Jumping in to fantasy worlds is one of the many reasons I love gaming. Exploring the land, learning the magic, and uncovering history all bring a certain thrill. In Drake Hollow, I was certainly interested from the start. But how did the game pan out the longer I played?
Walking down a wooded path minding my own business, I encounter a crow. He indicates there is someone in need of help, and ask me to come with. I follow him up the hill to what looks like a door frame standing on it’s own. Red light glows all around. He says I must enter to reach the distressed party.
Instead of being forced into the door, Drake Hollow gives you the option to bypass it. I’m not sure what would have happened, but I did peak at the achievement list and [spoiler] there’s an easy one for not entering!
Entering the door transports me to another world, where I see the Crow again. After some conversation I find out the “person” in need of help is actually a group of vegetable creatures called Drakes. They are being tortured by evil-beings called Terminers, who seek to steal their magic.
It’s my job to defend the allied Drakes by warding of the Terminers. Doing so will allow me to go home. The crow gives me a few things to get started and away I go!
There is a LOT to learn early in Drake Hollow. Immediately I am tasked with gaining the trust of the few Drakes at my camp. The Drakes have been in hibernation for a long time avoiding the Terminers. So what better way to get them on my side than feed them?
I must feed and hydrate the Drakes, as well as providing a place to sleep and entertainment. Drakes can die not only from starvation or dehydration, but also fatigue and boredom. Lumber is a main crafting resource derived from trees, but there are also many unique ones. Juice Boxes, Shoe Laces, Duct Tape, and plenty of different plant wildlife all are used to craft
To obtain these resources I simply pick up a stick and start hitting things. Sticking to the first island, I scavenge the surrounding trees and bushes pretty quickly to build the required cooking cauldron, water well, thatchet bed, and a poppet.
The poppet is a toy the Drakes can play with, but is one-time use only. The same goes for the thatchet bed. The good news is upgrading these items as you upgrade your camp is useful (more on that later). The key is to provide enough of these materials to grow a stockpile and keep your Drakes alive.
Curio Crafting is another element, which give you ability to craft ammunition and magical skills. For example, Healing Salves will heal partial health quickly. Apparition Charms will allow you to transport back to camp if in a sticky situation. But you need resources to make them.
This is really where the guidance for the game stops and begins to let you explore. There are general directional dialogue points like “go here and check out this thing.” But really, you are left to explore on your own.
What in the Aether!?
Drake Hollow is unique in many ways, including a deadly substance called Aether surrounding you. It surrounds all the islands you must traverse to, and I met my death several times figuring out how to overcome it’s deadly power.
Eventually I figured out I can’t walk directly in the Aether. One Curio I missed the meaning of early in the game is the Aether Ward. It’s magic provides a temporary shield which allows 15 seconds of Aether exposure. Once the timer expires you better be out of it!
Aether Wards can be crafted by obtaining Glowstone Shards and combining them with Shoelaces. Glowstone Shards are one of the more important crafting materials available. A number of crafting recipes use these and they are derived from defeating feral beasts in the wild.
Utilizing these Wards is only temporary though. Eventually, you unlock the ability to craft another useful Curio called Waypoints. These are incredibly helpful traveling across the islands. Essentially you place one on island A’s beach, and a second on island B’s beach. Then you connect them to form a magical rope that you can grind on over the Aether!
The Waypoints can be connected in a series across islands to allow for maximum benefit. At one point I think I had about 20 connected together. This reduced my commute across islands from five minutes to about one. In addition, supply trucks can be found and added to this network. They will send supplies automatically back to your camp if unobstructed.
Ferals and Terminers and Raids, oh my!
Drake Hollow doesn’t just allow you to freely wander, unabated by fear. Wild packs of feral beasts wander the lands, searching to destroy anything they come in contact with. Earlier I mentioned my first weapon was a stick. It’s pretty useless, and thankfully you find better weapons in the wild.
There are a variety of weapons in both melee and ranged categories. My favorites are the Coatrack (a literal coat rack), and the Sport Bow. I typically fight off the ferals with melee weapons early. But as I encounter new types of theses beasts I had to change my strategy.
