Hyper Light Breaker preview: drifting into the abyss

Unfortunate comparisons
Heart Machine / Arc Games

Back in 2016, developer Heart Machine released Hyper Light Drifter. It is beloved and critically acclaimed for its neon palate, wordless story, and fluid movement. These aspects have been brought forward into the studio’s upcoming game Hyper Light Breaker, but despite the namesake, Breaker only bears a passing resemblance to that original hit.

Drifter is an isometric pixel art action game; Breaker is a 3D roguelike. The Drifter is tortured and alone, whereas the Breakers work together towards their goal. The Drifter is definite; the Breakers are flexible, buildable, and tailored to your specific playstyle. The Drifter’s world is set; the Breaker’s ever-changing.

The two games are so different that comparisons become useless. In Hyper Light Breaker you start out in a hub world full of vendors who have random wares for sale. They offer abilities, melee weapons, and guns, with differing levels of rarity, and the more times you venture out into the world, the more you will be able to purchase. Once you are ready, you enter the portal and reach your new world.

There are three Breakers to choose from: a masculine one, a feminine one, and a tanuki. They each have different playstyles; one is a tank, whereas another is nimble, but for our 45-minute preview they were balanced to all play the same. Once you select a Breaker, you will choose their loadout, a number of perks, and weapons. Then you are ready to set out in groups of up to three.

Hyper Light Breaker screenshot.
Welcome to an all-new Hyper Light world. / Heart Machine / Arc Games

Heart Machine knows how to create satisfying movement. Breakers can dash, glide, and use a hoverboard to swoop around the environment. Each map you enter into is vast with various biomes to explore. If you open your map you will find Elites, powered-up enemies, and defeating one down allows you to take on a boss. After you locate the boss on the map and reach the foggy gateway you are thrown into a difficult fight with a long life bar. Then you will (probably) die and get sent back to the hub.

In a typical roguelike, you would start all over again with a new procedurally generated world, and you would have to find and defeat the Elites again. Hyper Light Breaker gives you a break. You have six lives per cycle, and only once you’ve been defeated six times will the cycle end. The only other way to end a cycle is to defeat all three bosses on the map and take the portal to the Abyss King – but even in a party of three, it will likely take you multiple cycles to even reach this point.

There’s dynamic difficulty to help smooth the experience out. If you are doing well, killing large groups of enemies without taking damage, more enemies will spawn around you. A message alerting you to this will flash up on the screen, and they’ll ambush you before you finish reading it. Many enemies can be bypassed if you zoom by them, but these surprise spawns ensure that even hardcore players will be met with a challenge.

Hyper Light Breaker will launch in early access in mid-2024, and it is certainly still a little rough around the edges. My main complaint was that the lock-on didn’t work, making the boss fights feel impossible. You can lock on to an enemy, but it will deactivate after a while. It also shifts wildly between different enemies, which is very disorienting when you dodge attacks in unexpected directions. There is still time before the early access release, and this needs to be fixed before then.

Hyper Light Drifter felt like a moment in gaming. It pushed boundaries and changed the way we thought about games. This is where I think the name does Hyper Light Breaker a disservice. You can’t help but compare the two, even though they are nothing alike. Drifter felt fresh, and while 3D roguelikes are less common than their 2D counterparts, Breaker feels like a game you’ve seen before. In its current state, it is similar to all the other 3D multiplayer action games where you shoot the bad guys and take on the bosses, albeit draped in a pretty neon cloak. There is plenty of time for Breaker to grow and expand into something surprising, and Heart Machine’s track record gives us hope that it can achieve greater heights.

Georgina Young


Georgina Young is a Gaming Writer for GLHF. They have been writing about video games for around 10 years and are seen as one of the leading experts on the PlayStation Vita. They are also a part of the Pokémon community, involved in speedrunning, challenge runs, and the competitive scene. Aside from English, they also speak and translate from Japanese, German and French. Their favorite games are Pokémon Heart Gold, Majora’s Mask, Shovel Knight, Virtue’s Last Reward and Streets of Rage. They often write about 2D platformers, JRPGs, visual novels, and Otome. In writing about the PlayStation Vita, they have contributed articles to books about the console including Vita Means Life, and A Handheld History. They have also written for the online publications IGN, TechRadar, Space.com, GamesRadar+, NME, Rock Paper Shotgun, GAMINGbible, Pocket Tactics, Metro, news.com.au and Gayming Magazine. They have written in print for Switch Player Magazine, and PLAY Magazine. Previously a News Writer at GamesRadar, NME and GAMINGbible, they currently write on behalf of GLHF for The Sun, USA Today FTW, and Sports Illustrated. You can find their previous work by visiting Georgina Young’s MuckRack profile. Email: georgina.young@glhf.gg