Sometimes the lore will live far beyond the person who brought it to light and that's the case with H.P. Lovecraft. Though he mainly wrote short stories, they led to the creation of a whole universe that continues to be explored today. Across all media are titles that dive into the Lovecraftian lore about elder gods and monstrosities from other dimensions just waiting to enter the mortal realm. Cathuria Games have decided to venture into Lovecraft with their upcoming title Dream Cycle. As a hero caught between the dream and waking realms, you'll need to dive deeper into the surreal in order to return to what may be reality.
Lovecraft stories are mainly about the people who are experiencing the horrors and everything that they're feeling. In Dream Cycle, things are much more concrete than they appear. As someone named Morgan, you find yourself awakening in the dream world. Although the way to the Waking World remains open, there is something amiss, which Morgan decides to investigate.
Not only are some powerful entities dead, but her friend Erin has gone missing. While she still has time, Morgan must dive into the dream worlds past the Deep Gate in order to find her friend and return home. The curiosity of what lies within the dreams is more than enough to prompt you to explore and investigate.
When you enter a dream, you expect everything to be pleasant or least magical in some way, which Dream Cycle feels like at the start. Despite how big the game may sound, it's actually quite quick to throw you right in. When you start, you're already in the shoes of Morgan awakening in the dream world and looking for answers. The game trusts you to explore and follow the prompts to figure out what to do and where to go. It presents a story early and quickly so that you can start playing right away.
There are some roguelike elements in play as you enter the Deep Gate and look for a site to explore. As soon as you enter, you can use Astral Projection to get the lay of the land in relative safety and look for points of interest. You're also free to explore each area as you see fit, looking for treasures, and fighting enemies as they appear. The world is foggy like a dream but there's always a way to find your way through.
Thankfully, you have plenty of tools right from the get go to make your way through. Aside from the standard melee and ranged combat, you also have access to a variety of spells as well as the inherent ability to summon and throw rocks. Morgan is a very dynamic character with a lot of different options to approach various situations.
When having a dream, things can go sour fast depending on surrounding influences. With Dream Cycle, there are some issues it struggles with to keep the dream pleasant. One of them is the visual presentation. There's been a lot of work to create a huge fantasy world, but the people in it don't feel as fleshed out. From Morgan to the enemies, all the animated beings feel stiff and lifeless. It's almost like playing through a game populated by mannequins, which is especially noticeable during cutscenes.
Then there's the technical issues that play out during the game. It's most apparent during combat. Not only are the stealth and detection mechanics sensitive and finicky at best, but then there's how the enemies respond. You'll learn early on that enemies have the ability to teleport to your location, which is fine. What's not fine is how they can break the game in order to reach Morgan. They will literally glitch across empty space to engage in battle. Then there are the interaction issues that come with trying to find clues. Since clues are necessary to progressing the story, it really hurts the experience when you're unable to trigger the prompts to read the notes let alone actually reach them.
This also works against you during combat. Morgan has a lot of moves at her disposal but her movement proves to be clunky and slippery when fighting enemies. It's not like controlling a person, but rather a swivel-chair with wheels covered in butter on a bumpy road. Enemies by contrast have much faster movements and can seemingly appear right next to you without warning, possibly due to their glitching.
Dream Cycle Review | Final Thoughts
Dream Cycle is a third-person action adventure game set in a fantasy dream world with heavy Lovecraft influences. You get a lot of different mechanics to play with as well as a quick start to an epic adventure that presents various worlds open to exploration and hosting their own stories. It has a lot of technical issues to work out and animation smooth in order to bring more life to the game. Still, there's a lot to find in the game and plenty to keep you busy should you choose to continue the dream cycle.
TechRaptor reviewed Dream Cycle on PC through Steam with a copy provided by those behind the game's release. It is currently available on PC.
- A huge world with lots of exploration locations.
- Various options in terms of navigation and combat.
- Diverse gameplay as a result of rogue-like influence.
- Stiff and unnatural animations.
- Technical issues in terms of rendering and spawning.
- Tricky and confusing combat scenarios.