Pacific Drive Is A Wholly Unique Roguelike Experience

Published: September 7, 2023 12:00 PM /

Previewed By:

A station wagon modified with a lot of different materials, lit in a garage.

Pacific Drive is one of the more interesting games to catch me eye lately. It takes place in a supernatural version of the Pacific Northwest, full of mystery. It’s a survival roguelike with incredible attention to detail to the car you drive, how you drive it, and how you must care for it. 

I’ve only had the chance to play one run, but I felt immediately attached to my car and immersed in all its goings on.  

How often are you actually using the rearview mirror in a game? When do you ever think about putting a car in park or in drive? 

We interviewed ironwood Studios Creative Director, Alexander Dracott, about the development of Pacific Drive, why a station wagon, and what players may expect. We maybe ask about Bigfoot too.

Pacific Drive Makes Caring For Your Car Endearing

Inside the car you’ll have the stalks to put headlights on, turn windshield wipers on, gear stick for park and drive, and some other instruments to interact with. All driving is done from inside the car, another big immersion factor. 

All those bits and bobs are something I had to actually look at and use. There’s no keybind for turning on your wipers – I had to use the stalk in the car to get them going.  

Maybe those don’t sound like the most compelling or novel mechanics, but those are the small attentions to detail that make Pacific Drive great from the start. I found myself way more invested in the car itself and making sure I was doing things properly. 

A broken car door for a station wagon.

Taking care of your car is very important as well, as each bit has its own level of health that will go down over time depending on what happens in the game. You’ll have doors, wheels, headlights, panels, hoods, etc all to worry about throughout the run. 

If one of those panels gets too much damage or becomes unusable, you’re pretty much toast. The outside world is full of bad things and your precious car is the only thing for cover. 

I wasn’t able to get away with no damage, however. Calculated risks are a big part of Pacific Drive, and I absolutely had to do some off-roading, even though my car was obviously not well-equipped enough to last too awfully long. 

That’s where the progression of the game comes in, however. Gathering resources around the map and then trying to escape back to your base, an abandoned garage, to research and upgrade your car. 

Floating rocks in the middle of a road.

Each run is procedurally generated, meaning things like landslides and other obstacles will be at different parts of the road. Same goes for resources and other points of interest. 

I ran into some weird, unexplained lights and other things in my run as well. One was a floating ship of some sort that worked like the giant magnet you may see at a junkyard lifting cars. It more or less did the same thing to me. 

While we didn’t get into it, in this weird, supernatural version of the world, there’s a lot of strange things to run into. Maybe even ol’ Bigfoot.

Pacific Drive's Gameplay Loop Is Soothingly Meditative 

Venturing out in your car to collect resources, successfully escape back to your garage, research more upgrades, and then do it all over again is more or less the loop. 

While I could maybe distill the game is more or less just simply driving from point A to point B over and over again, that’d be a huge disservice. 

The interior of the station wagon in Pacific Drive, with a bunch of different dials and status screens.

As mentioned earlier, Pacific Drive is incredibly immersive. There is a strong rational and common sense logic to what you need to do to survive, so it all just becomes natural.  

Watching your fuel, repairing your car, making sure you put it in park, making sure you close the door, and all of that in between becomes a collective meditative action towards a specific goal.  

It’s beautifully methodical, habitual, and engrossing all at the same time. 

Pacific Drive Preview | Final Thoughts

Pacific Drive is easily one of the most unique games I’ve played in a while. The mystery is of why there are supernatural events is a good enough hook to get you going, but the grounded car experience of both driving and caring for a beat up old station wagon is what will drive me to keep exploring. 

I previewed Pacfic Drive at PAX West 2023.

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