Driftmoon is the fantasy adventure RPG recently released by Instant Kingdom. This small, humble title tries to bring something refreshing merriment to the RPG scene. Put away your angst ridden mages and androgynous swordsmen and make a party with some of the strangest oddballs ever to grace fantasy video gaming.
Driftmoon begins when you receive a letter from his father, Winston, urgently asking for you to come to his alchemy lab. When you arrive at the village your mother runs up to you and suddenly pushes you down a well. When you wake up and find your way out everyone has been turned to stone except one apprentice and a talking hermit crab. After seeking our your father’s workshop you find that he is missing and thus you embark of a quest to save him from his captors and find the gems of a powerful amulet that Rakan lizardmen and their undead masters are seeking.
The quest is on the linear side. You fast travel between the different locations on the world map, with no areas in between them. The locations can be quite large, set in open wildernesses, villages, dungeons, and monasteries. Aside from the main quest, each location in Driftmoon will also contain a number of side-quests. Many of these will be linked in with the main quest and can be completed in tandem. Some however will sidetrack you and take you to areas not related to the main quest.
The game is set in the land of Driftmoon, a merry place full of tropical features and valleys. The world as rather Discworld vibe to it, with every aspect full of humour and wit. This is perhaps the most enjoyable element of the game. In the modern era of RPGs which constantly try to make us feel oppressed and gloomy, like Dragon Age or The Witcher, Driftmoon is here to put the fantastic back into fantasy. Driftmoon’s narrative never takes itself too seriously, and as a result we get to meet a host of warm, likeable characters who aid us alongside some silly, ineffectual villains who can make us crack a smile. Even in the more dangerous moment of your adventure, Driftmoon does not hesitate to toss a joke or a ludicrous pun your way. There is plenty of strange and wonderful spectacles to experience, where the rules of cool and funny take command.
Along your adventure to protect Driftmoon from evil undead and lizardmen you get to team up with bumbling apprentices, balding blacksmiths, a friendly firefly, and a fearsome, egotistical panther. While the cast might not match up to Skyrim in numbers, there is a great deal of connection between many of the characters you meet. Often you might find some stranger you met knew a character you meet later in the quest, and everything feels interwoven nicely.
Despite the happy tone of story, Driftmoon has its fair share of plot twists and even some shocking and sad moments. I found these moments carried more impact in Driftmoon’s colourful world than in something like Dragon Age or the Elder Scrolls. Along your journey you even get offered some difficult choices that can effect you, your companions, and other NPCs in the world. Several quests offer alternative endings where you can choose to help someone or just callously kill them and be on your way.
Driftmoon features a simple point and click style of combat. The mechanics are easy to grasp, and those familiar with deeper systems might find themselves getting bored. There are also a few frustrations abound, like how enemies who use projectile attacks with kite backwards at the same speed as your character moving forwards. There is also an abundance of poison in the game and taking a lot of damage without expecting it is common. Health potions are purchasable from merchants and can be found lying around the world, but there is no vast number of them.
Crafting exists in the form of blueprints. Once you obtain a blueprint for a certain object, you can craft any number of them so long as you have enough of the materials necessary. The blueprints and materials get their own inventory separate from the main bag, so you never have to shift through dozens of plants and salt to get to your weapons.
As your character advances through the levels you can upgrade your stats which include strength, agility, intelligence, the a few others. Hovering over these skills will tell you in clear terms what they will improve. You can also spend points on a handful of skills. Each has level requirements and each can also be upgraded several times to advanced level and mastery level. Skills include special melee attacks, enhancements to archery, and the ability to summon magical and animal companions. Nothing new or difficult to understand, and veteran RPG players might even find it lacking. For the size of Driftmoon however, the skills suffice.
Naturally, you will encounter puzzles throughout your quest. Being a relatively short game compared to AAA RPGs, Driftmoon manages to avoid being repetitive with its puzzles and offer up some unique and brain-bending obstacles. Some puzzles involve solving riddles or dragging objects across a room using the mouse to balance weights. Solving these tasks provided a more entertaining experience than the simplistic combat. The way they are set out in the game reminded me of playing an old favourite of mine, Golden Sun.
One particularly interesting feature of Driftmoon worthy of mention is its modding support. From the opening menu the game you are given the option to browse through a selection of player made mods from total conversions to simple mods that let you play as a female character (the orginal game only allows you to play as a male character). They can all be installed from the in-game menu easily. This means there is plenty of room for creative people to add even more value to this game with new quests and worlds, or just a few funny additions. You can sort through them by date updated, highest rated, or most popular, with information given about how large the mod is and how many times it has been downloaded.
Perhaps it is just the sense of nostalgia as you play, but Driftmoon is a joyful game that is certain to put a smile on your face. As someone who is tried of grim RPGs who insist on throwing in ham-fisted racism and politics in a desperate bid to seem more mature I very much appreciated the direction Driftmoon takes, and wish other fantasy games would go the way of wit and humour.
Driftmoon is currently available from gog.com for $14.99, gamersgate for $11.95, and desura for $10.99. You can also buy it from the developer’s website at http://www.instantkingdom.com/driftmoon/ where you can also find a free demo to try before buying. The game can also be found on Steam Greenlight if you want to help this title find its way onto steam.
(Images taken from instantkingdom.com)