Dreamscaper - PC Review

by developer Afterburner Studios and publishers Freedom Games and Maple Whispering LimitedPC review written by Pierre-Yves.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

This has been a long journey for me but even longer for the devs behind their brilliantly designed roguelite. Having seen several versions from the original Prologue to its Early Access debut, Afterburner Studio's Dreamscaper is both now finished and its final format bringing about an even more pleasant experience than anything having led up to it.

The premise is a fairly simple one though the execution however is much more complex and will engage and challenge you to continuously push further. Our protagonist Cassidy is a lucid dreamer and in their dreams they fight against monsters both big and small trying to reach something just over the next battle. With plenty of environments strewn with their own sets of challenges, there are more than enough weapons and abilities to help in this fight. If Cassidy falls in battle though, then it's game over, they wake up, and you get to start it all over again the next night.

For the three versions that I've dreamt my way through, this is how it starts. Cassidy goes to sleep and then falls into a realm far different from our own. Every night they find themselves with different weapons (melee and ranged) but the constant is their special ability and dodge style which remain the same until new ones are picked up. From there, the layouts of the environment are randomized from placement to enemies and items. Your goal is to make it to the boss of that realm, defeat them, and then move on. As time goes on however, Cassidy can unlock gear to start with so that you at least always have an edge at the start of the first realm.

It's simple, it's effective, but it's a roguelite so the journey will be anything but an easy one. So it's for this reason that each environment can contain upgrades to your current gear if you either find them or have enough accumulated sand to pay for them. What some people may not find working well for them is honestly a part of the challenge and even while I didn't like it at times, it's something to deal with and that is the actual weapons that you pick up. Each one of these has a different style from the amount of damage they can do per second (DPS) to their speeds and ease of use. Being behind a wall that needs to be created, Cloud’s Buster Sword is stupid powerful but slow in Cassidy’s hands while Lloyd’s Twin-Blades are stupid fast but don’t do as much damage. Add in wolf head gauntlets, bare fists, and a variety of other bladed weapons and those of higher DPS may not always be your cup of tea. But like I said, this is a roguelite and with roguelites / likes, there’s always a challenge factor and this is part of Dreamscaper’s.

Upfront this may sound like a lot to get adjusted to but in practice, you start to barely notice it as time goes on due to the fact that on average a realm can take you about ten minutes to clear based off of how many rooms you actually want to go through versus how many rooms it takes to find the boss. From the beginning though, there’s been an ease of use or accessibility with Dreamscaper as it’s instantly possible to teleport between any room that has been visited. Making that even easier at times is that the boss room can be entered and then exited as long as you haven’t “touched the big shiny object” that will lead you to fights of epic proportions.

Between all of this though is perhaps my favorite addition to Dreamscaper that came about at the beginning of its Early Access, Cassidy’s real life. Before going to sleep every night, Cassidy can explore the city that she’s living in. The book store, coffee shop, the bar, the park, the record store, each of these areas add a bit more to see outside of the dream realms. In Early Access, perhaps my one issue with the real world was that you had to do well in the dream world in order to not be tired enough the next day “after work” in order to explore the town and get to know the people. Gone from that version is requiring having to do well and keeping an accumulation of sand which acts as your currency. Now? Now you get to explore the town with a few new twists added into the mix.

Now being able to use sand to hearts content in the dream world to upgrade and buy new weapons, the real world will see you using a few other things that you picked up in order to help both the real and dream worlds explorations. From Cassidy’s room, you can craft gifts to give to people in order to increase their relationships which lead into dialog scenes. It’s a bit in the Persona vein but it does more than add a bit of slice of life as for every level increase of Cassidy’s relationships, Cassidy can use those as a bonus in the dream world such as extra armor, higher ranged attack, etc. From there, Cassidy can also meditate in the park to raise attributes such as max health or damage to bosses, go to the cafe to sketch new items to appear, or go to the bar to daydream new elements to show up within the dream realm.

A lot of these features are new to the full release, or new in that they are now their own thing and can be goals to strive towards. That said, I like how this progression has been structured and that Cassidy can now view all of these places and potentially interact with all of the other NPCs instead of just select ones depending on the amount of time that was available after a successful or semi-successful run. It feels more natural and less punishing than the other way around that was being rewarded for having done well, but not every run will go well. Just last week I went on a fresh run to try something out and I aced the first two floors and their bosses only to die stupidly to a combination of lightning strikes and getting cornered by a bad dodge. That’s all it took to wipe out and game over for that night. So with how brutal things can get, it was nice to have some of the other elements soften up.

Now here are my two big things with Dreamscaper. First, it has gorgeous artwork that makes it easy to look at for hours on end. The second, the background audio regardless of the volume level never gets boring or stagnant, it just works. I guess third, the loading times were amazing and when in either the realm or the dream realm, going from location to location takes seconds and there’s never a wait time, it’s just done. Everything just felt right and properly optimized to the points that the CPU fans never even kicked in as they didn’t need to while other titles have thrown the damn thing into overdrive making me wonder how what I was looking at could even come close to taxing a RTX 3080.


So from the Prologue to Early Access and then to full release, Afterbuner Studios’ Dreamscaper has been an amazing adventure. With multiple easy to use systems, an intuitive combat system and plenty of upgrades to be discovered and unlocked, there’s more than enough dungeon crawling and rogueliting to keep anyone busy for a long while. If it gets too easy? Just add in some extra modifiers and see if you’re still swinging the same tune or getting kicked out of the record store for not knowing what Math Rock was.

Score: 8.75 / 10



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