By – Mike Andre
The latest title from Aldorlea Games, of Laxius Force and Asguaard fame is, as you might expect, an RPG with a traditional top down view set in a fantasy world. But not any fantasy world, mind you. In Dreamscape, you guide your characters to the least expected of places: inside the subconscious of the various characters of the game. The concept is very interesting and radically different from the usual medieval or sci-fi settings.
Nice headphones you’ve got there…Oh wait
The story starts when Erin, the character you begin with, goes to his boyfriend Terry’s apartment after she receive a call from him. Terry shows her some strange headphones he acquired with the power to send anyone who puts them to a dream world of the wearer’s imagination. Despite Erin’s fears, he puts them on and both are immediately taken to a weird world called Lostham. There they are separated by a chasm and right after he suddenly disappears, she gets her hands on the headphones and your adventure begins.
As you might guess your objective is to find Terry, but thankfully you won’t have to go through the entire game alone. Along the way you’ll come across many different characters and some will even join you, like Terry’s cat for instance, who also landed on Lostham and now gained the ability to talk like a human.
Other than your companions, you’ll also be able to meet other characters you can use the headphones with. By doing so, you’ll be able to explore their dreams and the dreams of other characters within their dreams, in the hope of finding some clues on Terry’s whereabouts. Confusing, right? Well, did you ever watch Christopher Nolan’s movie Inception? If so, you’ll understand immediately what I’m talking about.
All your dreams are belong to us
However, apart from this gimmick if I may call it that, the game is pretty much what you would expect from a RPG. You’ll explore new places, fight some monsters, meet new characters, advance the story and repeat the process until the end of the game. Of course, I’m not saying this is a bad thing, especially since Aldorlea managed to keep things interesting throughout.
Despite some numerous, “Thank you Mario, but she’s in another castle” kind of moments, the story is interesting and does a great job at keeping you entertained and compelled to continue playing. The dialogue leaves a bit to be desired in some spots as occasionally you come across some weirdly worded sentences and glaring grammar mistakes. These little problems break the immersion a fair bit and could have been easily avoided by having someone edited the script. However, being a indie company nobody expects them to have unlimited funds, so I think I can forgive them for that. Overall, the story presentation has enough humor and character to make up for the above flaws.
The turn based combat is good enough, nothing remarkable or particularly flawed. In Dreamscape, enemies are referred to as “Glitches”, who represent the fears and uncertainties of the dreamer. They assume all sorts of forms, from oversized butterflies to gorillas, there’s a nice variety of enemies to fight, some more original like the giant toe (yes, that’s right), some less like the generic skeletons.
Not always pleasing to the eye
The graphics are hard to judge as a whole since they go from passable to good. There are some visual inconsistencies, namely the use of conflicting art styles and the mixture of photographs and digital art with pure pixel art, but there are also problems with some background tiles being way too distracting and creating very busy compositions. Other than that, Dreamscape is what you would expect from a traditional RPG Maker game. Now whether that’s a good or a bad thing depends mostly on how tired you are of seeing the same sprites in every game made with it.
The sound is competent; the music helps the atmosphere of each world even if it’s not particularly memorable or catchy. There are some highlights though, for instance the creepy atmosphere of the late XIX century London world is created mostly thanks to the music. That and knowing Jack the Ripper is on the loose, but perhaps that’s just me.
Traveling isn’t that boring
The real strong point of Dreamscape though resides in traveling from world to world. Not only it’s very interesting discovering a little bit more about each character by literally invading their dreams, there is a great variety of scenarios and places to visit and new characters to meet. To put it simply, each new world is a reason to continue playing. The environments are so well crafted and visually diverse, it’s fun to just go around exploring just for the sake of it. The game also offers a nice feeling of freedom, you aren’t forced to go a particular path, you can freely go back and forth and revisit whatever world you were in before.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
Despite some flaws, Dreamscape is an original take on RPG genre and a very enjoyable experience. $20 might seem like a pretty steep price, but the game has enough meat and longevity to make it worth the purchase. Now, if you don’t like jRPGs or would prefer something with a little more action, then the game is probably not for you.
[Editor’s Note: As of 12-12-11, Dreamscape is available for $6.99 via Desura which is 30% off the normal price of $9.99]
Dreamscape Technical Summary:
- Time Played –10 hours
- Widescreen Support – No
- 5.1 Audio – No
- Bugs – None Encountered
- DRM – None
- Control Scheme – Mouse and Keyboard
- Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
- Availability – Aldorlea Games, Desura
- Demo – Yes
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