Build a beautiful empire of floating islands in Driftland

Driftland: The Magic Revival is a fantasy strategy game about expanding an empire across a range of floating islands. You build farms, houses and mines to exploit each island's resources and keep on bridging outwards until you clash with the elves and dwarfs that share the map with you. 

It's in Early Access at the moment, but Driftland is already a beautiful and absorbing resource management game with some light bursts of war to break things up. The building is fun, but my favourite part is the way you can manipulate the islands before you even venture into the structures menu. If you spot an island that's too far away for your bridges to reach, you can cast a magic spell and reposition the island so it's next to your territory. The islands drift lazily into place, lancing nearby islands with bolts of electricity until they settle. Later, once you have upgraded your settlement, you can magic islands out of thin air. There's a spiral of purple energy and then—plop!—a fully formed chunk of rock ready to be occupied and mined.

The position of islands matters because structures that are further away from your central base have higher upkeep cost. If you build too many settlements on the fringes of your kingdom, you risk crashing your economy. Your income depends on the number of citizens you have, and where you direct them to work. A simple slider system at the top left of the screen lets you commit citizens to farm, generate gold, or mine. You spend a lot of time slightly tweaking these sliders to keep your resource numbers in a nice green surplus.

When you do eventually meet other factions on the map some fighting has to happen, but Driftlands is a game about making strategic gestures rather than giving precise orders. Instead of controlling your knights and wizards directly you plant a raid flag to encourage them to mobilise. Your warriors eventually mob up and storm the place of their own accord, though you can throw some gold behind the order to get them moving faster. 

The troop upgrades you can buy at blacksmith buildings and wizard towers are distributed in a haphazard manner. Heroes saunter past and pick them up as they please. The same is true for mounts. If you find a dragon lair you can give an order for one high-level hero to go and ride one, if they can be bothered. You might forget you've given the order until, ten minutes later, one of your little people is happily riding around on one.

I enjoy the hands-off war management because it plays to Driftland's strengths. It's a gentle gardening game where you nurture a city into existence, lassoing new districts with magic as you expand. The lack of micromanagement also lets you concentrate on casting magic spells. You can fireball bridges and then steal islands from other factions, or carve up an enemy force with a lightning storm, or a tornado, or both. It's an odd mashup of Populus, Dungeon Keeper and Warcraft in a colourful setting, and it's well polished for an Early Access game. 

At the moment there are four playable races that you can take into skirmish mode vs. the AI. Four 'intertwining' campaigns are being worked on, in addition to balance work and multiplayer support. It's too early to tell whether there will be significantly different playstyles or strategies you can develop across the four factions, but Driftlands is a pleasant, low-stress little strategy project with a lot of potential.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.