Dream Tactics Review

Punching Pillows

Freedom Games and Spectra Entertainment’s Dream Tactics offers a cute-looking take on tactical RPGs as players head into the Dream World to strategically beat down a whole load of living pillows. With an effective combination of grid-based strategy, deckbuilding elements, and GBA-era exploration, the game offers a lighter but cheerful experience that never outstays its welcome. While there isn’t anything that really stands apart from the competition on its own, the overall strong combat and engaging interactions make it a fun title that players will get plenty out of.

Dream Tactics follows Neru, a human summoned to the Dream World by its goddess as the latest hero tasked with defeating Dream Eater before it destroys the world. Humans are necessary for this role thanks to their ability to channel the power of reverie. However, after a year of training with her guardian allies, Neru — while able to wield reverie — is not able to summon it. As the time to take on Dream Eater swiftly approaches, the goddess finds a potential workaround: collecting Dream Fragments that may contain enough reverie within them for Neru to save the Dream World.

While being the main threat, Dream Eater doesn’t really factor into most of the game, and any questions players might have about it and the threat it poses will go unanswered. Instead, Neru’s quest primarily involves defeating the pillows as part of her quests to obtain the Dream Fragments. These Dream Fragments are scattered across various different realms that effectively act as chapters; each provides its own light story and amusing justification for hostilities, and also gains Neru a new ally to join her party. While there are some more heartwarming moments concerning Neru’s relationship with her allies, the story and world are very much on the lighter side, effectively providing some good humourous moments and commentary to keep the characters and setting entertaining, even if the finale is almost over before it begins.

Any early bad feelings about destroying pillows are removed by their later stupidity.

Exploring each chapter’s world is fairly standard top-down exploration between different areas. Some zones will require players find levers or keys to advance, with plenty of treasure chests and breakable items to find along the way. A few sections will require players to avoid timed hazards to progress, but any failure will simply dump players back at the start of the hazard. Naturally, the party also encounters pillow enemies along the way, which must be defeated. Most of the encounters are required, though there are a few optional battles that are generally worth tacking on anyway for the extra experience and item rewards.

Combat sees four party members, out of seven recruited in total, taking turns with the enemies until one side is defeated. Most battles involves the party advancing down the map and running into particular groups of enemies rather than the entire enemy force acting in unison, but often with reinforcements appearing from any doors or the like that may be present. The game encourages players to be proactive with their advancement by often having treasure chests in the battle map with a timer that counts down with each turn. Players will have to open the chest — or defeat all enemies — within the turn limit to be able to obtain the treasure.

Pillows come in an appreciable variety of forms.

Dream Tactics’ battle system combines deckbuilding and grid-based strategy; each party member will draw five action cards from their deck of fifteen at the start of their turn. On the party’s turn, each member has MP that they use to activate the skills on those action cards, the amount of MP each card uses being indicated in the bottom right. They are able to move before using any actions but, with the exception of certain cards, using any will prevent any further movement. Party members can use their actions in any order, and many of the cards are built to synergise with previous actions as well as any character and enemy states and effects. This makes the deckbuilding part of the game important, as players will end up finding a large amount of cards with which to create strategies and combos for combat.

There is a good mixture of cards available and how they are used in combat. They can apply status effects, heal, create environmental damage, and hit single enemies or areas of effect at melee or range. Players are not necessarily beholden to the cards they draw at the start of their turn, and have a number of redraws they can use during combat should they want to shoot for a particular ability that hasn’t come up. Players can also “trade” cards that would normally work with other characters to different party members, furthering the options available to them. Acting in tandem with the party members’ decks is their equipment. Equipment items provide a variety of passive bonuses, some of which work with particular cards, such as changing which attribute it uses for damage calculations, up to providing more special effects like doubling movement but forcing the character to move an even number of spaces. Each member can equip as many such items as they can based on their available points for the two types of equipment, which increase as the characters level up.

The game features three difficulty levels that players can switch between while exploring, with the medium providing a generally fair, but not too tough challenge. The most difficult battles come when the party is split as the enemy AI is quite happy to gang up and remove a vulnerable member, with no way to revive a fallen member in battle. The count of cards in the deck compared to those picked up overall might discourage players a bit from experimenting with some cards and equipment, and it can be a bit annoying trying to scroll through everything players will pick up in the course of the game. Some of the statuses are also a bit unclear as to what they mean with their icons, but the game has plenty of tooltips to offer reminders.

Players will find plenty of cards with which to build combos and synergies in their deck.

Dream Tactics makes decent use of its pixel graphics. It never tries to do too much with them, but the colours and design keeps things appealling and feels at home with the game’s general sense of humour. Much the same can largely be said of the music, while not being especially memorable after the fact, it provides an enjoyable backing to the exploration and combat that keeps up engagement.

While it might not be a title that especially stands out in any singular aspect, Dream Tactics is nonetheless a highly enjoyable romp. An appreciably speedy yet deep combat system combines with some entertaining character interactions and a fun gameplay loop. All of its parts work nicely in tandem and many players will find the game to be a fine way to unwind.


Disclosure: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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'Good' -- 3.5/5

Strong combat and gameplay loop

Enjoyably humourous character interactions

No much of a finale

Equipment and card management can be a bit of a pain


Alex Fuller

Alex joined RPGamer in 2011 as a Previewer before moving onto Reviews, News Director, and Managing Editor. Became Acting Editor-in-Chief in 2018.

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