Dreamscaper is a new action-roguelite that recently entered Early Access. The game blends top-down brawling action with some interesting social elements that act as a form of meta progression. The developers sent us a copy to do a preview, and here are my impressions after close to four hours of gameplay.
Dreamscaper follows Cassidy, a troubled young woman that has been having surreal, disturbing dreams after moving to a new town. The game is a bit like Persona in that its broken into two parts: dungeon crawling roguelite combat through procedurally generated levels, and social interactions as Cassidy meets new people and forms strong bonds and friendships with them.
During the day, you’ll travel around a few key locations in town, chatting with the familiar faces Cassidy has gradually befriended in her daily life. The social aspect and the dungeon crawling are deeply interconnected.
In fact, the amount of time you get to chat with people is directly related to how well Cassidy slept the night before. In other words, the further you got in the dream-dungeon, the more time you’ll have to explore the town.
Clearing a floor gives you the maximum amount of time, which is three hours. Traveling to locations takes between 15 and 30 minutes, and chatting with someone takes an additional 30 minutes. The more you chat with someone, the more your relationship will level up.
You can also craft gifts with resources you gather in the dreams, with each person having preferences that determine how far you’ll advance the relationship with that specific gift. You’ll have to figure out what gift ideas are most compatible with each individual based on the conversations you have with them.
Most roguelites have meta progression elements that unlock new items and weapons that you might encounter in the dungeon, and that is ultimately the main purpose of the social elements in Dreamscaper. Sure, you are getting little story tidbits through these conversations, but each person also unlocks new items, weapons, and passive buffs the more you interact with them.
I’m not far enough to feel emotional attachment to any specific character, but the overall idea of social elements forming the basis of a roguelite’s meta progression system is pretty interesting.
Usually these meta elements are tied to simply playing the game and getting further in the dungeons, or maybe by upgrading some central hub. Building relationships to unlock new items and buffs is a pretty fresh take on meta progression in the genre.
Cassidy’s dreams are where you’ll spend most of your time in the game. Like most action-roguelites, the dungeon crawling in Cassidy’s dreams involve clearing rooms in a procedurally generated level. Each dream consists of one floor of the dungeon, and if you die, your progress in the dungeon will be reset. Your progress in Cassidy’s daily life, however, will remain unchanged.
While some rooms might just consist of a chest or puzzle that grants new items, the majority of them will be combat encounters. The battles in Dreamscaper are fairly straightforward mechanically. You have a melee weapon that has a light and heavy attack, a ranged weapon that consumes ammo, a shield that can block and parry attacks, and a dodge move.
As with most games in the genre, the depth of the combat system is derived from the builds you’ll craft during a run. You’ll regularly encounter new item and weapon drops.
Each specific weapon or item will usually have the same core attacks or abilities, but will come with randomly generated secondary passive stats. For example, you might find some dual short swords that buff your critical damage one run, but find a version of those same swords that apply poison in a different run.
Dreamscaper does a pretty good job of coming up with interesting loot for you to find. Your basic dodge ability is a simple roll, but you might find dodge items that instead teleport you short distances. Likewise, you could find a shield that disables your ability to block or parry, but grants you a passive force field that absorbs a set amount of damage before having to recharge.
Rounding out your weapons and passive items are Lucid attacks. You can have two of these at a time, each of which have a cooldown and consume energy from a Lucid bar that you regenerate by dealing damage. Some Lucid abilities include summoning a swarm of homing blades that seek out nearby enemies, or a blizzard that momentarily freezes your foes.
While the game’s combat is relatively simple, the variety of weird items and weapons you can find keep things interesting. If I had one complaint about the combat, it would be that some enemies have a little too much health. This can result in engagements that drag on a bit, not because they are necessarily hard, but rather because you just have to sit there pummeling a single guy for a minute or two.
As you’ve probably figured out from these screenshots, Dreamscaper‘s presentation is another big highlight. The game has some extremely vivid, surreal environments while in Cassidy’s dream world, with a soundtrack that fits the action just perfectly.
The game’s characters are all faceless, in what I assume is a deliberate artistic choice to reinforce the dreamlike aesthetics of the game. I think it works well enough, but it is a little disappointing to not have a face to associate with each character. I suspect that this is going to be a design choice that people either love or hate.
While the game runs really smoothly so far, I have encountered a handful of crashes. These crashes all happened before the game released, and seem to have been addressed in the most recent patch.
Dreamscaper is a very promising new addition to the roguelite genre. It has a simple but engaging combat system, backed up with lots of interesting weapon and item combos to discover.
The meta progression being tied to social interactions in Cassidy’s daily life is a pretty cool idea, even if I’m not far enough into the game to become attached to anyone in particular. The game also has some really solid presentation, in both its visuals and soundtrack, and the overall performance is pretty solid for an Early Access game.
If you are looking for a new action-roguelite, then Dreamscaper is already pretty fun and engaging in its current state. While I’m not the sort to ever directly recommend a game still in Early Access, I will say that Dreamscaper is definitely one to keep an eye on. You can give the game a try for yourself with its free prologue, and then make a decision from there.
Dreamscaper is currently in Early Access for Windows PC via Steam. We’ll be sure to return to the game for a proper review once its ready to get a full release.
Dreamscaper was previewed on Windows PC using a preview copy provided by Afterburner Studios. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.