Dream Quest is a fantasy roleplaying game mixing elements of deckbuilding card games with the roguelike genre of adventure RPGs. Choose your character class, each with their own unique mechanics and cards, and fight your way through floors of a dungeon as you earn new cards and upgrade your character, with death being permanent if your character falls to zero health.
This is by far one of the most visually unappealing games we have ever reviewed, but there is a surprise hiding beneath the cheap exterior – is this actually a good game? Read on to find out…
Firstly, I’ll explain the main combat mechanics of the game before talking about the dungeon in which your character moves around, exploring and attacking enemies. When combat is initiated, you’ll draw two cards at the start of your turn (until future cards will allow you to draw more and play combos, a crucial aspect to gameplay).
Your deck will start off with 10 basic cards in it (depending on class), usually made up of basic attack cards or mana gain cards. Playing an attack card will deal its damage amount to the enemy’s health while mana gain cards give you mana to spend on playing spell cards that require mana as a cost.
Both you and your enemy also have “action points” (represented by the sand timer icon) which are spent by action cards (some requiring more than one action point to resolve). You start out with one action point per turn but gain more as the game goes on. When your health reaches zero, you’ll die… permanently. Death is final in this game (unless you spend achievement points to revive your character, but this isn’t a good idea due to the high amount of achievement points it will burn and you need these to unlock achievements, which I’ll discuss later).
Apart from combat, another large aspect to the game is progressing your character’s level because you’ll gain access to new cards, abilities and other stat changes such as extra actions (lets you use more action cards per turn) to health increases so you can survive for longer. Learning how best to advance your character will depend a lot on your class and the options available in the dungeon, which vary quite a bit. These are explained in the following sections.
Dream Quest is one of the most fascinating, exciting deckbuilding and roguelike (perma-death adventure) games I’ve ever played. It’s hard to understand just how addictive it is until you play it, because from the look of it it doesn’t appear to be a very good game. What the game lacks in visual appeal, however, it more than makes up for in sheer brilliance of its design, mechanics and overall player experience. This is one of my favorite iOS games of all time, hands down.
Modes and Features
Dream Quest has only one game mode, which is to initiate a dungeon run with a particular class, starting over from the first floor. The layouts, monsters, shops, items and other events will all be generated by the game’s carefully programmed algorithms as you run around the tiled floors, clearing the “fog of war” blocking your vision of the whole map and attacking enemies to gain access to new areas. Enemies have different play styles, attack cards, special abilities, and sometimes even unique conditions required to defeat them. Learning each enemy type and what to expect from them is a big part of the game.
When you’ve defeated the floor’s boss (and usually all of the other enemies too, for the experience points you need to level up) you’ll be able to advance to the next floor. Importantly, you’re never able to go back up a floor, so you’ll have to finish any business such as buying cards, healing, opening chests and so on as you won’t have a chance to do these on that floor again.
It is also possible (due to a recent update) to reattempt a particular run, with the exact same card choices, dungeon layout and so on. This is possible by initiating a “seeded run”, using the exact code of a prior run, but without the possibility of earning achievements and points. This is available if you really want to try again with the same options but felt you made a couple of mistakes that cost you the game. You won’t earn anything from doing it, but it’s a great way to perfect your skills through practice.
One of Dream Quest‘s best features, in my opinion, is the way in which you progress through the game’s content over a longer period of time by unlocking content with the achievements. There is a seriously large list of achievements to hit, each unlocking new talents, cards, classes and so on. Some of them are easier to unlock than others, with a variety of different objectives from doing something particular in a dungeon run (like killing a particular enemy) to a larger goal of racking up a certain amount of kills, deaths, and so on over time. This is one of the things that makes Dream Quest so addictive and so replayable, as you’re always trying to unlock more content for the game.
Deckbuilding and Strategy
Dream Quest‘s strategy very much builds upon the unique way each class plays in the game. Since each class has a fundamentally different set of cards to collect and earn, as well as a base power that applies throughout the course of a dungeon run, your approach to playing the game and “building the deck” as you go along is going to need to come about from a deeper understanding of each class. This will only happen after some experience playing each class, but eventually you’ll get a feel for how to play the class in a way that is most effective.
Deckbuilding in this game is tricky, since it happens as you progress through the game. It’s hard to plan for a particular deck because the cards that are available during any dungeon run are going to be different based on the semi-random choices that the game presents to you. For example, opening chests will often give you a free card or two, but these are chosen from a pre-determined list of cards that are available to that particular class.
Similarly, the in-game “shops” that you’ll find around the dungeon floor don’t always present the same options. Rather than going into each dungeon run with a set idea of how you want to build and play that class, you’re much better off deciding to go along tactically with the options the game presents you and try to build an effective deck with those options.
Run around and see all of the shops on a particular floor if you can before buying any cards from them. The first shop you come across may present to you a really good card for a particular deck strategy, but that strategy may require similar cards that work with it, yet the rest of the shops on the floor might present to you options more suitable for a different play style. If you run around and see as much as you can first, you’ll have a better idea of what’s available to buy and which strategy is going to be the most viable for this particular run.
Dream Quest is certainly one of my favorite iOS games of all time. Even the graphics start to feel familiar and characteristic of the game after a while, going against my first inclinations to not want to download the game especially as it has an upfront cost. However, I couldn’t deny checking it out any longer when many of my favorite game designers and commentators were raving about how great it is.
Dream Quest is a favorite particularly among game designers and board game fanatics, given that its gameplay is so strong, and it takes looking past the graphical exterior to see the true hidden gem underneath. Peter Whalen, the creator of Dream Quest has talked about the wide range of reactions his game gets, from elation to sheer anger. You can read about those encounters, as well as how Magic: the Gathering creator Richard Garfield reached out personally to contribute to an update of the game by reading this interview with Peter available here.
Peter has talked about doing a graphical update with new art, but this has been a long time in the making. He’s also talked about how he has been developing ideas for Dream Quest 2 which build upon the first game. I can’t wait, because if it’s anything like the first one, it’s going to be one of the most popular and successful games in this genre, if he can get the visual element looking more mainstream.
You simply have to check out Dream Quest, even if you think it’s ugly as sin. You’ll be very, very pleasantly surprised, and may even just lose a few nights of sleep with “just one more game” syndrome. If you do, don’t come crying to me about it. You brought it upon yourself. (Okay, so maybe go complain to Peter Whalen about it instead.)
For more screenshots, click here.
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