Grunts are the pawns of the pack and are typically killed easily with a melee hit or two. A ranged enemy called the Fang shoots projectiles at you and spawns grunts. They also deploy mines in close proximity, so the Sport Bow is very effective against them. The last main beast is the Stalker. They have powerful melee attacks, so artful use of the dodge and shield are vital.
You can avoid the beasts to some extent, but it’s valuable to fight them to gain crafting resources and crystals. Crystals are used to build trust and mature your Drakes, which is essential to game progression. Each Drake has a different type of crystal and can only accept that one type.
Raids are a separate component of battle that force you to return to your camp periodically. Once the raid timer pops up, you have a 15 minutes to return to your camp and prepare it for a feral attack. The best way to do this is to have good defenses (fences work very well). The object is to prevent the attacking ferals from damaging your camp structures.
Lastly, Terminers are a boss feral. They have the appearance of a witch and will spawn periodically throughout the game. They take quite a bit more fighting to take down, and can spawn all the different feral beasts to attack you. I found it best to keep my distance using ranged weapons.
Collecting Drakes, Camps, and Curios
A main aspect of game progression is leveling up your camp. Completing this task is possible a few ways, but is mainly done through acquiring and aging Drakes. The few Drakes you start with aren’t the only you will encounter. In fact, a key component of the game is finding them in the wild.
Discovering a Drake sends them back to camp. They are safe there but you must grow them over time. As previously mentioned, you can do this by bringing them their matching crystals. But there’s more benefit to aging them than just building your camp level.
Each Drake has what’s called a Buff, which is part of their magical power. You can pick one Drake’s Buff to start, and they will apply it to you. These powers range from increases to your attack speed, to decreased damage taken, to healing abilities while not in battle. As you level up your camp you can unlock slots to apply additional Buffs simultaneously.
Building your camp level to specified points moves along the story. One key to this us aging your Drakes. But the other is crafting upgraded resources for your camp. As I mentioned earlier, the first bed and entertainment object you create are one-time use only. Creating these repeatedly is dreadful, so unlocking a permanent bed and yoga ball are immensely helpful.
Just collecting the resources is not quite enough to build you new items though. You must also have Charms. they are very easy to collect, just simply interact with your Drakes. They give you up to 100 charms depending on how long it has been since your last interaction. Sometimes they even give you unique gifts!
Mechanics and Other Game Modes
The controls in Drake Hollow are somewhat comprehensive, but mainly because so much is unloaded on you early. The game spends little time explaining core mechanics such as dodging attacks and using shield to defend against enemies.
Once you get a feel for the controls though, everything flows fairly smooth. One weird quirk: each time I booted the game from the start screen, I had to reset my control invert settings.
Visually the game leans more cartoony. For a comparison, I say it matches Fortnite art styles the most. Different seasons within the game provide various lighting and weather, which add a nice touch.
The sound and music in the game are fairly repetitive. There is no voice dialogue so prepare to do a fair amount of reading. You can also find notes throughout the game to explain more on the story.
Lastly, there appears to be a multiplayer mode. My experience was completely single player, but an in-game menu option allows conversion to multiplayer seamlessly. However, I was unsuccessful when attempting to convert to multiplayer as I had no friends to invite. At least currently, there does not appear to be a functional matchmaking.
Drake Hollow was a unique action/advenutre/rpg that kept me entertained. It certainly took a while to fully understand what I was doing, but I appreciated the game not holding my hand at every step.
The mix of melee and ranged weapons with magic provided endless fighting styles and choices. In addition, mixing and matching different combinations of Drake Buffs is intriguing. Raids however happened too often for my liking, requiring me to travel back to camp when I’m right in the middle of exploring a far away island.
Traversing the world is easier by use of Waypoints, but they are tedious to create networks of. In addition, after leveling up your camp to a certain point you warp to a new world with your Drakes. You then have have to start your Waypoint network all over again. The good news is your camp is maintains its structure.