Drake Hollow Preview
Sometimes taking an effective idea and adding just a splash of inspiration can do wonders for developing a new and compelling concept. At the beginning of The Molasses Flood’s latest title, Drake Hollow, I immediately noticed some similarities between it and the original Fortnite. Not the battle royale mode everyone is now obsessed with, but the original wave-based survival game that initially put Fortnite on the map. The characters have that same semi-cartoonish charm, the world is full of breakable and salvageable content, and you are tasked with crafting and creating from the ground up. While so far it might seem generic, Drake Hollow adds its own splashes to the survival model and creates something much more captivating.
The game begins with a short montage revealing your life is, unfortunately, not going so well. A strange crow appears and pleads for your help, asking you to step through an odd but unassuming doorway in the middle of the forest. Transported into a new world, you are tasked with helping the painfully adorable Drakes overcome the invasive feral shadow creatures. While Drake Hollow is definitely a survival-focused game, it’s more about your Drakes than you as a player. These adorable little seed-like creatures need to have a place to sleep, food to eat, and water to drink. They each have their own individual meters of needs and as the game begins it is pretty easy to keep them happy; heck, they even forage for their own food near the camp!
Loving These Drakes
Like any survival game, exploration is key. There are plenty of places to look around and whack with whatever random weapon you find to collect supplies and building materials. The environment was refreshing and more than a little ominous as I discovered abandoned houses and cars full of useful items like duct tape, sticks, and juice boxes. The build menu did a good job of slowly unlocking the tech tree but if I didn’t already have experience with this sort of interface it would definitely be more than a little overwhelming to a new player. That helpful crow sits at the camp to keep you on track with your goals, but there isn’t much else in the way of advice or guidance that Drake Hollow offers.
Surrounding the islands that dot the map is a large mist filled with dangerous thorns. Entering the mist unprepared will kill you pretty quickly, but there is a simple item you can craft that gives you roughly 15 seconds of protection; enough time to run to the next island. Probably my favorite feature during my time with the game is how it handles supply chains and a quasi-fast travel system. I encountered vans packed full of goods with a crystal on top. These crystals can be connected to craftable waypoint markers with a brilliant beam of purple energy. As long as this beam exists, you can grind along it at high speeds, avoiding the mist below and getting back to your camp in seconds if you build a strong enough network.
I connected numerous islands this way, but the feral creatures are able to destroy your waypoint towers, so it’s best to clear an island first and make sure they don’t respawn before building your tower. Speaking of feral creatures, the evil and shadowy monsters come in a decent variety and make for some pretty engaging combat. Melee and ranged weapons are both available and easy to switch between on the fly, and luckily your character is not squishy. While this is a survival game, facing off against two or three beasts at one time is easy to overcome, but if you are swarmed prepare to die quickly. Upon death, you have the option of returning as a ghost and tracking down your body or respawning at camp – albeit missing a number of the items you carried. Being able to return quickly to camp is of the utmost importance. Food and water supplies will begin to dwindle fast and you need to resupply the Drakes you rescue. The waypoint towers are a great option, as is a craftable consumable to return instantly. There will occasionally be raids at the hands of the feral creatures on your camp but you get plenty of notice its coming. In fact, defeating feral creatures while out in the wild extends how much time you have before the raid happens, so I never felt too rushed to return.
This did however present a problem of frequency. If I have 10 minutes before a raid and I am 7 islands away, I can try to explore further and push my luck or race back to the camp. If I get there with time to spare I could build a few defenses but otherwise, I found myself idling for a few minutes waiting for something to happen. I wouldn’t mind an option to force the raid to happen when I was ready. To unlock the tech tree you need to turn your Drakes into adults. Adults consume more supplies. After a few hours into the game, I found myself more than a little stressed at trying to explore further for supplies but constantly needing to return to fight raids. I ended up using the Magpie – your shopkeeper – constantly just to buy the bare necessities to keep the Drakes alive or craft the next building, only to find I was starting to sacrifice necessary gear to make it work. Maybe this is intentional or I missed some supplies along the way that would have helped me out, but I hope either more supplies are abundant in the game or the Magpie’s prices drop sharply because it is a steep cost.
Drake Hollow looks to take the survival gameplay of the original Fortnite experience and merge it with free exploration and protecting adorable creatures. Combat feels responsive and survivable if you play smart. I love the exploration and the waypoint system is an absolute blast. My only concern is the lack of food and supplies later in the stage and the very slim instructions on keeping your Drakes fed. The planter for growing food is great, but it runs out too quickly, and the constant back and forth due to raids – as well as waiting for it to begin – feel unnecessary and detract from the exploration I so desperately crave. There is so much potential here for a truly addictive experience, it just needs a few minor tweaks to become THE game you can’t put down.
**PC code provided by the publisher**
Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.