Dread Delusion PAX West Impression
The visuals and mystery make this relentless dungeon crawler stand out for those willing to fight through the early difficulties.
There’s a lot to be said about old-school mentality, and many games have benefitted from going back to what works. Lovely Hellplace’s Dread Delusion taps into the first-person dungeon crawler subgenre, complete with a throwback user interface, brutally hard combat, and open exploration all set against a beautiful dreary landscape that mixes in a lot of colour. We were able to explore a PAX West demo of the game, which is currently in Steam Early Access.
Dread Delusion is not a game that holds the player’s hands for long. Upon awakening, a wizard in a laboratory lets players know they’re an experiment, and to go forth and collect as much data for them as possible before their heart explodes. The wizard and the staff at the lab help outfit the experimental PC with a basic sword and armour then off they go. Their heart-based time restriction doesn’t pop up in the demo, so it could just be hyperbole, though the explorative nature of the world and how brutal it is means that player’s still aren’t going to get far initially. When the player dies, they awaken at a different checkpoint. Wandering around a bit, players will find ways to communicate with those they come across, pick up items for their inventory, and of course fight.
Fighting often pits players against groups of bandits or goblins, which in this title are dark bipedal monstrosities with masks and horns that chase players down and emit a disturbing gurgle when they attack. Bandits have the ability to attack from afar, while the monsters are just relentless. Straight up sword-versus-sword combat usually rules in the enemies’ favour so using a fire spell is generally needed to help bring them down. Defeating these enemies nets a few coins, but in the demo playthrough there was nowhere to spend them. What generally happened was walking outside; admiring the mushroom forests, deformed flora, and pinkish red skies; finding a tough enemy to barely survive against; and then wandering until the next one took the PC out to repeat the process.
Every action also builds fatigue so blindly swinging at enemies or running too much will tire the player out, making it more difficult to survive the next combat. Delusion is found along the way in the form of skulls, that after collecting enough of them can be used on skills. Skills in Dread Delusion are used for things like lockpicking, defensive abilities, and health regeneration.
Collecting resources for building houses and crafting is a goal in the early going to provide an easy hub to return to. Finding these hubs can take some time as landmarks on a map can be found, but without the map itself there’s no sense of direction to follow. The demo showed few characters to interact with, but the full game promises a branching narrative to follow filled with different NPCs, enemies, and colourful environments to explore.
There’s an almost garish mystery as to what’s happening in the world of Dread Delusion. With the old school mentality of searching and exploring, there’s rewards in all the risks taken for the PC. The difficulty may put players off at the start but spending enough time in the world will help overcome that early difficulty curve. The visuals and mystery make this relentless dungeon crawler stand out for those willing to fight through the early difficulties. Those wanting to brave the depths can play the game now in Steam Early Access on PC, with a full release not yet determined.