcomers.

  32. lordfrikk says:

    The biggest problem I see is that nowadays games tell you everything and mostly I’m glad for it because obtuseness just for the sake for it is not for me, but it also shows perfectly that we have become so accustomed to being told everything that we don’t even LOOK at the actual game and what it’s trying to show us, and we instead throw fits the game doesn’t want to tell us and write it off as the game’s fault.

    I won’t even call the first article a review, it was just a shameful display of professionalism. The feeling I got from the second article is that the author was trying to half-apologize and half-reinforce his own already set ideas of what the game should be, barely a review again.

    • lordfrikk says:

      And even after putting the two articles together, their length is so pitifully short that I can’t quite understand how anyone interested in describing the game in full would have enough space for it. Quality should be preferred over quality but much like all generalizations even this one has to be taken with a grain of salt. Despite being an expansion pack to an old game and also being a different genre, the review of Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear is almost 3 times as long with author going over all facets of the game. That doesn’t mean he liked everything about it but at least the reader can learn something more than the author’s moaning about difficulty.

      • lordfrikk says:

        Basically, you’re not the right person to review it. You have the right to write anything you want but that doesn’t mean it’s interesting to read.

        • RobF says:

          I dunno, I just thought he didn’t get on with bits of it and communicated that.


        • Swordfishtrombone says:

          It’s not supposed to be a review. It’s clearly marked as John’s impressions of the game in the title.

  33. dorobo says:

    and keyboard is just not an option in this one..

  34. Ericusson says:

    “and within their ranks are those who will not hear a negative word about the game”

    Which you find all the time for any game nowadays pretty much.
    Makes me tired about humans.

  35. AutonomyLost says:

    I am adoring this game. I love the obtuse nature of it, and the pixel art is baffling. It’s so lovingly-crafted that even if I weren’t smitten with the game I’d gladly throw my hat into the ring of avid appreciators.

  36. DP says:

    Thank you for the public demonstration to teach kids how embarrassing it can be to have a fully public knee-jerk reaction. It sure is a good thing this was an April fools joke…

  37. Jac says:

    I’m a bit late to the party on this one but glad you persevered some more.

    Your experience with this game doesn’t at all resonate with mine, I think it borders on classic, but at the end of the day your experience is your experience. Why this is a problem for some people will forever remain a mystery to me.

    I had no issue with the map and other things you found bothersome but it’s interesting that you did. A far more interesting angle is to wonder why that is. Did you grow up playing NES games like Zelda for example? Are you good at these sorts of action games?

    Debate is good and it’s a shame that a lot of people are incapable of engaging in it.

  38. kavika says:

    Nothing wrong with your review. It’s a beautiful game, with great graphics and music, amazing theme, and a whole bunch of minor flaws.

    Some of the things people might consider “flaws” are absolutely design decisions. Others are newbie (but still promising) level and game design (the main path going forward being graphically indistinguishable in some places, and the multiple path options made available to you having few hints or confusing hints that cause people to not take them).

    A less newbie developer would do some crazy amounts of play testing with new folks, and figure out where to polish the golden path. They’d also subject the willing to checklists of items to get, and see how long it took them to find each of them, in case they screwed anything up.

    Last, they’d spend a day or two scraping bodies against walls until they got rid of all the fall-off-the-level or dead-end-secret-path wall bugs. There are something like a dozen of them littered through the game in places that they shouldn’t be.

    This game is patchable into perfection. I hope the devs ignore the zealot’s rationalizations (“that’s what they meant to do!”), and make those patches.

    • kavika says:

      Oh yeah, this game is way more like Metroid than it is like Zelda. Just cause it’s top down and gives you a sword doesn’t mean it feels much like that game, even if the dev said that’s what they intended.