Developer: Afterburner Studios
Publisher: Freedom Games
Genre: Action RPG
The Nintendo Switch is probably the best platform for roguelikes outside of PC. The handheld console is perfect for quick or marathon sessions where players can lose and repeat with maximum comfort. Dreamscaper is the latest roguelike to make its way to the Switch. The hybrid action RPG might be one of the best games in the genre, with an addictive gameplay loop and a fulfilling story.
Players will play as Cassidy, a woman who struggles in both real life and her dreams. Every time she goes to sleep she is sent to a fantasy world, living a lucid dream haunted by familiars and her anxieties. To end the nightmare loop, players will work through many randomly generated dungeons to reach the conclusion of the dreams and find answers for Cassidy.
Traveling through the dreams is a surreal and beautiful experience. Each dungeon is inspired by real life locations that Cassidy runs into while awake. Players are free to explore their environments, with each stage mostly being a solid level with many rooms. Players will find shops, gear, and of course enemies. At the end of every stage is a boss that challenges how much players have learned so far.
Outside of the dreams, players can wonder through the real world to interact with people and objects. This is where players can get permanent upgrades to make subsequent trips to the dream world better. The ways that players obtain upgrades fits well with the game’s story and tone. Cassidy can find inspiration in the dream world, then sketch up her inspirations in a book to take with her to her dreams.
Cassidy clearly has some demons that are holding her back from reaching her full potential in life. While walking through the real world, she just sort of trots from place to place without much vigor. Each boss is named after something that is haunting her, such as fear, isolation, and regret. The music playing in the background is melancholy. Players obtain bits of Cassidy’s life as they play, making the game’s theme and protagonist easy to fall for.
Like most roguelikes, Dreamscaper is a difficult game. Players will constantly die and repeat stages while getting better and finding upgrades. As difficult as it is, Dreamscaper never feels unfair. Players have access to tons of weapons for both melee and ranged attacks. They can block, dodge, and parry attacks with precise timing. Every weapon has a few moments where perfect button presses deal extra damage. It’s a game that rewards skill, but the floor isn’t too high either.
Dreamscaper is a gorgeous game, with a cool color scheme that matches the game’s tone. The visuals are clean, with nightmarish designs paired with dreamy textures. The bosses look fierce and fantastic, but the standard enemies don’t exactly astound. There isn’t anything wrong with them, but I found myself wanting a little more. The humans themselves don’t have much detail in their faces, allowing for players to imagine their own faces. The music is soothing throughout, adding to calm atmosphere.
The Switch version gives players the choice between quality and performance modes. Both modes work great, and players won’t lose to much graphically by switching to Performance mode for 60 FPS.
Dreamscaper is a fantastic roguelike that deals with its themes well while giving players a great sense of progression. Anyone who is new to the genre will be able to work through the experience, while longtime fans will enjoy all of the depth that the weapons offer. It doesn’t reach the same levels that Hades has a set as the new standard, but it is still a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Dreamscaper is a fantastic roguelike that deals with its themes well while giving players a great sense of progression.