Hyper Light Drifter was Heart Machine's first video game, and was the first look into the fictional universe that Solar Ash also occupies. It is a science fiction top-down view pixel art video game with cyberpunk-like color aestethics, hack and slash mechanics inspired by both The Legend of Zelda in terms of trajectory and with very strict dodging mechanics reminiscent (but not inspired by) Dark Souls.
In Hyper Light Drifter, the player takes control of a character referred to as "the Drifter," a blue humanoid, seemingly of an outcast race, possibly artificial, who has been taken by a terminal disease and is searching for a cure. Meanwhile he gets visions of a dark entity known as Judgement, as well of a jackal or Anubis-like deity who guides the Drifter through the post-apocalyptic, war-ravaged continent to find and destroy Judgement, which fester below the ground in the form of a kind of artificial intelligence computer chip that still corrupts the Land of Light, the continent that the game is set on. There are allusion to the fact that the people of the world, most of which are anthropomorphized animals, created Judgement in their search for immortality, and wound up at war with one another, as well as allusions to giant titans, both organic and artificial ones, being involved in the war or cataclysmic event that destroyed the world. Playing as the Drifter, the player also collects ancient weapon technology. There are other beings in the world who are called "drifters," being an occupation born by nomadic people who explore the world and collect ancient technologies. Many of the drifters the player character encounters have the disease as well.
The game was a very personal project for Preston, as he is suffering from a chronical congenital heart disease that could take his life at any moment, so he decided to let Hyper Light Drifter be his mark in the video game industry, making video games having always been a dream for him. Because of living with this disease, disease and searching for a cure, as well as immortality and death, are major themes in the game's story. Inspired by his life with congenital heart disease, Preston also made sure to include a lot of imagery relating to the human heart. The company's name, Heart Machine, is also an alussion to Preston's heart disease.
The game's story is delivered very subtly and vaguely, with still images in place of spoken or written dialogue, although it's implied by alien text speech bubbles that the beings of the continent the story takes place on do have a shared language. The lore and worldbuilding is also conveyed through the landscapes, with scenes of battle, broken items and large dead titans and more. There are also monoliths that can be found and activated, which bears alien text that can be deciphered outside the game and tells some of the game's lore and worldbuilding more clearly, yet still in a cryptic manner. To this day, Preston claims that there are still elements of the story that fans have not figured out.
The game was funded by a Kickstarter in September of 2013 and developed by Heart Machine with Alx Preston as lead dev and lead designer. The game was released on Windows PC in 2016, and in 2017 on consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch, the latter version having some new content added to it. It was also ported to iOS in 2018.
The game's soundtrack was scored by Disasterpeace, also known as Rich Vreeland, who is also the composer on Solar Ash. The game's sound design was created by Akash Thakkar, with some involvement from Vreeland as well.
Read more on the Hyper Light Drifter Wiki: http//hyperlightdrifter.fandom.com