Developer: Afterburner Studios
Release Date: August 5, 2021
If you had asked me at the beginning of July which project game I thought I would be most likely to keep playing long after I had enough information for a Quick Look, Dreamscaper definitely would have been at the top of my list. I was fascinated by the game when I played the demo back in September of 2019. However, in the two years that passed between demo and full release, it sort of fell off my radar, and I when it came out, I decided that it wasn’t something I needed to have right away.
Since it fit the timeline for the project, and since it was available to play through XBox Game Pass, I thought this would be a great opportunity to see if it was still something I really wanted. The art style is even better than I remember, and of course, the concept is still fascinating. Fight your demons while you sleep, and do things during the day as your form of permanent progression.
But this time, it just didn’t grab me. First, I couldn’t get my controller to work with it, which wasn’t a huge thing since I’m used playing ARPGs with mouse and keyboard anyway. Then I managed to “recycle” some upgrades by holding down F instead of just pressing it – my bad, I should have looked closer at what the game was telling me to do. I also didn’t realize at first that I wasn’t so much picking up healing potions as I was grabbing potion-bottle-shaped health globes, so I spent a good few minutes trying to figure out if I had an inventory, and if so, how did I access it. The options menu told me I could press “J” to see my journal, but pressing “J” didn’t do anything at all, as far as I could tell.
Ok, so, I chalked that up to 50% me being distracted, and 50% the game being less transparent about how things worked than I usually prefer. I probably could have muddled through it all. However, once I hit the first boss, I realized that I’m actually pretty terrible at this game. I managed to beat the encounter once, primarily due to starting it with a nearly full health bar, and having picked up and incredibly effective weapon for it. I was relieved that it was in my rearview mirror and I was moving on.
Then, two trash mobs into the second level, I died, and watched as I was reset all the way back to the first level. Right. Permadeath. That’s unfortunate.
I expected the next run to be easier, since I now had a weapon drop from the first boss, and I was starting to get the hang of this. Instead, the next run started with a big hammer I had never seen before. The one after that, I was bare-fisted. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to what you have when you start a new run, which I found very frustrating. I still couldn’t access any kind of inventory or see what I had equipped, until finally on my last run, I managed to beat the boss again, and got a screen with a breakdown of what I was using.
… and then I immediate died in the first room of the second floor. Again.
In the end, it seems like Dreamscaper is not, in fact, For Me. I’m sure if I were determined enough, I could brute force my way through with some lucky drops and some patience, but I find after about an hour, I don’t particularly want to.
SteamDB estimates that Dreamscaper has sold between 44,900 and 123,500 copies on Steam. So far it’s been a hit, with over 90% of the reviews recommending the game. It is ranked 468 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.