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Dreamwalkers.rpg (demo review) 
 PostSat Dec 29, 2018 3:47 pm
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Shiny...
This is a review of Dreamwalkers.rpg (DEMO).

Dreamwalkers.rpg is a game demo released in 2018 by Gaplan, featuring music by Darren Curtis.

The player character Kurt is plagued by nightmares of a shadowy figure outside his window. Consulting the internet for guidance, he learns of a web forum called “dreamsurfers” where he is encouraged by an admin to engage in lucid dreaming to combat his nightmares.

The player gains control of Kurt after school the next day. Most of the doors don’t open and most other students don’t talk to Kurt; though some open doors let the player and NPCs wander out in the black space beyond the school (perhaps this is not intentional). There are some doors to the sides that I had trouble finding at first, beyond which lie stairs leading down to the ground floor where Kurt can purchase restorative items in the cafeteria (I later concluded that saving my money was a better move though).

Kurt tells his friend Alex about the nightmares, and she agrees to join him in his lucid dreaming activities. Outside Kurt’s house, they fight the shadowy creature from his dreams and roam around a nightmare town overrun with other such monsters. A boss fight is waiting at the school building, but it could be lethal if Kurt and Alex aren’t well-equipped and leveled up. There are a few pieces of equipment scattered around town to be collected though, as well as a shop (if the heroes can afford the wares). After the boss fight, the demo ends.

Combat and resource management are basically functional, but could use some polish. Risks and rewards seemed unbalanced at low levels. Healing potions are rarely dropped by enemies and usually need to be purchased with money earned from battle, but the fragile heroes may become incapable of surviving battle before acquiring enough money to heal. If the player finds themselves with low HP and low funds, healing becomes impossible and a death spiral begins. Once the player can afford the fishing pole, this all became irrelevant as items become plentiful and easily farmed. Soul potions were almost never necessary, though I did use one or two. A more common random drop - the panacea - says it cures status effects, but it appears to target only enemies.

It’s entirely possible I was just playing the game badly. I was never quite certain how the game was intended to be approached. Combat is semi-voluntary: enemy sprites wander the map; if they touch you, a randomized encounter ensues. Fighting through all the monsters on a given screen resulted in loss of party members before acquiring healing items or reaching the shop, and the monsters re-spawn anyway so the only things to gain from combat are XP, money, and the occasional item drop. I had to make educated guesses about the most efficient way to grind and when to stop doing so.

I ultimately adopted this method: ignoring the cafeteria to save money, grabbing the knife and food from the fridge, making a beeline to the shop (dodging monsters and fleeing any larger enemy formations), healing to full, saving 2 games (a backup with full health and decent inventory, another for risky exploration), grinding and saving and rinsing and repeating until I could afford every item (on top of the 2 healing potions I always tried to keep on hand). When I finally decided to try the boss again (successfully this time), my play time was listed as 2 hours 14 minutes. In reality it took far longer, due to reaching an unwinnable state and either restoring or restarting. Kurt was at level 9 and Alex was level 18 (!!!).

Dreamwalkers is aesthetically pleasing on all fronts. The graphics are beautiful throughout, especially the title screen and animated battle backdrop. The music is great as well - the arrangements, rhythms, and choice of instrument sounds are all excellent.

Dreamwalkers is a promising demo that needs more playtesting and refinement. Visually and sonically, it is outstanding; the gameplay could stand some balancing. I look forward to playing a completed version!
...spake The Lord Thy God.
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