Dread Delusion Will Take You Back To a Weirder Era of Gaming

Dread Delusion Review

There is a burgeoning genre of games that aren’t quite remakes of classic titles. You know what I mean: games with marvelously honed mechanics and retro graphics. Stardew Valley is the classic example. Go back and play the original Harvest Moon though, and you will find it to be clumsy next to a modern game. These spiritual sequels offer a great way to go back in time and remember how it felt to play those games back when they were first released. If you are someone who has logged hundreds (or thousands!) of hours in Morrowind, you are going to want to spend some time with Dread Delusion.

I’m a Joker, I’m a Smoker

Dread Delusion is a giant first-person RPG. You see the world from a perspective that normally means shotguns and grenades but instead, you’ll be swingin’ swords, slingin’ spells, and pickin’ locks. You know, fantasy stuff! You’ll explore the wilderness and a few big cities and dive into tombs to unearth treasure and slay evil monsters. To survive, you’ve got to keep an eye on your health, your magic, and your stamina. So far, pretty conventional.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was not conventional. It included all of the above elements, but then things get really strange. You aren’t in a green pastoral European countryside. The titular Morrowind is a blasted volcanic land full of big, glowing mushrooms. Other fantasy stories have their heroes ride horses. In Morrowind, people all shuffle onto an enormous yet graceful bug that functions as a big magical bus.

When Elder Scrolls IV and V were rolled out, convention returned. Cyrodil didn’t have much of a unique personality, and Skyrim left us with a decade of Viking fantasy. Dread Delusion is determined to take us back into an alternate timeline where these sorts of games just got weirder and more esoteric.

Dread’s Moving Castle

The world of Dread Delusion has been completely rewritten by magic. The ground is gone; only floating islands remain hovering above the void. Multiple factions vie for the fate of the land. The sky is a striking shade of… magenta? You start off the game fresh and new (as a prisoner, natch) and build your character, who will become more powerful and specialized throughout the story. There is a story and while it’s opaque, it definitely gives the game a solid structure to take you through its many pixelated sights.

Everything in Dread Delusion feels good to play, much better than the games that inspired it. At first I admired the nostalgic floaty controls. Your character is walking but you feel like you are gliding without friction over the grass. But then I got worried. Was this old fashioned game going to burn through all its good will? Fortunately, the answer is no. Combat and navigation are built around some of the “flaws” of the engine. I got pretty good at zipping across the low-friction landscapes, dodging the swipes of a clockwork skeleton.

The hills that box in the play area are just a little bit too steep to climb. That’s just how we did things back then. I could climb maddeningly high in old Elder Scrolls games. It was fun until you clip into a rock or somesuch. Dread Delusion keeps you from getting too far afield and then stuck. Far from making the game feel cramped, the rules of terrain navigation really make you feel the precariousness of the whole floating-island society.

The Final Pixel

I must admit, I am getting a little sick of retro-pixels. I see a blocky game on Steam that looks like a PS2 port and my eyes go right over it like they do with anime visual novels. There are just too many! So really take a look at Dread Delusion. Soak it all in. You are gonna be stuck with this style for a long long time. If the oppressive mud and rotted wood is going to get you down, Dread Delusion might stress you out.

After a while, I forgot I was sick of pixels. I look at Dread Delusion and I don’t see part of a trend. I see a game that set out to capture a particular tone and succeeded wildly. It’s not that playing Dread Delusion is like going back and playing those old games. Dread Delusion allows us to delude ourselves into remembering those games through magenta colored glasses.

***PC code provided by the publisher for preview***

The Good

  • awesome fantasy world to explore
  • responsive controls
  • gripping, immersive environments

The Bad

  • Getting sick of these pixels
  • First person sword swinging fun has a low ceiling
  • Forgettable sound and music