"Hyper Light Drifter" dev's new game continues the studio's distinctive style

Solar Ash Kingdom

It doesn't appear to be a sequel to the neon-drenched Zelda-like, but could it exist in the same world?

Hyper Light Drifter was one of the pleasanter surprises of 2016. Elusive, sensitive and adrenaline-pumpingly difficult, Heart Machine’s attractive Zelda-like is right up there with the likes of Undertale, Pony Island and Shovel Knight on my list of favourite indie games.

As such, it’s particularly exciting that the studio has recently released a teaser trailer for its sophomore game; a 3D adventure game titled Solar Ash Kingdom.

Though impressive for its gorgeous sense of world design, Hyper Light Drifter was truly impressive in offering a fresh, empathetic subversion of the incorruptible hero trope. It used spine-tingling difficulty and elusive narrative techniques to effect the isolation of a protagonist battling against overwhelming internal and external forces; a struggle that was later revealed by Heart Machine creator, Alex Preston, to have been inspired by his experiences with congenital heart disease.

Watching the teaser (which was released by IGN yesterday), it’s clear that Heart Machine is honing the distinctive visual style used in Hyper Light Drifter into one of its hallmarks as a developer.Like Hyper Light Drifter, it has a rich, neon-drenched colour scheme, and overlooks a series of deserted civilisations while curious beasts roam in the distance. Similarly again, the clash between technology and nature looks to feature heavily as a theme in Solar Ash Kingdom.

With this said, it’s also plain to see that the developer isn’t interested in merely offering a mere Hyper Light Drifter follow-up. While Hyper Light Drifter was a 2D, top down adventure title, Solar Ash Kingdom comprises a 3D-rendered world.

As for its protagonist? They might be described as next-of-kin to Hyper Light’s caped wanderer: a nimble, masked loner who can glide effortlessly through environments using what looks like a pair of light-spewing Chuck Taylors.

Our main adventurer is also introduced plummeting through masses of minty green cloud before landing in Solar Ash Kingdom’s vibrant environments, which makes it look like the game might have a more linear progression than its open-world predecessor. Moreover, the game's official website states that the game will contain "wild high-speed traversal", which sounds like there could be some runner elements. 

The few beasts on show here, though, definitely look in line with Hyper Light's enemies – one being a huge, tentacular egg-plant with one glaring, Sauron-like eye. Though the game doesn't seem to be a sequel, could they exist within the same universe?

And indeed, the game has so far been warmly received by Heart Machine fans, with several praising its slight hero and gorgeous environments.

 

 

It’s currently unknown when the game is likely to release, and some of the teaser’s animations give off the impression that the game is still in its early development phases. According to IGN, though, Preston said the studio would employ “a whole new set of incredible tech and key innovations” in Solar Ash Kingdom, and would continue to tell its stories through its world, characters and gameplay.

In the wake of a game that still feels as fresh as Hyper Light Drifter, expectations for innovation in Solar Ash Kingdom are rather quite high indeed.

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