Driftland: The Magic Revival is a fresh take on real-time strategy games by combining the genre's typical features with that of the god game genre. The game was recently released on Steam Early Access.
In Driftland: The Magic Revival players are a Mage Overlord as they start out with their own castle on a small floating island.
They must use their unique powers to explore a procedurally generated world by connecting islands with bridges so that their population can explore, conquer and gather resources to expand their kingdom.
The game provides an interesting and aesthetically pleasing intro cinematic that explains pretty much everything players have to know to understand why the game is all about conquering small floating islands.
After a devastating war between ancient mages, a powerful spell is all that holds the shattered planet of Driftland together.
Faced with the destruction of all life on the planet, including their entire civilization, the warring factions called a truce and tried to repair the damage - but it was already too late. Using all of their remaining magical powers to cast a powerful spell they were able to keep their world in relative balance.
While Driftland: The Magic Revival is advertised as a 4X strategy game (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate), the main focus of the game is gathering resources and managing them in order to expand your kingdom.
As such, players will be inclined to explore new islands to exploit them for resources until there are none left. As players gather resources they will encounter seemingly random enemy forces that either appear from the mists or make their way to one of your islands via a portal.
These enemy forces will attempt to destroy the buildings that players use to gather island resources with. Recruiting knights via the Knights Garrison building allows players to combat these forces.
Player also have access to several different spells, including revealing unexplored terrain, moving islands closer to build bridges, cast fireballs, create portals, and heal your population. These skills provide another layer of strategy but still seem to be rather underexposed in the build we played.
Because islands are always procedurally generated players will find that every playthrough is different. This is largely because island resources will differ each time.
This means that the first playthrough could prove to be rather difficult because initial resources may not be what you would want them to be while a second playthrough may be a walk in the park.
The real strategy element comes into play when you build your marketplace buildings. The marketplace is where you can convert the resources you have gathered into other resources you may desperately need to expand your kingdom.
For example, you may find yourself conquering neighbouring islands that mostly provide stone and wood, meaning the only gold income is that of your population. This issue can be remedied with the marketplace.
With the marketplace players can convert one type of resource into another. It features different convertion ratios per resource type that dictate how much you get in return for converting a specific resource.
Players who are overzealous and convert too much of their gathered resources will ultimately pay the price as the game progresses because they will need different resources as time goes on.
While the game's singleplayer mode seems to be rather forgiving in the build that we played, the marketplace will have a lasting impact on multiplayer matches once the upcoming multiplayer game mode makes its way to Early Access.
Multiplayer is also where the game is expected to shine. The singleplayer mode is fun, but playing against real players is expected to be a night and day difference. Its simplicity makes it easy to pick up which will likely result in very engaging multiplayer matches.
Multiplayer is also expected to provide a better end game, namely conquering islands of your rivals until they have lost their entire kingdom. In the current singleplayer mode the end game is the same, but due to the nature of playing against AI it is a lot more underwhelming.
Visuals & soundtrack
The game features detailed visuals that makes it aesthetically pleasing for both players and viewers. Its fantasy setting allows for some pretty creative effects and artwork. Watching the peaceful floating islands that you have conquered is simply awe-inspiring and soothing.
Some buildings will change appearance based on the amount of resources you have gathered with them or based on their respective upgrade levels.
As players explore new terrain they will also come across several different biomes that each feature their own set of problems and resources. Gathering resources in these areas may provide to be rather difficult as production is often decreased by 50 percent.
The detailed visuals are topped off with a soundtrack that does its job. However, it doesn't feature enough variety to make it stand out. Perhaps this is expected for a game that is still in its Early Access development phase, but, despite that, I still hope to hear more diverse tracks in the future.
Driftland: The Magic Revival can be considered one of the indie surprises of this year. Its fresh take on real-time strategy games combined with gorgeous visuals and artwork sets this game apart from other strategy games released this year.
Even though the multiplayer component is still in development, the game has the potential to become one of the more popular online real-time strategy games because of its intuitive and simplistic strategic elements that make the game incredibly easy to pick up.
At its current $19.99 Early Access price tag the game delivers decent value and will easily provide 10 to 15 hours of fun depending on how easily players are sucked into its resource management gameplay.
The game is expected to stay in Early Access for the next 6 to 12 months as the development studio behind the game continues to add new features. The full retail version is expected to feature several different campaigns, four races and a multiplayer mode.