(Impressions) Dreamscaper

When life is rough, sometimes we need our escapism. Some get it through videogames and some through books. Others may get it through walks in nature (like outside nature, not VR). Sometimes the only solace a person can get in a day is when they are in the shower surrounded by the sound of falling water. Sometimes the mind will take the wheel and help you escape in your dreams. Dreamscaper is a game exploring the after-work life of Cassidy as she goes around town meeting fellow work mates and others before heading home and going on an adventure in her sleep where she murders monsters over and over again with various weapons. Does this setup work? You know… I think it does. Let me break it down for you.

She got some pretty sweet digs though right?

Firstly, I have to give props to the writers of Dreamscaper. After playing the game for a bit and reading the conversations with the people Cassidy was meeting up with, I got the impression that she wasn’t satisfied with her life currently and kind of down and it’s conveyed very well at times. I later read in the game’s description that they wanted to convey depression. I’ll give them a solid “meh” because when I fought depression, my demeanor was much more dour. (Maybe I was weaker then, who knows.) Although, depression can come in many different shades, Cassidy seems to be more disconnected from where she is and the people around her. Luckily for her, she seems to be rather outgoing (as the point of the non-fighting section of the game is to build up relationships). She doesn’t come off as indifferent, she generally seems to be interested in others and likes to talk to people. You can even use items/drops from your dreams to craft gifts and give them away to those you interact with to help build the relationships faster (if you give them the right kind of gift). How does one use an item taken from a dream to craft a gift? Maaaan… I don’t know, but it’s a cool mechanic. (Maybe she’s using the aspects of the dream to utilize stuff around here… this is getting deep.) I guess Cassidy could be hiding some deep-seated anger towards the world at large that could bubble up at any moment and then she murders a puppy, but if that’s the case, it’s not apparent to me. (Maybe if I could get past world 3.) She just seems like a lonely kid in a big city doing her best to make her life better all the while befriending those around her.

It may not look like it, but Cassidy definitely has a case of the “meh…”.

The conversations, while long-winded at times, are deep and are written well enough to be an interesting departure from smashing things. Would I rather have gone back into the action at times? Sure, but the mix of these elements work well very together. I was afraid that the relationship building mechanic would come off as more of a boring side quest, but they really don’t. When you level up a relationship you gain access to newer weapons and abilities and doesn’t actually take too long in the end. You also only “need” to do it if you want as you can simply keep sleeping your life away and try going further in your dreams. These fighting and relationship building aspects of the game compliment themselves well.

Before I forget to mention them, there are puzzles in Dreamscaper, but there are currently only two types: Minesweeper and Pipe Dream. Pipe Dream I’ve played since I was young. My wife had to explain Minesweeper to me since I cheated at that game for as long as I could remember playing it.

What initially drew me in was the presentation of combat in a video which looked like a lot of fun. The tutorial was decent for combat but I had to figure a lot of the out-of-the-dream stuff myself later (it did crashed on me the first time). I got the combat though. Crafting also plays a part with the weapons you use to mash the monsters. The default for the weapons you take on your nighttime exploits is set to “random”. I thought I could go through the menu explaining what each does and pick a specific one to take with me. I was wrong. In your dreams you’ll pick up items called: bliss, insight and solace. Yes you can craft gifts, but you can also choose which weapon you’d like to start out with in your dreams. There are varying levels of rarity which also increases the damage and other effects found on the weapons. Before you go and spend these materials, you should play a few rounds with different weapons so you can find out what you’re more comfortable with or which better suits your play-style. The weapons vary from longer-reaching broad swords to quick daggers to your bare fists. I tend to prefer the quicker or longer reaching weapons. Weapons that have a slow start-up speed tend to get me punched in the face. The combo system also has different timings for each weapon as well so you’ll need to watch for Cassidy to flash white to prompt you to attack which pushes out some extra damage. There’s a nice “Ding!” sound to let you know if you hit it right. (I need to work on my timing.)

Baseball bat? Yes… baseball bat. The hits sound so solid and satisfying!

Most of the enemies act as punching bags with most weapons as you’re usually quick enough to get them into a stun-lock of blows before they can get to you. This is usually only interrupted by another mob joining in on the fray. All the weapons that I’ve used have a wide arc of attack so even punching can hit multiple enemies if they are close enough. When things start to get a little hairier, like when baddies start using ranged attacks or having shields to negate all your damage, you’ll have to start utilizing your dodge and your shield to parry/block attacks. The bosses are a different story. They first seem unfair until you figure out the pattern or find the weak spot and then it’s just a matter of time until you kill them and move on. All this is to say, the combat is very satisfying. When I’m dying to things that get me from afar or I haven’t figured out the pattern yet, it’s a little tougher to appreciate, but I still like it.

Big noms, come’n at’cha!

I’ve had access to the game for a small amount of time now, but the updates that have come through are noticeable. They’ve added variety to the level designs so the areas don’t get too familiar. There’s still a bit of that, but the game does get randomly created and the combat is solid enough so it still works well for me. There are a ton of abilities that you will unlock as you progress. I really wish I would have taken a picture of this dragon strike move because it looked very cool, but it’s crashed on me while I took a screenshot. So there’s that again. The game is in Early Access so there may be a hiccup every now and then, but it has really only crashed on me once when it mattered. The other times it crashed was when I was closing the game… so it didn’t really matter. Aside from that, they say they’ll be expanding the waking world and adding more levels and abilities. I have hopes that it will only get better.

The soul of Dreamscaper is a good Roguelite ARPG. The combat is solid and fun with a lot of variation in weapons and abilities. The fun smash->die->repeat cycle mixed with relationship building to unlock more to fun things to use in combat works very well together. I think describing this game would be tough by the parts. It’s the fusion of it all together that sells this game as a unique diamond in the rough. Rougelites are aplenty almost everywhere now and developers need something to set themselves apart. Afterburner Studios has crafted something different here with Dreamscaper and they’ve done it well.

Further Reading on Dreamscaper: Facebook / Instagram / Official Page / Steam / Twitter

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