Last week, during E3’s Media Week I was able to book some game previews with the developers of some upcoming games. My first E3 preview was with Afterburner Studios, creators of Dreamscaper. The team is made up of Ian Cofino (Design, Animation, VFX, UI), Robert Taylor (Engineering), Paul Svoboda (Environment, Characters) and Dale North (Music). I got to chat with Ian and Rob while playing through part of the game.
Rob, Paul and Ian have been working in the games industry for some time. In 2018, they wanted a change so they left their traditional game development jobs and created their own studio where they began working on their dream project, Dreamscaper. Today, it’s just a couple of months away. It’s scheduled for release on August 14, 2021 (on PC and Nintendo Switch).
This was my first experience playing through a game as the developers are explaining everything in real time. It was also my first time ever playing, Dreamscaper This is the ultimate way to play a game and I highly recommend it, if possible — it’s the Director’s Cut of gaming. I’m sure it’s better at a live event where they can actually watch you play and react vs screen sharing and using voice chat. My greatest achievement was immediately solving a puzzle in one room and hearing them both say, “Nice!”
Dreamscaper is an action RPG roguelite — I love and have put many hours into recent Roguelites (mainly The Binding of Isaac and Hades). In Dreamscaper you take control of Cassidy in both the dream and waking world. The dream world is where combat takes place, as Cassidy defeats monsters and enemies to move from room to room, collecting items and runes along the way.
In the waking world things are a bit different. In The Binding of Isaac there’s only really the combat dungeon-crawling aspect of the game. Hades has the escape from Hell (dungeon-crawling), but every time you fail you are able to explore the living quarters of Hell. The waking world in Dreamscaper reminds me of this, but with more to do. In the waking world you visit different parts of the town and form relationships. These relationships can also help you gain abilities that will help you in your dream battles.
Dream. Die. Wake. Repeat.
My preview of Dreamscaper included some early gameplay and some late game moments. At first I felt this game played a bit slower than I’m used to, but jumping into late gameplay I realized that it’s all about leveling up — the gameplay felt much faster later on. I think the games I’m used to playing in this genre are more button mashing-types, while the combat in Dreamscaper is slower and more skill-based. Once I slowed down a bit and timed my attacks and blocks I got much better at defeating enemies.
When I later went back into the demo on my own to capture some game footage I began collecting speed runes which helped make Cassidy move faster. The dodge/roll is also a nice touch, and in just about 20-30 minutes of gameplay I tried out many different types of dodge/rolls. There were fire-powered ones, gymnastics-style flips, icy rolls and more. The dream world definitely has so many power-ups and items to collect.
I recently wrote about parrying systems in games and how when done right they are a marvelous achievement. A great parry makes you feel like a badass. It’s all about creating a parrying system that the player can “learn” and become skilled at — not just a system that works by chance. There’s a specific timing window when it comes to building the perfect parry. This game has a great parrying system, it also allows you to extend your parry window as you advance with modifiers and abilities.
Something I didn’t really notice until I was editing my short gameplay clips together was how fantastic the sound design is in this game. You can feel each strike landing on your enemy in the dream world. When you get a parry right, you know because you feel it from the intense sound of the perfect block. The music of the world even adapts to your play style.
The world design of this game is stunning. Both the waking and dreaming world are beautiful to look upon. I love how the dream world has a fantasy-style with a touch of the real world elements (like the Burger Shack and other recognizable town spots). I really love the character design as well. Cassidy and the other faceless humans are eerily beautiful.
Dreamscaper is sort of a mix of two types of games when you think about it. (1) There’s the Roguelite elements of the dream world where you travel from room to room, defeating bosses to move on to the next “biome.” Then (2) there’s the waking world, which is more of an exploration game. It’s sort of a visual novel. You get to explore the town, learn about your neighbors, give them gifts, and this all has an impact on your dream world abilities.
This is not a full review of Dreamscaper, since I only got to play about an hour to ninety minutes of mostly the early game. The game is also not completely finished but I didn’t run into any noticeable problems, although I’m sure there will be some tweaks here and there after the developers have watched many people play through part of the game these past two weeks.
I have really enjoyed exploring the world of Dreamscaper so far, and I’m excited to try it out on the Nintendo Switch once it releases. My preview was on PC (via Steam). Dreamscaper seems to have so much to uncover in both worlds (dream and waking). Something I enjoyed was being able to build a custom load-out with items you’ve uncovered for your next dreamworld adventure.
Dreamscaper is coming to Nintendo Switch and PC (Steam) on August 14th, 2021.