Dreams are weird, no one is denying that, they constantly shift and change. Dreams never seem to follow any rules, but they can have an effect on our day to day to lives. For instance, I avoid several fish because I had a dream where they kept talking to me and…I digress. Either way, dreams are a fascinating concept to base a game around and one title has done so.
Dreamscaper, developed by Afterburner studios, is a game that uses the concepts of dreams and combines them with the roguelike adventure. Players follow Cassidy as she delves into her dreams while trying to survive in a new city after a tragedy.
The game was originally released in 2020 but has recently come out on Game Pass. The title looked interesting and the initial design shots were fascinating. I decided to check it out and you know what, I’m glad I did. So follow me while I lead you down into the world of dreams and madness.
So, first things first are to just clear some things up for those who don’t know what a roguelike is. The concept is basically to use randomly generated maps and equipment. The player will never really experience the same thing twice, at least in concept. Obviously, there is always a limitation so repetition is normal. However, this design does keep a certain level of freshness throughout.
Dreamscaper essentially follows this design to the letter. The player enters the dream world and must slowly make their way through each level of their subconscious to reach the bottom. If they die during the run then they are cast out of the dream world and lose access to all the kits they found.
Progression in these kinds of games is a mix of learning tactics and habits, while also unlocking more options in the game world. This is the first way that Dreamscaper separates itself from the herd.
You see dreams are entirely based on the experiences of the person. For instance, there’s an old saying that any face you see in your dreams has been seen in your waking life. Your brain can’t make new faces from nothing after all. Dreamscaper makes use of this by having the waking world focus on improving Cassidy, the player character, and her relationships.
As you explore the dream you will collect various different substances that allow you to meditate, sketch and talk to normal people in the waking world. Each of these adds benefits and new areas to explore in the dream world.
Obviously, no game can thrive on design alone, as is the case here. Thankfully the music is amazing, with the rising tones and riffs all helping to make the experience both calming and stressful at the same time.
The artistic design, I’m afraid, isn’t as impressive. There are some gorgeous designs for some of the bosses but mostly there is nothing here that will make you lean forwards in your seat.
The combat is equally passable, and in most cases fun enough. It’s simple, just dodge and hit while occasionally spamming some magic. Thankfully the weapon variety is good and everything feels like it has a place and use.
The story is…well it’s good but it is subtle. There are cutscenes but they are more to reveal a boss you have to fight. At first, there isn’t really any plot to speak of, and a lot of what you discover comes from analysing the bosses and the scant pieces of lore you find. You can also speak to people around the city but, well, it’s probably the weakest part of the game. You see, Cassidy is not what anyone would call a social person. She has to be coerced to talk to people and insists on only moving the plot forwards if you have enough of the right gifts. It’s fine, but it is tedious to figure out what people want all the time.
Overall, Dreamscaper is entertaining and worth playing if you have a few free hours. The game takes an interesting concept and rolls with it, while also keeping things entertaining enough the draw players in. Hell, it’s on Game Pass and what else were you gonna do this evening? Have a nap? Why nap when you can play a game about napping!
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