What happens when a young man with no direction in life becomes obsessed with his dreams?
That’s the idea behind Dream, an up-coming exploration game for PC and the Oculus Rift. Inspired by the narrative elements of games such as Dear Esther and Deus Ex, it enables players to explore a richly detailed series of environments packed with interactive objects and clues. Recently we were given the chance to play the latest build on the game, due for release in 2015 and developed by Hypersloth Games in Huddersfield, UK.
As we start the game, Howard Phillips – the lead character of the game – wakes from a nap to find himself alone in his student house with the TV still on in the middle of the night. We might have control of Howard’s body, but that doesn’t stop him from narrating his thoughts out-loud, giving clues and helping to flesh out the games story. As we explored his junk-strewn student house we were able to flip light switches, play a piano, read the cover of magazines and more, and it wasn’t long before we found Howard’s bedroom and put him to sleep. That’s where things start to get a little strange, because as Howard sleeps he’s able to explore bizarre and creative worlds that coalesce in his dreams.
From bleak deserts to snowy landscapes, Howard’s imagination is rich and varied. He also likes to solve puzzles, it seems, because scattered across these environments are various logic-based tasks that require careful thinking and a keen eye to complete; and they’re not exactly easy, just check out this guide to the very first puzzle in the game. The game is split into three acts, each including a vast environment to explore with side doors that lead to separate dreams. Being an exploration-based game there’s no fixed path to follow. This results in multiple endings for each act that change depending on the players exploration of each environment and the clues that they’ve managed to uncover.
Graphically the game looks fantastic. When a desert-inspired dream environment faded into view we could practically feel the heat of the sun basking on our face, and textures were richly detailed even when viewed up-close. Dream also runs at a steady 60FPS on our DK1 headset without any hiccups, helping to add to the immersion. If there’s one downside in the current build it’s the blinding brightness of an LSD-inspired environment that only features white walls, floors and ceiling. On a regular monitor it’s possible to see the environment in all its detail, but the low-resolution screen of the DK1 blurs everything into a blurry, bright mess. Hopefully the DK2 will help to alleviate this problem.
As for how the game plays on the Rift, it’s polished and immersive – even in it’s alpha development stage. The sense of scale is spot on, it’s easy to navigate environments and aiming at interactive objects with the head feels natural and intuitive. The game is also remarkable bug free, and we didn’t encounter any glaring issues or problems, which bodes well for the games eventual release.
Dream isn’t scheduled for release until 2015, but it’s already looking and feeling like a game developed by a much larger studio. By ordering the game now on Steam you can play it in its current state (plus all future builds) and help support the team during its development. We’ll bring you more details about the game as it nears release, plus a full review when the final build is available.