If the combination of third-person combat, open-world exploration, and base-building sounds like a good time to you then you’ll thoroughly enjoy Drake Hollow. With its adorable turnip village creatures, engaging gameplay loop, and simple-yet-beautiful art direction, it has become one of my favorite games to play in 2020. Unfortunately, one large flaw in the endgame holds it back from true excellence.
The magic behind Drake Hollow is its gameplay loop of exploring the procedurally-generated open world for supplies, crafting and building up a village, and then defending it from enemy attacks before doing it all again. Each of these three gameplay pillars are robust and filled with depth. The world is filled with interesting places to explore ranging from calm, peaceful meadows to deadly wastelands enveloped in an eerie purple mist. Enemies can often be found patrolling, so you’ll have to be cautious — bold players can get some extra loot by killing them, though.
Once you’ve got the supplies you need, you then head to villages populated by Drakes, small turnip people who need you to help feed, water, entertain, and defend them. The base-building mechanics in Drake Hollow work largely like Fallout 4’s settlement building, as you’ll be snapping structures together in order to form residential areas or defensive positions. There are tons of different structures to build, and as the village Drakes grow over time, they’ll assist you in maintaining the town.
Lastly, when enemies eventually arrive to raid the village, Drake Hollow takes a combat-focused spin as you defend the Drakes. The combat is pretty simple, consisting of your basic light/heavy attacks and blocks, but the fact that you can wield anything from a tennis racket to a flaming axe means that there’s plenty of different weapons to master. Fans of ranged combat need not worry, either, thanks to the availability of things like bows and nailguns. Once you’ve defeated all the enemies, you’ll need to scavenge for more supplies and make necessary repairs before the next attack, returning the focus back to world exploration. It’s a satisfying gameplay loop that kept me engaged for hours, and it’s even more fun with friends. You can play with up to three other people, giving Drake Hollow great co-op potential.
On top of the awesome gameplay structure, Drake Hollow’s presentation is also stellar. The Drakes themselves nearly steal the show entirely with their adorable animations and facial expressions, but the world itself is also very pleasant on the eyes too. Drake Hollow’s artistic style is very soft and colorful, and thanks to the game’s changing seasons, the world rotates between four different atmospheres, adding variety.
In addition to the visuals, Drake Hollow’s soundtrack is also wonderful. As you explore the world or build up your village, soft and mellow tracks filled with melodic pianos and violins play. When the action starts, rock guitars, synths, and a healthy amount of bass provide a backdrop for the hack-and-slash fun.
What you’ll love less about Drake Hollow
My only issue with Drake Hollow is, unfortunately, a large one: the endgame experience feels way too stressful. This is because as your village grows, the amount of resources needed to keep it running smoothly and to keep it repaired increase. In the late game, it feels near-impossible to get your village back to full strength before another raid. This makes the late-game experience significantly less enjoyable since you’re never able to catch your breath. It’s an issue that’s mitigated by co-op play since you can commit more manpower to supply runs, but solo it’s really frustrating.
Should you buy Drake Hollow?
While the endgame frustrations of Drake Hollow do hamper the fun quite a bit, it doesn’t change the fact that the overall experience is awesome. Drake Hollow’s gameplay loop of explore-build-defend is engaging and addictive, and the charming presentation of the game is great too.
I recommend picking up Drake Hollow even more if you’re looking for something fun to play with friends. The potential for good co-op fun with this game is excellent.
Drake Hollow is available now for $30 on Xbox One. It will be available on Steam at a later date.