hyper light breaker

Hyper Light Breaker Hands-On Preview – Break On Through

Heart Machine is pumping.

Heart Machine is a fascinating developer in that their triptych of releases, beginning with both Hyper Light Drifter and Solar Ash and now adding Hyper Light Breaker to the mix, all share a universe while being unique and starkly different from one another. Drifter was a moody, contemplative pixel art Soulslike of sorts while Solar Ash was a melancholic tour on skates of a ruined civilisation at the edge of a black hole. There’s an inherent sadness and loneliness to the game’s universe that looms over the often confusingly fun gameplay loop.

Despite their differences however, the similarities are clear. There’s an unmistakable iconography that cuts through everything else to create a sense of a shared heartache. Hyper Light Breaker, technically being a prequel to Drifter, is no different.

hyper light breaker

If you threw concepts found in both Drifter and Solar Ash into a blender, you’d get something resembling Hyper Light Breaker. Of course, it’s all filtered through the roguelite genre which is a first for the series. The game, which is expected to launch into early access soon, is set to be a co-op experience however the build we got hands-on with didn’t have it enabled. I did manage to walk away with a good grasp on how to construct a run, how to best navigate the map depending on how exactly it’s populated, and the game’s place within the grand sci-fi tapestry that is Hyper Light.

Though it’s greatly expanded upon, Hyper Light Breaker’s feels like it riffs on the frenetic, punishing action found in Drifter. There are new elements of strategy and customisation that greatly determine how you approach each run, plus the beauty of having a roster of Breakers to go into battle with is that there’s a decent variety in style. Unfortunately, in the build I played, all three Breakers were set up pretty similarly with guns in front of mind. After I’d settled on Goro as my go-to, I ventured into the Overgrowth for my debut run.

And it was a quick run.

hyper light breaker

In my hubris, I’d forgotten Breaker is, indeed, a roguelite and that comes with the usual baggage. You begin soft and squishy, and if you bum rush and go gung ho you’re going to be laid to rest quick smart. And I was. With my first life spent, I took a long walk back through the Cursed Outpost, which serves as the game’s central hub that’ll populate with vendors as you progress. With a restock and some sage advice from the developer watching me flail about, I got back out there.

In an effort to learn from my mistakes, I opened the map to get a picture of what this run might offer. In addition to the three boss strongholds, which require gate keys found throughout the map, several areas of interest can be seen: weapons to uncover, elite enemies to take out, and artefact fragments to activate that help peel back the layers of the narrative, which is told entirely by beautifully illustrated comic panels. The ones I got to take a look at provided context, and something of a humanising origin story, for one of the game’s bosses, Dro.

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hyper light breaker

The worst thing about roguelites is that feeling of reset after dying, I feel like by having a handful of them it gives more freedom to move through a run tactically. There’s also the possibility of returning to the outpost to buy and sell gear, depending on what you’ve found in the Overgrowth. Extracting is far from a cakewalk though and involves activating a beacon, finding the extraction zone as signified by the enormous sky beam, and surviving long enough to get out. It’s a small thrill that feeds perfectly into the risk-reward nature of the sub-genre.

My last ditch attempt to take down the sole boss available in the build, Exus, ultimately fell short, but I felt I’d improved out of sight having picked the game up only half an hour prior. And that right there is the mark of a fine roguelite: live, die, live again, only with experience and know-how that’ll hold you in better stead for the next run. Linger in a run too long, though, and you’ll be pursued by an assassin, not unlike the cute ghosts who try to hurry you along in Spelunky. As a trial, they come down somewhere between the elites and Crowns, like Exus.

hyper light breaker

The game shares Solar Ash’s electrified neon aesthetic, so rich with colour. Vibrant pinks and blues, once again, feature strongly in this mind-bending that world shifts at the whim of the curse on the lands. All of the aforementioned iconography is unmistakably cryptic and nods once again to that universe Heart Machine are crafting. I can’t wait for the Adi Shankar adaptation, while we’re at it. Please, Netflix. While I think Hyper Light, as a property, loses part of its charm shifting from pixel art, its identity definitely isn’t totally lost.

With Hyper Light Breaker launching into early access, I’m sure the game I played at Play Days will look nothing like the game it becomes in twelve months. There’s bugs to squash, mechanics to tighten—I don’t particularly love the movement through the Overgrowth, for the creator of Solar Ash it feels kind of like a backward dash. But that’s also the value of a release plan like this, I expect a community of Breakers will be extremely valuable for a team like Heart Machine to organically shift and shape the game as if it were the Overgrowth itself.

Hyper Light Breaker enters Early Access soon on PC. Wishlist it here.