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I have been following Dreamscaper for some time now.  The first time I saw it was on Reddit over a year ago, and it left quite an impression on me.  And just the other day, the Duo dev team Afterburner Studios released the game on Steam’s Early Access.  One would guess that I would be chomping at the bit to play this game.. That person would be right.  But does Dreamsccaper hold up to what I believe it could be back when I first saw it?  Let’s find out.


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What is Dreamscaper?

When playing this game, there are clear inspirations drawn from other games and genres.  At its core though, Dreamscaper is a top-down roguelike game, with a bit of a twist.  Where you progress, die, and start from zero is the dream world.  You never truly start from zero though, thanks to the waking world.  While awake, you can travel through a new town your character, Cassidy has moved to.  While going through the various locations,  you will meet new confida- I mean, people, and can spend time with them to deepen your bonds and gain new abilities that accompany you through your runs.  One thing to note, you do not lose these perks after you fail a run.  

Personally, the parts that have been taken from other games stick out and make me say “oh, like insert game here”.  The dream and waking worlds, Legend of Zelda.  The friendship mechanics, Persona.  The combat, Dark Souls.  While there is no problem pulling mechanics from other games, it puts an emphasis on these parts, making it critical that these elements have to be the most polished.  Since this is an action game, why not break down the combat to start.


Is it Souls-Lite?

Battling through the dream world the first time, the only thing that came to mind was how similar the base mechanics were to Dark Souls.  And funny enough, it actually has “souls-lite” in the description on the Steam page.  With that in mind, you do have your light and heavy attack with the melee weapons, a ranged weapon.  There is also a shield with a built-in parry mechanic (the bane of my existence).  You also have the ability to dodge, yay!  Coupling this with the intense fights, makes for a very solid Souls-Like play style.  Where the game changes this is with the roguelike mechanics.

Through each run, you will be getting new gear and abilities stronger than the last.  So you never get comfy with one style.  Every melee weapon also has a rhythm mechanic, which will up your dps if you nail ir compared to button mashing your way through a fight.  I love this detail, it keeps you paying attention if you want to maximize your run and gives each weapon a nice sense of weight.  The sound design and art direction also lends amazingly into this, but more on that later.  

The finger gun is the most satisfying weapon to use. Don’t @ me.

Everything previously mentioned would be meaningless if the game was not responsive.  Dreamscaper passes this test with flying colors.  When playing, I never felt the game was lagging behind.  As much as I wanted to blame the game for my mistakes, I never could.  All the controls and timings were spot on.  Great job Afterburner Studios, you nailed the controls.  


Time to Face the Boss

Now I will be honest, I think I am pretty good at Souls games.  Dark Souls III is one  of my favorite games and I love going through the rounds with the enemies and bosses.  On my first run in Dreamscaper, I went through the first level with no issues, didn’t even lose half of my health in the boss fight.  Thinking I was hot stuff, I immediately went to the second level with no hesitation.  Jesus, I was put in my place and sent back to the beginning within the first 2 rooms.

While I did get wrecked.  It did not feel unfair.  The new enemies and patterns caught me off guard in a way I was not expecting.  And as with all roguelike games, given some time and effort, you will be able to master any encounter. The balance was also tuned nicely for the power level I was at any given time, leaning into the stronger side.  Don’t get me wrong though, I love a good challenge and Dreamscaper was providing it. 

One thing to not is that each level and room is procedurally generated with each room containing a fun surprise in it.  Anything could be in there, a fight, puzzle, shop, or the boss.  With that in mind, each fight felt unique.  Not once did an encounter feel like a repeat, even across multiple runs.   


An Indie Game that is not Low-Poly or 8-Bit?

When it comes to the art style of the game, Dreamscaper does not hold back.  One may suspect that the art style would be a simple low poly design since this is an indie game.  That is where you would be wrong.  Everything from the people to the environment and the lighting system shows that time has been spent fine tuning each to harmonize perfectly.  Personally, the terrain is my favorite part.  The contrast between each level, whether the forest or the city, each are unique and detailed.  Then there are the little details like the free flowing scarf and the light path the weapons have.  All those small touches are the icing on an already delicious cake.

The only thing I could request is the ability to be able to set the display resolution.  My screen resolution is 1440p, Dreamscaper is naturally at 1080p and does not give an option to set it.  So either you can play with a slight blur at full screen, or windowed taking up part of the screen, but with the crispness Dreamscaper deserves.  

The Sound Design  is the Icing

In my opinion, The sign of a well polished game is the audio aspect.  Any game can be made to look good given how many tools there are nowadays, but music and sound effects are in a completely different league of its own in terms of mastery.  Dreamscaper delivers in this department.  Not a single track or sound effect feels jarring or out of place.  Actually,  it is quite impressive the level of polish that is displayed.  Songs are fitting for their respective scenes.  There are no awkward transitions going from track to track.  And the sound effects were satisfying.

While on the topic of those sound effects, huge props to Afterburner Studio for the level of detail that they put into this.  From the first initial drop into the dream world, it was easy to tell that it was going to be a good time.  Each weapon shows care was put into the sound design.  This also gives it a nice sense of weight, whether it is a heavy blow or a quick jab.

Some Final Thoughts

In the beginning, I mentioned how I found Dreamscaper and how I was excited for the game.  Given the opportunity to sit down and review it was a dream come true.  The amount of care that has been put into every since aspect of this game blew me away.  From the art design, to the music and the encounters.  Dreamscaper would be a great first game for any looking to get into the genre and provide a great challenge for a verteran.

Amazing sound design
Great combat
Satisfying weapons
Solid art direction
lack of display options

Review Summary

The amount of care that has been put into every since aspect of this game blew me away. From the art design, to the music and the encounters. Dreamscaper would be a great first game for any looking to get into the roguelike genre and provide a great challenge for a veteran.

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