Ever wonder what happens when you walk into that one out-of-place door in the woods when no one’s around? That’s what Drake Hollow looks to answer, and it doesn’t go the way most people would expect it. The premise of Drake Hollow seems almost like a horror game, but upon seeing the style and gameplay you’d realize it’s anything but. From colorful environments to animal and plant friends, Drake Hollow’s cast and setting is really upbeat for being an eldritch alternate dimension. Drake Hollow is set in a magical world populated with friendly animals and plants and crazy looking abomination enemies.
The environment is actually really cool for what this world is meant to be. Since the world has fallen into disarray, there’s this melding of modern buildings and broken down highways with swaths of green land and tainted thorn patches. It plays very well into what they’re going for, and sets the mood right. My main concern was the framerate dropping in the opening cutscene and playable world, but that was remedied as soon as I traveled to Drake Hollow. I feel like the enemies were designed to directly contrast the mystic look of the world by being very stand-out in their black and red color scheme, which makes them incredibly easy to identify when exploring and searching for supplies. Notifications like their attack warnings also stick out against the environment, making combat pretty easy to manage.
The gameplay in Drake Hollow unfortunately doesn’t go as deep as I had hoped for on seeing the genre of game it is. The combat, while the swings are pretty responsive, is super bare bones. Light and heavy melee weapons, block and dodge, some ranged weapons, that’s about it. The combat is alright at the start, but as you start fighting more and more enemies and need to dodge around, the lack of lock on and combat specializations is apparent. After more than an hour of fighting enemies as you explore and find new items, it gets rather stale. This isn’t aided by the fact that there are raids on your home base, in which you return to fight waves of the same enemies while they attack what you’ve built. To speak on the building a bit, Drake Hollow is mostly a camp building and defense experience. While you’re encouraged to explore and find more drakes to bring home, your immediate attention should be on the drakes you already have. If you’re not tending to them, they can die from malnutrition or quite literally boredom. The base building is fine too, but it’s nothing spectacular. You start with the bare minimum, only enough to provide a little bit of space for the drakes to eat and sleep. As you rank up your camp by finding more drakes and maturing the ones you have, you unlock more recipes that can be used to build better upgrades for the camp. The real issue here is being wary of invasions, since as you adventure you’d have to run or teleport back to your camp to fight off the enemies, then go all the way back to where you were. It keeps you on your toes, but is arguably more annoying when you’re really far from your camp and need to run all the way back to where you were. Teleportation and waypoints can remedy this, but these are investments in themselves, and being away from camp is a risk to your drakes and your buildings at base.
While Drake Hollow is a fun concept with a lighthearted cast and enough of a story to keep you moving through the quests, it fails at being anything more than a base building time sink with a very basic gameplay and combat loop. Automation and building a base can be fun, but when the exploration and combat feel so underdone it gets more tedious to gather materials than anything else. The environment can be very relaxing and it is really sweet to see your drakes mature and your camp grow in order to save the world you’re in, but if you’re not invested after the first hour or so you’d be hard pressed to continue the journey. I’m looking forward to some updates to combat hopefully and to explore around in the sandbox mode. This seems like a fun game to set up a camp and play with friends in the sandbox mode, not necessarily a long-form campaign experience.
Score: 7 out of 10
Reviewed on Xbox One