Released (on Steam): 13 Aug, 2020
Genres: Action, Adventure, Indie, RPG, Early Access
Developer: Afterburner Studios
Publisher: Freedom! Games
Steam Price: £14.49
Completion: Max relationship with all characters and completed all levels.
Playtime at Review: 20.4 hours
Total Playtime: 20.4 hours
Achievements at Review: 9/10 (90%)
My rating: 9.2/10
Interesting and beautiful characters and conversations, in the sense that they feel so real and relatable.
Every run is different, with procedural maps and a huge variety of equipment and abilities!
Dream. Die. Wake. Repeat.
Developers are already making use of the Early Access better than most, listening and responding to the community, and implementing suggestions.
Challenging gameplay kept me fighting on!
After beating bosses, they can be skipped on replays.
Absolutely stunning world and graphics!
Missing some quality of life features (devs will be adding these in future updates)
Came across invisible walls in the intro which (wrongly) gave a bad impression for the rest of the game.
Dreamscaper is a new Early Access action RPG with both rogue-like and rogue-lite aspects, and to be quite frank, it’s rather beautiful! There are two general areas in Dreamscaper. The first is the dreamworld, where you progress through various levels and memories, battling your inner demons along the way. The second is the waking world, where you talk to your friends and colleagues, and craft gifts to increase your relationship with each of them. You get introduced to both worlds during the tutorial, along with the different gameplay aspects of each; combat, crafting, talking, etc.
The first thing that grabbed my attention was the style of graphics. Dreamscaper is simply beautiful. The different dreamworld levels, waking world locations, characters, and enemies all look incredible! None of the characters have faces, or at least, no facial features, they’re simply eyeless, noseless, mouthless, expressionless folk. I thought this a little creepy to begin with, but the creepiness quickly subsided with each conversation. It’s pretty amazing how well feelings can be portrayed without facial expressions!
That brings me onto the waking world. You wake up, crafts some gifts, and go to the different locations to talk to the other characters and give them gifts to increase your relationships, unlocking new conversations, equipment, abilities, and influences/perks along the way. Each character has their own unique personality, and prefer different gifts, but the in game notes help a lot when it comes to figuring out who would like which gift the most! Does somebody like cycling? Maybe I’ll give them a cycling helmet! There are some less obvious ones though. That may sound a little boring or repetitive, and I thought the same at first, but that didn't last long, and you'll see why in a moment!
The crafting is basic but effective, with only three different materials. The catch is that each material can be have one of six different levels or qualities; poor, common/+1, uncommon/+2, rare/+3, epic/+4, and legendary/+5. Nothing really out of the ordinary for an RPG. There are, however, quite a few different gifts to be crafted, and you won’t be finding too many materials too quickly. There’s also a loadout window where you can craft weapons and equipment to start out with on your next run, rather than leaving it up to the RNG Gods. At the moment they appear to be one-time use weapons, meaning there’s not much incentive to craft anything other than gifts until you’ve maxed out all of the relationships. Their most recent patch has hugely improved this for the poor quality weapons, making those free to craft, so now everybody can start with their favourite weapons! There are still some player convenience and quality of life improvements that could be done here, and I have no doubt the devs will be introducing those in a future early access update.
What surprised me the most about Dreamscaper were the conversations. I thought the most gripping part would have been the dreamworld and the combat, but after a few discussions with different characters, I started to become more and more invested in the waking world. What struck me the most was how real and relatable the conversations were. Cassidy’s (your character) side of the conversations, in particular, really resonated with me! I was actually pretty gutted once I’d maxed every character relationship and there were no more conversations.
While I really loved the conversations, the dreamworld was also good fun, and certainly challenging! The first level and boss worked as a pretty nice intro into the world, and gave more of an idea of what to expect on later levels, but the difficulty ramps up pretty quick. It doesn’t help that I completely suck, but I like to think it’s difficult too, and it's not just that I suck! The fact that each weapon has a different range, each dodge has a different style and stride, and there are often several different enemy types, traps, and red pits that all cause damage, makes the gameplay and combination of equipment both exciting and difficult to master! The tagline “Dream. Die. Wake. Repeat” (from the Steam description snippet) definitely makes sense, and fits perfectly with my experience. Their most recent update lowers the difficulty somewhat, so there may be a little less dying involved now. I managed to reach the final level prior to the patch, but only beat the final boss after the difficulty was lowered.
While you may think that a game with six levels wouldn’t take long to beat, or couldn’t have much variation in it, you’d be completely wrong! The procedural maps, different enemies, weapons, dodges, shields, abilities, influences, and keepsakes, combined with the different qualities and random modifiers, make for a very different experience with every run! I loved unlocking and discovering everything! My favourite melee weapons turned out to be the Koregan/trident and Mallory/scythe, mainly due to their range, but they also looked awesome, and I absolutely loved the thunder step dodge!
I usually wouldn’t go for this kind of game, generally because I’m not a fan of replaying the same thing over and over again, but it didn’t feel that way with Dreamscaper! Every run was different and posed new challenges, and trying to find the right balance/build for my playstyle was fun and exciting! It’s only two weeks into early access, but you could almost mistake it for a fully released game! The realism of the waking world content was incredible! How they got me tearing up over a conversation about ice-cream, I don’t know! I feel all it’s missing at the moment are boss fights at the end of every level (only active on three levels at the moment), and some end game waking world content, both of which the developers have mentioned are on the way, along with a few quality of life improvements. It’s also awesome to see developers getting so involved with community feedback (through Steam discussions and Dreamscaper Discord) and implementing suggestions into the game without ruining what's already there! Hats off to you, Afterburner Studios! You’ve created a truly amazing game, and I look forward to seeing more story progression and additional content and improvements throughout early access, and into the full release!
Posted on 29-08-2020