A few days ago, Heart Machine released an world overview trailer for their upcoming roguelike, Hyper Light Breaker. It's a serene minute and a half of Breath of the Wild-style exploration—complete with a familiar-looking hangglider—and stylish action combat. What's sticking with me, however, is how good it's all looking, especially for an "open world game where you never return to the same world twice".
The original Hyper Light Drifter, released over seven years ago, had a keen eye for detail and atmosphere. It led you through a gorgeous pixelated post-apocalypse, one that was both beautiful and bleak, full of vibrancy and ruin. Everyone I know who has played Hyper Light Drifter has been marked by its aesthetics in some way, its art and soundscape sticking in their minds.
It's a tough act to follow, especially when you no longer have full control over the world's design. While Drifter was a bespoke action-RPG adventure, Breaker aims to be a roguelike where every world is unique. That once carefully-crafted world is now subject to randomisation, and it's doubtless presented new challenges for Heart Machine.
The trailer's made me optimistic they'll pull it off. The Acid Mire is moody and rain-soaked, the Shattered Fortress bleak and imposing. In one shot, a giant sword juts out of the earth in the distance, while another sees the player fight bosses in a crumbling chapel and a gladiator coliseum. An entirely randomised open-world risks being empty or nonsensical, but this footage suggests Breaker somehow retains the golden threads of Hyper Light Drifter's beloved handmade atmosphere.
In an interview with IGN, creative director Alx Preston says: "We've done a lot of work to make sure that our procedural generation has a lot of handcrafted elements in it," stressing an emphasis on creating a "robust, lived-in, open world." Those are some lofty promises, and I wish them luck, but I can't help but feel like I've heard these ambitions before, especially when those same developers get to hand-pick the shots included in these previews.
I'm impressed by what I've seen, though I'll have to wait until I get my hands on Hyper Light Breaker before I can make that call for certain. Hyper Light Breaker is set to release in fall 2023.