The blurb for Alkemi's Drifting Lands says it "defies genre conventions" by "blending the intense combat of shmup gameplay with the freedom of ARPG-style character progression ... to create a new style of action game." That's not immediately apparent in the new release date reveal trailer, which comes out of the gate hard on the shmup side of things, but eventually it gets there.
Drifting Lands offers three different classes of ships, which can be customized with 70 active and passive powers, upgradeable stats, and gear looted in battle that includes "unique items with 'game changer' powers." Missions are randomly generated to help ensure replayability, and if that's enough to keep you interested, there are 100 levels of difficulty to work through too.
Alkemi said the appeal of Drifting Lands is "trying out new combos of skills, looting for better gear, and perfecting your build as you play, not memorizing enemy patterns," and as a generally non-shmup kind of guy, that's tempting. I dig up-tempo music and plentiful explosions, but I have neither the eye nor the patience to get very far in conventional shmups. Being able to make meaningful progress through the game by building a better ship, rather than developing better twitch reflexes, is a legitimately attractive proposition.
Drifting Lands is available in Early Access on Steam for $19/£14/€19, and is set to launch in full on June 5. If you prefer to try before you buy (and who doesn't?), a free demo, with more reading and other such un-shmuppy activities than you probably expect, is also available, and really quite good.