Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X
January 14, 2022
EpiXR Games UG
EpiXR Games UG
Aery – Dreamscape is a new casual adventure game from indie developer EpiXR Games. It’s the sixth title in the Aery series, each game different to the last to some degree. In Dreamscape, you control a bird-like spirit that flys into people’s dreams and thoughts. Each level is different to the last one, where you’ll become a flying pro in no time. That is until an invisible wall stops you and takes you back to the start. At least you can mark it down as a cozy game… right?
Jello from the other side
Dreamscape begins with a tutorial that only provides one hint — you can go faster by using the shift key (on PC). There’s a brief mention of viewing people’s dreams and you’re off to the races. You begin in a hub world, where you can explore any of the levels, no matter what order. At first, the hub world looks like university dorm rooms, then university classrooms. But in the kitchen, there is a stapler in some jelly, so it must be an office. You enter a level by flying through a portal located on different character models in different rooms around the hub world.
Each level is based on different themes. In the first level, you have to fly around and collect 31 feathers whilst a narrator talks about wanting to become a Viking. 31 is the most feathers you need to collect, with the lowest being 25. In previous Aery titles, you would only need to collect 10 to 20 feathers, so Dreamscape definitely appears to be a larger experience. Most of the levels are themed around the idea of “how cool would it be to be X”. There’s a level about dwarfs, cowboys, an underwater level, and 3 levels about space or with sci-fi elements.
The downside to these levels is that there is no world map or arrow pointing you to where the next feather is located. A lot of the time you have to decide for yourself where it would be, which might include some exploration. Most of the time, they’re on ledges, roofs, or somewhere ‘cinematic’, other times they’re in random spots. Completing some levels proved to be difficult as it’s hard to see where the next feather is if they even show up.
There isn’t a save function or even autosave in these levels. If you’re stuck, you may have to go back to the main menu and return to the hub world to try your luck another time. However, that means beginning the level from the starting point all over again. Returning to the hub without fully completing a level sometimes means that the entrance to that level was no longer available — there’s no way to go back and restart the level in the same gameplay session. But then other levels you could replay again. It feels like a weird toss of the coin possibly created by a glitch.
Level 3 is about cowboys and for the most part it’s fine. But when you move outside the fort, you see tipis and totem poles that are often associated with Native American people. When you collect a feather, the narration talks about how they want to “find a tribe of Indians who could accept and adopt me…”. Other comments mention teaching the character the ways of the land. While it’s only a small part of the game, minuscule in the grand scheme of things, some might take offence to this. This is where a sensitivity reader can come in and help them with an authentic story.
Getting paid to sleep is my dream job
Level 4 is set in a coastal town, like the ones you’d see in Assassins Creed: Black Flag. The character would say “how would I earn money you ask?”. Due to the fact that we’re in a coastal town, most likely through piracy, I’d guess. The next feather tells you “oh yeah I have just been waiting for this questing…”, possibly a spelling mistake? Next feather says “as I present to you the one and only correct answer to the question…”. Finally, three questions later, you’re told “I… Will… Be… A… Pirate”.
Within the pirate level, the character mentions that being an outlaw sounds exhausting. Considering they would have to “run from the government [their] whole life”. They mention they have a solution to stop that. One would think that they’ll turn to bounty hunting for the government. Nope. They’ll become a ninja. You collect the last four feathers in a small Japanese-inspired village which abruptly cuts off.
One of the criticisms online from EpiXR Games’ previous Aery titles is that they’re too short. They most likely took on this critique and tried to make Dreamscape a bit longer. But by doing this you’re including a lot of purple prose that makes some of the storytelling weak.
Dreamscape doesn’t allow you the chance to stop and to take everything in. There are two speeds, normal and fast. They both have their pros and cons. Sometimes the distance between feathers is too long that it even feels slow while speeding up. But when the feathers are too close to each other, you might miss out on some of the storytelling if you speed up your flying. On the other hand, normal speed is great when you need to make a tight turn, but it’s also a little bit slow on longer distances. It would be nice if the bird could find a place to sit as you either look around the landscape or try to find the next feather.
“subtitles completely disappear when you collect more than 1 feather in quick succession”
One of the levels later in the game feels entirely different to the earlier levels. It’s a World War One themed dream, but you can see all the feathers in front of you. This one feels more natural, and the ability to map out where to go is a lot easier than in previous and future levels. The downside is that the feathers are so close to walls or the ground that you’d occasionally collide with the terrain and have to start from the beginning again. The feathers can also be quite close together and subtitles completely disappear when you collect more than 1 feather in quick succession. Those who are hard of hearing or deaf will have to go slow to make sure the subtitles don’t vanish and leave them without any story.
The game markets itself as a game without combat, which is an apt assessment. A very popular genre among some Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley fans is the term “cozy games”. Cozy games are defined as games that evoke some sort of safety or softness. Often this might include no combat games like the recently released Unpacking. The lack of combat in Dreamscape is good for those who might want to sit down and relax after a stressful day. It would also be good for people who might find games with battles challenging or taxing, or even straight-up triggering.
New sound glory
Throughout the game, there are some cool rifts, almost like a synth-wave feel to the music. Yet, this music often repeats itself. It’s not annoying like on-hold music, but after a while, it becomes background noise. Each level has the same music as well, with no uniqueness to each level’s score. If you’re in the Viking level, underwater level, or any other level for that matter, you’ll hear synth-wave music.
