You’ve probably heard the old adage “Never judge a book by its cover.” Well, I’d like to propose a corollary to that: “Never judge a game by its artwork.” If you do, then you might not give Dream Quest a look, and you’d miss out on something very special.
Developed by Peter M. Whalen, Dream Quest is a “roguelike deck-building” game that draws inspiration from card games like Ascension and Magic: The Gathering, as well as the Shandalar dungeon-crawling segments of the original PC adaptation of Magic: The Gathering. It also appears to be inspired by “rogue-lite” games such as Desktop Dungeons, as the exploration and enemy placement mechanics are quite similar.
It’s worth noting that the artwork in Dream Quest is very bad. It looks like an eight-year-old drew it. The best art assets in the game are serviceable portraits of the playable characters and monsters that you encounter on your journeys, and the worst are stickmen that look like they were churned out in MS Paint in ten minutes tops.
So what is so good about this game that you can forgive stick figure art? What keeps me coming back to Dream Quest game after game is that it has just the right mix of simplicity, depth, and variety. It features a dungeon overworld stripped down to it barest elements and reveals most of its depth in the deckbuilding and combat aspects.
Each level is a randomly-generated array of monsters, treasure chests, shops, and various other items. The object is to defeat the boss monster, which reveals stairs that lead to the next level. In order to accomplish this goal, you need to build your deck wisely and gain experience, which levels you up.
This leads to the most compelling aspect of this game– the freedom you have to make choices that will either help or hinder your character. You are often faced with choices like, “Do I get more health or another card?” or “Do I take the gold or level up a card?” There is really no “right” answer, as you have to look at your current situation and make the best judgment.
As you build your deck of attacks, spells, items, and actions throughout the game, your deck will be tested in combat against deadly enemies. They have their own decks and special abilities, and fights are fast and furious, but also interesting and engaging.
True to its roguelike roots, this game is meant to be played over and over, and it’s designed so your character will die a lot. But that’s part of the fun, as there are up to 12 different classes to play as, with four available at the start. There are also a myriad of other achievements and perks to attain throughout the game. It’s yet another reason to keep braving the dungeons of Dream Quest.