Thursday, September 4, 2014

Driftmoon Review

Driftmoon looks like a top-down, 3D clone of Diablo but it actually has more in common with CRPGs like Baldur's Gate


  • Developer: Instant Kingdom
  • Publisher: Instant Kingdom
  • Release Date: 26 February 2013
  • Time Played: 8 hours

It's been about a month since I posted my First Impressions article for the indie RPG Driftmoon. In the article I talked about how the game seemed okay but it wasn't really grabbing my attention. I persisted and after just over 8 hours of playtime, managed to finish the main campaign. So is this indie RPG worth giving a shot and is it worth the $16 price tag?

Plot (3/5)
You play a male protagonist that hails from the world of Driftmoon but it isn't long until you discover that things aren't going too well for the world's inhabitants. You discover that everyone from your village of Northrop, save for your best friend Word, has been turned to stone and that somehow the reptilian race known as the Rakan have something to do with it. Your father and brother have gone missing and it's up to you and Word to get to the bottom of it. You soon assemble a most unlikely group of adventurers as you travel across the world of Driftmoon finding answers and ultimately trying to stop a terrible evil.

As you can tell, the game is your typical fantasy fare on the surface and this is what turned me off from playing the game in the first hour or so (as you can tell by my First Impressions article, I wasn't too impressed). However, it was only when I ventured further into the game that the plot started to pick up: there are elements of time travel in the plot (I love time travel plot devices), there are several humourous pop culture references and there are actually likeable characters in this game. Sure the plot might seem a bit childish and light-hearted at times, a bit like the Quest for Glory games, but I think that's what makes this little indie RPG charming. It's actually refreshing to play a game which isn't all about being fashionable and adding a "dark and gritty" veneer to the world, a game where you feel a genuine sense of camaraderie with the strangest of allies (in fact it reminds me of Quest for Glory III: Wages of War quite a bit in that regard).

Gameplay (3/5)
Mechanically, the game is best described as a mixture of Baldur's Gate and Diablo. It has similarly verbose conversation trees with character portraits, just like Baldur's Gate and other CRPGs of the 1990s. Combat also follows a hybrid real-time turn-based model where in reality the attacks are turn-based but the action is occurring in real-time which you're able to pause at any time (again similar to Baldur's Gate). It's also like Diablo with respect to its simple skill trees, an inventory belt tied to hotkeys, a prominent health and mana bar, and the ability to quickly swap between a primary weapon set and a secondary weapon set (e.g. between using melee weapons and a bow). The game also offers you the ability to craft basic potions and items once you're in possession of the right ingredients and a recipe.

The game isn't as overly complex as a Dungeons & Dragons CRPG but that's not necessarily a bad thing meaning it's easier for those not entirely familiar with the complex CRPGs of yesteryear to try their hand at one. I do however miss the ability of having different classes (Driftmoon has specialisations in the skill tree but not really classes) which I believe is a missed opportunity that could have offered more replay value.

One of the most novel features of Driftmoon though, thanks to its use of a 3D engine, is the ability to solve puzzles by dragging and dropping items in the environment! I thought it was very clever and have never seen it done before in a non-First Person CRPG as solving puzzles usually involves the more conventional ways such as the use of conversation trees or inventory items.

Awesome shirt there Smiling Chuck but where's your ten gallon hat?

Sound (5/5)
Audio is fine and I have no complaints with the sound effects in use. There is no voice acting in this game which I think is a pity but understandable since there's actually quite a lot of dialogue.

Music (4/5)
The music in Driftmoon is used sparingly and has a very Harry Potter feel to it. It's of a very high quality and the right kind of music is used at the appropriate times however it's obviously not as epic as what you'd hear with AAA RPG titles such as Dragon Age.

Graphics (2/5)
The graphics are pretty basic, adopting a top-down view with low-polygon count 3D objects and terrain. This is probably one of the biggest downsides of the game and potentially a barrier for new players trying the game out, which is a shame since it actually has quite to offer.

The only good thing about having the bar set low for graphics is that it makes it much easier for modders to get involved with the game as not all modders can be super awesome artists.

Replay (4/5)
As mentioned, I was struggling to get into Driftmoon when I first started playing it but as I delved further into the plot, it started to become more interesting and humourous. Consequently, I enjoyed playing the single player campaign and while it might seem short at 8 hours, I think it was just right in terms of its length. There are also a few achievements that you're able to get if playing the Steam version.

The game also makes it really easy for just about anyone to create mods since it looks like the game was built from the ground up to accommodate them. While I haven't personally dabbled in creating one there are already quite a few available by fans of the game ranging from the superficial to the substantial.

Polish (5/5)
The game is pretty well polished and I didn't notice any serious bugs.

Score – 7/10

For those put off by Driftmoon's basic 3D graphics, I would urge them to try and judge the game for its plot and gameplay. While the production values are not going to be as high as your typical AAA titles, Instant Kingdom has done a great job in providing a charming, accessible, indie CRPG that everyone can enjoy. If you don't end up liking the story though, there's always the available modding tools you can use to create your own adventures to share with friends and the public alike.

Driftmoon is available from these retailers:


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[ LINK: Official Driftmoon website ]

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