There isn’t a lot of accessibility controls for Dreamscape either. No turning on or off subtitles, or colourblind mode. Those who are red-green colour blind will have difficulties finding the red feathers. You have the ability to change the “sensibility” which I assume is a misspelled sensitivity. Invert controls are already chosen, but you can turn them off. Subtitles themselves have different font styles throughout the levels that you can’t change. If you have dyslexia or trouble reading some fonts, you might have to give Dreamscape a miss.
The voice acting is fine, there are no major audio troubles that happened in Dreamscape. Though, with one actor voicing every line, it might be hard to decide if you’re seeing dreams from different people or the same person over and over again. Sometimes the dialogue won’t match up with the subtitles, but it happens so rarely that you’re not missing out on the story. The subtitles are large enough for most people to read them, however, there is a slight transparent white background on the lower bottom-quarter of the screen. When spoken dialogue happens it ends up covering the feather count and part of the pause menu.
The art style of the game is a polygon 3D style, similar to other indie titles. The world is always filled with something, whether it’s clutter or debris. None of the levels feel empty, though a lot of the objects are static. There are other birds but they sit still in the sky, and the trees don’t rustle. In the undersea level, some of the fishtails wade from side to side, but the fish themselves are stuck in place. In the space level, there is broken ship parts or chunks of rock, but they’re held perfectly still like some sort of stasis. It feels like you’re flying through an area affected by time manipulation.
The landscapes you fly through are quite vibrant and pretty. However, the downside here is that it’s hard to see feathers or your bird because of the bloom/lighting effects. This is more noticeable in the cowboy level, due to the rays of light streaming in. At first, it’s amazing that a game with such low system requirements can present this beautifully. After a while, however, the lighting just becomes annoying and in the way — to the point where it’s hard to see things. On the screen at all times is an effect that’s most likely trying to replicate the feeling of you speeding through an area or ‘flying lines’ that are noticeable in cartoons. But, like the bloom effect, it becomes annoying and gets in the way. If there’s an option to turn this off, that would be great to see.
There is some good worldbuilding in some of the levels. The fifth level is space-themed so there are cyberpunk ads and cryotubes. The castle level has stylised 3D polygon portraits of people that also look painted. It’s a nice touch. The art itself is vibrant and vivid, and the models in each world make sense. The hub world has rooms where you can begin the level, with each room themed to the level. You already have a sense of what the level is going to be before entering which is cool.
Glitch is glitch?
While playing Dreamscape, glitches are there enough that they became noticeable. Nothing game-breaking, but something worth talking about. When collecting the feathers, sometimes the texture of them won’t show. This happens only on levels 1 and 11, and usually it’ll be because the feather is against a blue background. The feathers display with two gold rings alternating on an axis with the feather in the middle. However, the feathers can look odd or sometimes won’t display at all, leaving only the two rings. This makes looking for feathers to complete the level difficult unless you notice the spinning.
In other games, the use of invisible walls can be kind of funny or at least helpful. In Dreamscape, they’re confusing and annoying. Collision in this game just seems strange overall. You can fly through character models, but if you collide with certain objects you’re sent back to the start. Clouds in level 1 have collision on, whereas a solid rock on level 2 doesn’t. The city level (pictured below) proves troublesome when trying to figure out what route the developers want us to take. One could easily find themselves colliding with an invisible wall and have to start from the beginning. This is annoying because the game fails to telegraph what areas should and should not be traversed. What’s even more annoying is that the slow movement means it takes a while to get back to where you ‘died’.
Another glitch that becomes annoying is that some objects in level 11 will glitch out and quickly come back. Meanwhile, level 12 began after completing level 4. It was confusing, why would a pirate/ninja level also add in dinosaurs and forests? It just feels like they’re not finessing the details of this game. Bugs and glitches happen, there’s no perfect game. But considering how many titles there are in the Aery series in less than 2 years, it just feels like an unrefined or rushed concept.
In the end, it can take anywhere between 3 to 4 hours to complete Dreamscape. Might even be able to complete it earlier if you’ve played it before or have a walkthrough.
Aery – Dreamscape boasts about its beautiful worlds and stunning graphics, but it lags behind in so many other ways. While it might be a good game to get if you’re an achievement hunter, Dreamscape’s absence of storytelling doesn’t save it in the slightest. Aery – Dreamscape feels more like a tech demo than an actual solid game. It might be something you let your little cousin play, but I personally wouldn’t spend my time playing another Aery title. Not when there are similar games doing the concept better.
- I'm flying, Jack!
- The art style is vivid and saturated
- No unique music depending on the level
- No world map or arrow pointing to your next objective
- Objects can glitch out, or not show
- Subtitles and dialogue are subpar
Aery – Dreamscape is an interesting game. But with five Aery games already out, has EpiXR Games already flown too close to the sun? Dreamscape’s storytelling is quirky, by looking into the dreams of those around us, we can understand each other more. With different levels and a unique hub world, it’s clear there’s passion. But considering that subtitles are sometimes missing, objects glitching, and markers not showing at all, maybe it’s best to give Dreamscape a miss.