DreadXP has made a name for themselves publishing a number of short indie game collections and most recently, their monster-themed dating sim Sucker for Love, but Dread Delusion is their first foray into the realm of open world RPGs. Developed by Lovely Hellplace, this retro styled game takes place in a bizarre and unique world, one where having delusions is actually a good thing.
Like many great RPGs before it, Dread Delusion opens up with your protagonist in a jail cell. You're released from jail to hunt down a notorious criminal, an encounter you have little chance of surviving, and the story opens up from there. While there is a central plot to follow, after you leave the first island in the game, you have access to more sidequests and room to meander around the world a bit.
The game's worldbuilding is interesting, and the entire premise of the world itself as having been decimated by a war against real, malevolent gods, is unusual in its execution. It's not your run of the mill RPG fantasy land or post-apocalyptic era that you'll find yourself traipsing through.
The writing mostly fits the somber tone, but the occasional touches of witty humor go a long way to lightening the mood. So far there aren't a whole lot of memorable NPCs, but your protagonist has a three part choose your own backstory that fleshes out their character and, judging by dialogue choices, is the only sane person in a world full of chaos.
The game's controls are fairly easy to get used to, and it works great on a mouse and keyboard setup. However, the game's biggest weakness so far is a lacking tutorial. If you're looking for handholding to get you started, this is not the game for you. Sure, there are a few drones scattered around to explain how save points and beds work, but I found myself consulting the Controls menu more times than I would like, as well as being utterly baffled by weapon upgrades.
It's definitely a process of trial and error for some functions in the game, which can get frustrating at times, even though it does fit the worldbuilding of the game. After all, if you're a released convict sent out into the world with merely a rusty sword and a few vague instructions, being expected to die within 10 minutes, it's not unreasonable you'd be confused by most things.
Combat itself is easy to grasp, and you're given a sword early on in the game. There are other weapons you find later on, as well as fighting spells, and as you start to unlock various aspects you can choose which styles work best for you. Though, going into the game with a rudimentary idea of how you want to play is best, as your backstory changes attributes and stats. Save points and beds to restore your health are not plentiful, so figuring out combat early on is essential, despite the game's stress that sneaking around enemy encounters is crucial.
Dread Delusion's art style is retro-kitschy, with graphics that wouldn't have looked out of place circa 1993. The whole world looks like someone took Wonderland and fed it through an acid-infuser, with a magenta sky, skulls and corpses lying everywhere and some being used for decoration, and a few oddly specific Tudor-style cottages across the landscape. The plants are terrifying and range from giant dayglo mushrooms three stories tall to transplanted hot pink anemones to whatever that thing was that had just far too many eyes for me to feel comfortable. Edgar Allan Poe, eat your tell-tale heart out.
Ultimately, Dread Delusion is meant to aim at a very specific type of horror and RPG fan. If you enjoy really retro graphics, bizarre oddity style of horror and open world exploration, you'll most likely find enjoyment in Dread Delusion, despite the game's early access label. For those looking for a more traditional or survival horror experience, one with more handholding, you, like the protagonist, might find a bit more than you bargained for.
TechRaptor previewed Dread Delusion on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. It will be launching for PC on a currently unannounced date.