We live in a world that has 12 Assassin’s Creed games, 19 Call of Duty titles, and what feels like millions of Final Fantasy experiences. Originality can be a bit tough to come by. As a result, I am often on the lookout for refreshing, new ideas. When I first saw trailers for Drake Hollow, I was excited by the idea of being transported to a different world in order to care for a race of cute, little, plant-like creatures and fight off hordes of vile monsters. I was starting to worry that it might be too similar to the plethora of indie survival games, with its focus on crafting and base building, but I can gladly say that The Molasses Flood’s latest game is exceptionally fun and delightfully original.
You began by using a wonderful character creator before being dropped right into the game. After speaking with a mysterious crow that has the same taste in bling as Flavor Flav, you pluck your first Drake from the ground and head to your future campsite. You do some tutorials, pluck another Drake, do some crafting, and hours have passed before you know it.
There are several things that make Drake Hollow such an enjoyable new venture. The first of which is the little Drakes themselves. Protecting these veggie buddies is your main objective. You have to make sure they never get hungry, thirsty, or bored. Yes, that may make them sound like demanding, sprouty brats, but the game offers plenty of reasons to be a nurturing friend. There are several different types of Drakes that offer unique bonuses to your gameplay. This can range almost anywhere from reducing damage you take from enemies to coating your weapons in fire. As you traverse the world and gather resources, you’ll find special crystals for every type of Drake. Giving the correct gems to the correct Drakes causes your foliage friends to grow and the boosts they’ve given you to increase. If all of that isn’t enough to convince you to keep your Drakes alive, checking in on them periodically causes them to give you various gifts and resources. And, you know, the Drakes are ridiculously cute.
If their cuteness and their gifts are not enough motivation for you, blasting away baddies might be. There are plenty of creepy monsters that hope to destroy and/or feast on your collection of Drakes. Combating these dark creatures is similar to the method of fighting in last year’s Remnant: From the Ashes. The right trigger allows you to swing around one or two-handed weapons. These deliver a satisfying crunch due to some great sound effects and animation. If you hold the left rigger, any attack you deliver is then done through your equipped ranged weapon. There are plenty to choose from, but the shotgun is most definitely my favorite. Your opportunities to obliterate your enemies can be found on different islands as you explore the world to find resources and Drakes, but your campsite will also be periodically attacked by waves of increasing difficulty – difficulty that never feels too hard because of a super fun revival system.
If you fall in battle, you arrive at your camp as a spirit. You have the option to reconnect with your body at camp or run back to the spot where you were defeated. As simple as this sounds, the idea of running to rejoin with your body and recollect your dropped materials is wonderful fun. This is especially so since you can find your body, drag it a few feet away, revive yourself, heal up, and exact a perfect revenge on the beasts that stopped you. It’s only a great bonus that the revival system is fun, because exploring and looting islands is even better.
Crafting at the camp and caring for your Drakes will require a bunch of stuff. Typically, I am not the biggest fan of gathering large amounts of resources for crafting. I do not want to play video games to relive the exciting moments of creating a shopping list. Drake Hollow does not want you to do this either, so gathering materials is simple, easy, and cathartic. Smacking trees and cars does not take a thousand hits, and they drop enough materials that you will not have to do it for long. The best part, and I cannot stress this enough, is you can pick up items as you run past them. If you hold the X button while running through a pile of goods, they get vacuumed right into your generously spacious inventory. You do not have to stoop down and grab the items individually over and over and over, and I am eternally grateful.
The strength of Drake Hollow is in its primary gameplay loop. You pull some Drakes out of the ground and take them to camp. Oh, and they need food and water so you have to gather resources. That means you will have to explore and gather things and ooo… you found a new weapon while exploring! The next attack wave is happening back home soon. Better get there to try out the weapon and then you can adventure a little further out… and blammo. You are immediately sucked in, and eager to play more.
Drake Hollow from The Molasses Flood may not be out in the wild yet, but the game already feels amazing. Its wonderful visuals, stellar combat, and addictive gameplay are more than enough to have me eagerly awaiting the full release on Xbox One and PC (both Windows 10 and Steam) on July 17th 2020.