Death of the Critic

Drifting Lands - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

Stylized art

Side-scrolling shatters have always been a fun distraction for me, but even after all of these years, they have not broken out of their form. They are fun, and they present. Certain kind of intriguing challenge for us to play with. They are mastery systems laid bare, asking you to learn movements and actions to the extreme so you can fly through a hail of bullets and come out the other side unscathed. It’s no wonder that there are a huge number of side-scrolling shooters that also fall into the “bullet hell” genre, characterized by maze-like arrangements of bullets for you to try to navigate through with split second timing. They are the epitome of control, often giving you only a few pixels of clearance to squeeze through.

Drifting Lands tries to take these established formulas and turn them on their ears by injecting loot and leveling elements to add layers of complexity to the formerly simply design. Before you just had to dodge and shoot, but now you have to manage a cargo-hold/inventory, stat points, color-coded inventory, damage and attack types, all with the change to accidentally lose it at any moment and be thrust back to the beginning of your journey. It seems that along the way towards adding replayability and complexity into the game, they simply went too far. It is a common problem that we see with games. More does not necessarily equal better, and in this case, it is doubly true. Not only is the game not improved by these additions, it seems to be actively hurt. Buried at the core of all of this is a very tight game with great mechanics. I like being able to change out my set of active skills to match a mission, and there were. Variety of weapon types that each felt like they justified their use. It is just that all of the fluff around this dilutes and obscures the fun gameplay. Side-scrollers and bullet hell games are almost defined by their simplicity, and to move in the opposite direction misses the point.

Drifting Lands Screen (1)

There is a lot of game here. Dozens of levels with some pretty decent enemy variety and ship choice for the player. You can pour a lot of hours into the game very easily> But wth the increased focus on loot, this breadth of content provides for an unforeseen obstacle. I found myself having to grind - a lot. Playing through the same set of levels over and over and over again. The amount of money that you earn from each mission is not that great (even thought it would appear that you are earning tens of thousands of credits every mission, you only get 10% of these credits at the end) And you get nothing at all for failing a mission. So it felt like I had to throw myself headlong into these easier (read: boring) missions to be able to get enough money to upgrade my ship and take on harder levels.

You can swap out your ship at any time, which is really cool, but due to the dozens of skill point you have to pour into each ship too make them remotely viable means that changing ships is easily hundreds of thousands of credits worth of investment. And you can’t simply stay with the weaker ships and chip away at bosses, because there is a time limit to each enemy waves, and if you can’t kill a boss in time, you fail the mission, and get nothing for your efforts. It is not well balanced at all and quickly leads to more frustration than fun.


It is disappointing because the core is so much fun. Levels get hectic really quickly, exacerbated by the rather busy background, and weaving your way in and out of intricate waves of enemy fire keeps you right on the edge. For the most part, the powers are satisfying to use as you grind your way through. I wanted to play more and it kept me going even after hours of trying to grind to keep my ship levels up.

It is an interesting idea, blending RPG and story with a side-scrolling bullet hell shooter, but the execution leaves much to be desired. The entire time that I was playing, I couldn’t help but think of how great this could have been if they had just kept it simple and left all of the fluff out.


Review written for the Windows version of the game. Your experience may vary.

The title was provided to us free of charge by the publisher for the purpose of review.

Our review code can be found here for information on how we write and score our reviews. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns, please contact us at



Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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