Dark Light

What is a dream but a projection of our realities – the stories we imagine or the tales we tell ourselves? All those experiences our subconscious accumulates, our deepest desires, are collectively sliced and reeled by our brain into an interactive movie where we are the main character. Not going to lie, I had dreams of the games or movies I had played before sleeping, subtly amalgamated with memories of my school, my old apartment, and sometimes even my college and office – all beginning and ending in medias res. And since our minds fail to distinguish the physical improbabilities in dreams, we only remember fragments of it – faint memories lingering at the back of our minds that we know can’t be dreamed again.

Allow me to describe what I felt while playing Dreamscaper.

Face your nightmares

Dreamscaper tells the story of Cassidy, a perpetually depressed woman who’s just moved into a new city called Redhaven. Even though she’s now entered a new phase in life, living inside a cozy apartment, the memories of her childhood and her hometown still invade her dreams. Unable to let go of the ghosts of her past, she spends most of her time tired and sleeping and that’s when she awakens to a new form of reality – the dreamscape, where her emotions and inner demons take nightmarish forms. Based around a dungeon-crawler videogame she used to play as a kid, she dreams of herself as the main character of the game fighting miasmic monsters in locations quite similar to places she’s visited in real life. As she keeps defeating bosses born of her sense of isolation, fear, loss, and other negative emotions, she gradually redeems herself to awaken into a new dawn.

It’s not all in the dreams though, because the little time she’s awake she visits the local cafe, bookshop, lounge, and park and starts forging friendships with strangers. As we keep playing, little by little, these faceless humans of Redhaven let us in on their lives, and in the process, we get to learn about Cassidy’s life and her past as well.

Dream. Die. Wake. Repeat

Dreamscaper is a roguelite Action-RPG blending elements of hack ‘n’ slash, top-down shooters, and dungeon crawlers. As Cassidy sleeps and awakens in her dreamscape, she gains a completely different persona, transforming into the very character that had influenced her the most. And that’s what her subconscious chooses to project, dropping her into the shoes of her childhood heroine with a flowing scarf that glows star bright. And don’t get me started on the assortment of destructive weapons she wields to pulverize the enemies, manipulating elements like fire, ice and poison and bending time itself to her will. The weapon roster is massive and innovative, your arsenal ranging from a katana and hammer to massive Yo-Yos and even punching gloves that summon twin-wolves’ heads to beat the shit out of enemies!

In addition to this, across the levels, you’ll stumble upon many abilities that will buff your current arsenal, like adding lightning or flaming effects to a sword or adding poison or shockwave effects to your boots as you dodge in the nick of time. Heck, why not both? Let me just surge the rocks from below like a goddamn Earthbender and unleash my flurry of attacks on that dark wizard. Or why bother, when Cassidy can use her devastating Lucid attacks for total area denial, or channel all her rage in the form of a deafening scream or an astral blow. Combine these Lucid attacks with the regular melee, parry deflection, and well-timed dodges and you can clear out hordes of enemies in no time. Not to mention, you can actually stop time for a while making you nigh imperceptible to those nightmarish ghouls.

There are some very minor puzzles that reward you with more abilities which you can either swap with your current ones or harvest for ‘sands’ (in-game currency) and spend them at shops in exchange for abilities. You also acquire sands by killing enemies, destroying those blue and brown crystals, and by discovering certain locations that allow Cassidy to remember her past.

Surreal vistas of Cassidy’s past

All of Cassidy’s dreams feature locations from her past and present- serene landscapes embellished in a surreal blur and glistening bloom. The soothing background music changes form in the heat of the battle; one moment I’m relaxed and taking in the views and the next, I’m at the edge of my seat, eyes fixated on the enemies’ movements. All these vibrant locations are based on the places she lived, visited, or thought of, just like how our dreams are based on what we see and hear. These places or dungeons within each level shuffle every time you start a new run, which further proves my point that you never dream the same location in the same way twice. This means in Dreamscaper, you might have to slay hordes of demons to get to that fabled shop atop the spiral staircase. Same for reaching the boss locations. Some locations provide treasure chests, some offer you two or three abilities to choose from, some allow you to regenerate your health or Lucid, some provide a certain challenge completing which you receive a treasure box, and so on.

To Dream or Not to Dream

But Cassidy is just a normal human and hence once she dies in the dream, she wakes up. And with that, you lose all the level progressions you’ve made, all those items or weapons or the sands that you’ve garnered. At this point, you’re free to decide whether you want to sleep again and start a new run, or stay awake and visit your friends. Now, don’t worry, it’s not there just to show the human side of Cassidy, because the more you bond with the citizens, the more innate abilities you unlock, like increasing your critical damage, defense, fire and lightning damage, etc.

The loot she claims from her dreams like Insight, Bliss, Solace, etc. can be used to craft gifts for her friends, or can be used to craft her starting loadout lest it be set to random. As long as you are able to breeze through the levels in a single run, you’ll have enough materials to craft rare loadouts for your successive runs, as well as craft higher-level gifts that will deepen your bond with others and in turn give you permanent buffs. Not all gifts are suitable for all though. You need to figure out what each person is interested in and gift them as such (don’t worry their bio and likes will be listed in your diary).

Early Access Impressions

To be honest, not once did I feel that Dreamscaper was still in Early Access. The weapons are so varied and powerful, the enemies so random, changing attack patterns in successive levels. And on top of it, the devs will be releasing frequent free updates with new weapons, levels, and enemies in the coming months! Dreamscaper is a roguelite, thus providing continuous challenging situations and a rich, expansive combat system to master. There is no shortage of ways to defeat enemies as it all depends on what abilities you have, from burning them to a crisp with lasers or exploding them into a void using your Lucid. Surprisingly, Dreamscaper is made by a studio that comprises of only four people! Dreamscaper is one of the few games we recommend you try out in its Early Access stage itself!

Currently, the prologue is free on Steam if you want a bite of this sweet cookie.


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