Indie team Afterburner Studios have been working on their surreal rogue-like game Dreamscaper for two years. After it doubled its Kickstarter funding goals in 2019 and releasing a successful demo earlier this year, the game has now officially entered early access. The game features satisfying real-time combat with a huge variety of weapons and abilities, dungeon exploration, and a thoughtful and moving story. It’s a variant on a genre known as a rogue-lite, meaning it’s less crushingly difficult and a tad more accessible than classic roguelike games. The early access version contains 6 levels to explore and 3 bosses, plus hundreds of weapons and abilities to try out and use. The final version will include more levels, bosses, and weapons.
Dreamscaper presents a surreal and colourful art style that perfectly carries the melancholic atmosphere it seems to be going for. The protagonist Cassidy must defeat her inner demons in the world she enters when asleep: a warped dream world of her thoughts and memories. Her dream is separated, with doorways that segment the map into the familiar roguelike-style dungeon. The level is randomised every time you enter, meaning you won’t find the same weapons, enemies, or even the same locations in the same place twice. If you die, Cassidy wakes up and your progress in the level will be lost.
Dreamscaper feels laid back, like you can take your time with it. It’s got a sprinkling of other mechanics like crafting and social simulations, but none of them seem too complex. Crafting materials aren’t so numerous that you can’t keep track of them all – instead of usual crafting materials such as wood, string, or paint, Cassidy uses abstract feelings she picks up from her dreams such as ‘insight’ and ‘bliss’. She can use combinations of these feelings to craft a wide variety of items she can use to gift to the people she befriends.
Cassidy is a troubled girl. There is no better way to demonstrate this than her wake-up time of 7pm after a long day dreaming of a gamified version of her memories. This is your chance to get to know Cassidy and the town she lives in. Every time Cassidy wakes up, she can take a walk around town for a few hours and talk to the folks she comes across. By talking to them and making a connection, Cassidy gets access to combat and exploration bonuses in her dream world.
In this way, Cassidy doesn’t level up in the traditional sense. Instead of beating monsters to a pulp for EXP, she’s getting to understand people in the real world; which is a touching way of doing things. In each level you will learn more about Cassidy’s psyche and what’s troubling her, as the environment takes on shapes of suburban neighbourhoods and city streets filled with her memories. It’s far from expository though, and mostly seems content to let the gameplay take centre stage.
“The gorgeous and vibrant visuals
make attacks come alive, making for a
very satisfying experience.”
Like the other aspects of the game, combat is simple and easy to get into. all the familiar action combat mechanics are here: attacking, dodging, blocking, and special abilities. With your weapon of choice equipped, you can time your attacks to do extra damage, and depending on what items or abilities you pick up during play, you can change up your style at the drop of a hat. The gorgeous and vibrant visuals make attacks come alive, making for a very satisfying experience.
It’s easy to get into the flow, and it’s easy to imagine having a great time playing while listening to podcasts or videos.
Dreamscaper is available now in early access on PC. The developers say that they aim for the game to stay in Early access for a maximum of a year. All main gameplay features have been implemented, although the developers say the full release will “expand the depth of the story and interconnected nature of the waking world and dreaming world”. The EA version is currently selling for $29.95 AUD, though the developers say the price may increase slightly upon official release.