Driven Out (PlayStation 4) Review

By Leo Epema 26.10.2019

Review for Driven Out on PlayStation 4

Developer No Pest Productions delivers its second game; a 2D side-scroller with combat revolving around predicting attacks. As an added selling point, it features a lack of loot and character progression. The question is, is that a selling point or does it render things a bit bland? Or, is reality not that black-and-white? The game is pretty straight-forward, so don't expect anything too outlandish. That said, while it's straight-forward, it's certainly not simple, nor will the various differing opinions on this game be simple. Read on to find out why that is.

Driven Out is a 2D side-scrolling game that asks you, a simple farm girl with no combat training, to defeat all manner of enemies. These enemies have three types of attacks at their disposal: high, mid, and low. The farm girl has the same attack types, which are allocated to the triangle, square, and cross buttons respectively. Blocking can be done by holding the R2 button and pressing the attack button corresponding to the enemy's attack type. To illustrate: if an enemy performs a low attack, hold the R2 button and press cross or 'X'. The idea is to wait for the enemy to attack and to pay close attention to its 'tells': the way it telegraphs what attack comes next. Then, either block the attack or parry it. Parrying is done by blocking right before the enemy attack connects. These parries can stun some enemies for a split-second, allowing for a free hit if the player is close enough and quick on the draw.

Each enemy has different attacks with different wind-up times: some telegraph their attacks fairly well… and others not so much but might attack more slowly. Sometimes, the incoming attack might only be one hit, whereas other times it's a combo. This is all the combat is about. If that sounds monotonous, well… that's because it is. It would be nice if countering provided some opportunity for a special attack just to mix things up a bit, because as it stands, the game is very monotonous - a one-trick pony… of doom.

Screenshot for Driven Out on PlayStation 4

It's not just that the game is repetitive. There were occasions when it seemed unnecessarily harsh in a cheap kind of way. Sometimes it's very difficult to anticipate enemies' attacks and block fast enough, because your character's animation takes time to finish. This makes countering rather frustrating in certain situations. Compounding the problem is that every enemy hit shaves off a third of the farm girl's health (she only has three health orbs), and there is no way to replenish health. This is a problem because it makes getting through a boss fight practically impossible since you've just spent time getting pummelled because of enemies that don't always telegraph their moves well.

The poor telegraphing was embodied by a red frog boss wielding a rapier. That frog couldn't be stunned - instead, it had a stamina bar that had to be whittled away. It was unclear which of his attacks should be countered and when, so I tried countering everything. For some unclear reason, that occasionally worked and occasionally didn't. In the end, countering as many attacks as possible in quick succession did the trick: it slowed the frog's attack speed to a crawl. While that might sound riveting, it was mainly annoying because the boss's arm moved in almost exactly the same way regardless of the attack performed. Not only was each attack telegraphed very minimally, but it was also performed quickly, leaving little time to press the correct button. It feels as though certain bosses are just a tiny split second too fast to respond to. The frog was vanquished mainly by staying as far away as possible, not through any divination of his attack patterns, because attack patterns often seem random in this game.

Regarding the repetitiveness of combat: it could've been ameliorated by introducing light platforming elements. After all, the farm girl is a novice fighter, so why should she rely entirely on combat? Why only combat with a sword? Why not allow the player to play into the strengths and weaknesses of enemies a bit more, such as by wielding a mace against an enemy that is relatively slow? Think about it: maybe the mace could break the enemy's armour with enough hits, leading to the enemy becoming more vulnerable to subsequent punishment. Aside from that, it would be great if successful counters could replenish a sliver of health, or allowed for a more tactical attack rather than just one free hit.

Screenshot for Driven Out on PlayStation 4

In addition, it's a shame that that the combat wasn't fleshed out more by making each attack (low, mid and high) result in different outcomes. A few enemies do play into this: for example, a deer can be thrown on its ass by countering and then performing a low hit. Most enemies respond to each attack the same though: they take damage and that's it. More combat variety and more hard choices would be appreciated. Collectibles or occasional boons are not necessary, but there needs to be something to spice up the gameplay - secret areas that can restore a health orb, for instance. The game flirted with that concept but only used it to introduce a new area.

So we've discussed combat repetitiveness, the occasional poor telegraphing and slow response time of blocking. Those flaws must sound as though they devalue the game entirely, but they really don't. Some stretches are delightful because there are some 'aha moments'. One tree frog enemy was a bit tough to defeat until struck with the realization that its attacks change in range the farther away the player is. The more its range increased, the more time there was to counter - and countering was necessary. Backing away from its attack when far enough away could also cause it to miss entirely. Maybe different players will have different opinions, but some enemies and bosses seemed more consistent and well-designed than others.

Speaking of enemies less well-designed than others, some enemies are downright ludicrous. What do I mean? Wasps. Bloody wasps. If you thought they were annoying enough in real life, trying to sip your coke and taunting you in front of your face, they are insufferable here. This time, they come with jousting lances. They have surprising range and barely telegraph anything, and they often attack in groups of two or three, which is unbeatable. The only way out of that situation is to hit them before they can retaliate. There's also some hoping involved - hoping that random chance will cause both wasps to do a mid-attack simultaneously. Again, the way Driven Out forces certain situations upon players and tells them there's only one way out, is overly limiting sometimes. The combat is monotonous enough as it is.

Screenshot for Driven Out on PlayStation 4

You will die a lot. Therefore, you might ask: how do you go about saving? Well, there are checkpoints to place in any location desired. Keep in mind that these checkpoints are destructible. This is an interesting mechanic in theory, which would necessitate placing checkpoints in strategic locations far enough away from enemies, but not too far away to lose a ton of progression. Unfortunately, checkpoints get destroyed fairly randomly, and sometimes it's not clear by what. For some boss fights, it seems multiple revives are not allowed; the player gets sent back to the conclusion of the last boss fight. It's not apparent if that's a bug. The game also doesn't relent - each enemy is tough to defeat. That's charming in a way, but it also results in poor pacing because the player will want to take a breather at some point. However, there are no moments for resting. There are no cutscenes and there is no story. That can cause people to punch out after perhaps an hour of playing.

Thankfully, the presentation is quite nice as it provides sorely needed variety in locales. The 16-bit style isn't really necessary, but it makes sense in combination with the twitch-based gameplay. It's also colourful without being heavy on the eyes. Some of the music is nice too, though it can end and restart abruptly sometimes.

Screenshot for Driven Out on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Driven Out is by no means bad. Many enemies require good timing and telegraph their attacks clearly enough. Others feel less balanced; their telegraphing is slightly too hard to interpret and their attack patterns seem random. The combat system is more consistent in the sense that it's uniformly monotonous; it's about waiting and blocking over and over. Combat never evolves or introduces variety. Each enemy is unique and has different attack patterns, which is nice, but it also means that Driven Out can lose its appeal quite quickly for many gamers. Why? Consider this: games are about learning the ropes, getting over a hurdle better and better until mastery. There is nothing to master here; there are no stages in which to learn how to beat certain enemy types or to become better. Your skill level stays the same. Overall, though: not a bad second game to develop.

Developer

No Pest Productions

Publisher

No Pest Productions

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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