Dreamscaper is a rogue-lite action RPG developed by Afterburner Studios and published by Freedom Games and Maple Whispering. The game follows Cassidy, an artistic young woman who just moved to a new town and has sunk into a deep depression. I got to have a hands-on experience with the Dreamscaper demo at E3.
Gameplay is split into two parts with players controlling Cassidy, both during the day and in her nightmares after she falls asleep. Playing Cassidy during her dreams is where the rogue-lite action comes into play. Like all rogue-lites, every run in Dreamscape is randomized as Cassidy dreams about returning to her old city, only corrupted and manipulated by a different emotion at each level. While playing through the dreams, players have to navigate the map to collect currency, build a loadout, fight enemies, and eventually face that level’s boss.
The level I was able to play during the preview was based on fear, with Cassidy exploring relatively normal but empty streets of her hometown at night. While playing through it I was able to put together a build consisting of a defensive shield, a primary weapon that had a regular and strong attack, a ranged weapon, two spells known as Lucid Powers, an ultimate ability, and passive abilities.xt
The combat was fluid and responsive with a parry and dodge system that worked well and made it comfortable to play aggressively. Enemies in the first world were mostly split up into one melee type and one ranged type, but I also got a sneak peek at a later level that boasted a lot more variety and much higher difficulty.
Variety is definitely not a problem for Dreamscaper. With the small glimpse I was given of the different equipment available throughout the game it was clear that there is an impressive amount of different gear that all have distinct characteristics and play styles. Some of the options I saw in the demo included a shield that wouldn’t allow me to parry but instead would automatically block a hit on its own after a short cooldown, a ranged attack that was similar to a close-range shotgun blast, and a dodge that was a short teleport.
At the end of the level, I fought against the boss representing fear, which took the form of a leviathan in a pool of water. The fight was dynamic and a lot of fun. The boss had an interesting mechanic that made it stand out from the rest of the level while also requiring me to use my entire loadout to defeat it.
Outside of the dreams, players are able to use a variety of different upgrades to unlock bonuses and new items to appear in the dreams. This is handled in an engaging and heartfelt way, with players helping Cassidy to make friends and start making her new city feel like more of a home as she battles her mental health. Power-ups are gained by having conversations with friends and learning their interests as they develop a bond with them. Then, players can make crafts that they think the friend will like as a gift. This levels that friendship up and increases an associated stat such as health or damage.
Players can also go to the café and spend a currency to sketch out ideas, which are different equipment items that have a chance to appear during runs. There is again, a wide variety of pieces of equipment, and being able to choose which ones to unlock allows players to better cater to their preferred playstyle. All in all, the daytime activities of the Dreamscaper demo were a great way to add another layer to the typical rogue-lite formula.
It also has to be pointed out just how beautiful of a game Dreamscaper is, both in the dreams and the daytime. The visual design of both areas of the game is very effective in communicating the warm potential of the new city as well as the desolate cold of the nightmares. Combat also looks great, with animations clearly communicating what enemies are about to do as well as making the player’s actions feel impactful and powerful with flashy particle effects and flashes of color.
All in all, I walked away from my time with the Dreamscaper demo very impressed. The combat felt great, which is very important for any rogue-lite, but the added element of Cassidy’s daytime activities seems like a great addition as well. It is also nice to see a game that actually explores mental illness and depicts a character finding a way to cope and handle it rather than just using it as an aesthetic.
Dreamscaper will be available in Early Access for PC with a full release on PC and Switch later this year.