When first faced with a game described as a mix between an adventure game and an RPG, I found myself thinking that the description might be almost unnecessary. Doesn’t the roleplaying genre actually include a lot of the big elements of adventure games already? With that attitude, I was quite surprised when Driftmoon quickly became something more than an RPG, or at least your average modern one. With interesting mouse controls, tons of text, and some real puzzles, the game really sets itself apart, while still sticking to some classic tropes that work.
You start out by being summoned back to your home-town by your father, but before you can find him, your mother pushes you into a well. Then the entire village gets turned to stone and dad gets kidnapped. Crazier things happen as the game goes on. The world expands, as does the story, with a grand villain being revealed. Allies also come along, as you form a party to try to save the world.
That whole narrative is done in a really good, balanced way. That balance lies between being serious and cracking jokes, as there is a ton of humor packed in the game. Good stuff too. The dialog is well written, as are all the other things to read as you play through the game. Ancient tomes, letters, and wall markings add additional context to the world and actually provide information, often vital to important quests. There is simply a lot of words packed into Driftmoon, whether they be in history books or in the what must be the hundreds of one-liners coming from you and your party members.
So, what about the gameplay? Any good? Well, for those who are more combat-focused, those who want a real tactical experience, this may not be the thing for you. Combat is more “Hit enemy with stick/bow. Queue up special moves to hit for bigger damage/with bigger range/with a stun on top”. There is some challenge to combat in higher difficulty, but it comes more from preparation than any in-combat decision-making. The game has you build a character, with stats, skill-points and with items. Nothing too uncommon. The crafting system is pretty simple: buy or find recipes, click ’em to turn ingredients into things. The number of items you can craft and find leads to a few distinct ways to build your character.
Companions will automatically assist you in your fights, although you can equip them with new items as well. It may, however, not be the smartest idea in the world to give your best loot to others, as your helpers change at the whims of the story. They are generally interesting though: an energetic firefly, a self-absorbed cat, a potential love interest?
The other half of gameplay, puzzle solving, is something that impressed me throughout Driftmoon. There are a good deal of real puzzles in the game, well built into the world. If I’m to be honest though, the reason I enjoyed them so much was their ability to be solved. When it’s not immediately obvious as to how to progress, you can often get assistance from a nearby NPC, or find the answer in one of the aforementioned pieces of writing scattered around the world. People who enjoy extremely frustrating puzzles may not find what they are looking for, but personally, I was taken aback at the solving of puzzles being one of my favorite parts of a game.
So, I’ve alienated two separate hardcore audiences so far, haven’t I? Thing is, the last thing I’d describe Driftmoon as is hardcore. It is, in the best possible sense of the word, light. It has a very friendly atmosphere to it, and while I still think a lot of “true gamers” will love the game, it would also make an excellent first ever RPG for someone. The mechanics, while allowing for a lot of fun, are all simple. The crafting, the character building, the combat—all done in an easy to understand point-and-click style.
The game is easy to get into, and it’s easier still to get absorbed by its world, not for its so-so visuals but for its extremely well-done writing. It could have been a little longer, being maybe 15 hours long with all its side-content. There is also some modding support, a few having been made so far. But the base game, costing you $15, has good value in my book, and still would, even if time spent were a good way to look at the value of games in the first place. If you don’t mind a level of simplicity, or some great walls of text, and want a light, fun adventure, Driftmoon is an excellent game you may come to love as I now do.