Hyper Light Breaker

Preview: Hyper Light Breaker

During Summer Game Fest, I spent a half-hour sitting with Heart Machine’s upcoming roguelike Hyper Light Breaker last week and felt good about what I saw during my demo.

Hyper Light Breaker is a departure from its predecessors, acting as a roguelike rather than a platformer or RPG. In Hyper Light Breaker,  you’ll face a procedurally generated experience, giving you a completely different level each time you die.

Hyper Light Breaker’s Got Some Incredible Ideas

My demo began with developer Heart Machine breaking down what to expect when I head into the Overgrowth, the world you’ll explore later this year in Early Access. I had access to three of the characters seen in the trailers: Lapis, Vermillion, and Goro. I played with all three characters, but the Tanooki-inspired character caught my eye. I was also informed that Hyper Light Breaker is set decades before Drifter.

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Shortly after picking my character, I was told to head up an elevator and speak to the locals with an assortment of weapons for me to purchase. As I entered the Cursed Outpost (the main settlement/hub area), I was torn between a cool sword and another brutish-looking heavy gun, a chain-saw on a pole. I was also given enough money from the developers to pick up a few shotguns and rifles to round out my arsenal, but not before Heart Machine said to check out a third vendor for a list of holobytes.

The demo presented a few options for my loadout, including the blades, guns, and Amps, which are ultimate attacks you can utilize. Weapons are sorted by type and colour-coded by rarity, with hyper being the rarest. I had access to a few of these during my demo, and they offered more benefits and a lot more power than their counterparts of lesser colour.

Weapons would also be paired with holobytes, which the developer says are modifiers that generally shake up the gameplay by increasing health, adding precious seconds to movesets, extra points to strength, better armour buffs, etc. I was a bit overwhelmed by how many options were available. Still, after a few minutes of learning the respective descriptions, I was a lot more comfortable selecting the right holobytes for my passive and active holobyte slots.

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I was now ready to head into the Overgrowth, a new realm per the developers and the first fully 3D entry in the series, filled with tons of biomes, dangers, and relics of the past. I was told to cleanse the land in the Overgrowth to recover lost memories. These memories are told via a panel you can view, which helps fill out the world’s backstory. The ones I viewed didn’t provide much context, but I was told they would be crucial to making sense of everything happening.

The potential is there for a massive hit for Heart Machine

On the map, I was told to look for specific crown icons. These are the stronger enemies you’ll face that have the items needed to move forward. The Crowns are tough opponents that will make you use all the tools in your arsenal to succeed. They are more challenging than any of the other enemies you’ll encounter. The first boss was the notorious nasty wolf-like monster named Exus. I had to defeat the Elites who held the keys to the Crown Gates to reach it. Although the demo only required one key, you needed five to complete the task, but they are marked on the map, so you can pick one of the several available and make your way there.

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I was immediately told to use my glider and hoverboard to move across the map. With the tap of R2/RT, you can tap a face button to boost your hoverboard, which will be essential to getting around the Overgrowth. I learned that you can also use R2/RT to climb walls. It isn’t an indefinite ability, but it comes in handy when you wish to move over walls in your way.

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Combat feels good, but it has some concessions

Movement feels good in Hyper Light Breaker and pairs well with combat. Enemies on the map can be easy to dispatch or a nightmare. You have your standard light and heavy attacks available, as well as the use of your ranged weapon. During my demo, I noticed and asked the team whether a downward strike would be available in the future. As the combat had enemies in the air, I felt I could quickly jump and strike down. I was told no, that wasn’t something at the moment, which was a bit of a letdown because when combat is in motion, and everything begins to connect, it feels lovely and has a lot of momentum.

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The primary focus is exploration, and experiencing the Overgrowth is a significant component of Hyper Light Breaker. Combat is crucial to surviving, but so is understanding the world, its dangers, and ways to navigate through trouble. Additionally, in combat, parrying is recommended and often necessary as it allows you to mitigate damage that would otherwise clear your health bar. I was reminded a few times of this after struggling to defeat a group of enemies. However, being mindful of the timing and then nailing it was a beautiful ending to coming up against a mob of monsters out to get me. You can even earn bonuses like reflected projectiles or dealt stagger damage to enemies. If you’re struggling at first, there’s also a dodge button to avoid taking damage until you’re more familiar with controls.

Lastly, the stagger mechanic is worth mentioning, as each enemy in-game has a stagger bar, and you fill up their meter by attacking them. When the stagger bar fills, the enemy is more vulnerable to finishers and provides items like batteries to restore your ranged weapons if victorious.

I spent around half the time with the demo, messing with various builds and seeing what I could do with my character. I left the booth feeling good about what I saw and thought it confirmed my early access expectations.

Heart Machine is developing a great game, and it has the necessary building blocks to succeed with excellent art direction, exciting builds, tons of mystery, and a ton of personality to match. While I walked away eager to play more, I was happy to know it would launch soon in Early Access.

 Wishlist it here.