I Dreamed A: Dream Is Dear Esther Meets Deus Ex

By Nathan Grayson on August 9th, 2013 at 4:00 pm.

All that desert heat cannot be good for those computers

Be still, my beating heart [Immediately dies, emerges as a ghost]. Ugh, jeez, not that still. I hate it when this happens. Writing about games is so tedious when your ectoplasmic digits keep phasing through the keyboard. But I will press on, because Dream sounds utterly magnificent – thus the desire for my heart to slow its technical-metal-esque pounding ever so slightly (jeez). In a nutshell, it’s Dear Esther‘s narrator-driven environmental story married to a Deus-Ex-inspired brand of non-linearity. Better still, the focus is on exploring dreams of both otherworldly beauty and inexplicable terror. It looks to be coming along quite nicely. You may as well at least do me the kindness of watching a trailer, seeing as I’m now doomed to haunt this post until my anguished soul finds peace.

Dream sees you wandering the labyrinthine mind mazes of Howard Phillips, a young graduate who’s having trouble seizing control of his life and his thoughts. Dreams become his obsession, especially in the wake of his uncle’s untimely death. But what does that mean for you? Well, pretty much this:

“In Dream you’ll run around a vast range of environments and listen as Howard tries to relate his surroundings to his life and future. There will be a lot of puzzles to solve ranging from the straight forward all the way through to point and click adventure style lateral thinking problems. There will also be horror segments and nightmares that create a strong contrast with the lovely dream worlds Howard usually inhabits.”

All the while, you’ll collect various items that allow you to access all sorts of hidden areas and other locations off the beaten path. Depending on how much you explore, Howard’s story will take a number of different twists and turns en route to multiple different endings.

Excitingly, Dream’s Steam Early Access alpha release is right around the corner. You’ll be able to get lost in its whispering valleys beginning August 13th, which is next week. It sounds exceedingly ambitious, so I can’t help but worry that it won’t quite be able to grasp ahold of its lofty goals. I am, however, hopeful, because the concept sounds great. Did anybody try it out during one of the earlier alphas? If so, what’d you think?

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30 Comments »

  1. Jake Albano says:

    I loved Dear Esther and this looks (and sounds) brilliant, but did anyone else notice the textures popping in during the trailer? It was super distracting for me.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Have to say I prefer Dear Ester’s photorealism for this kind of thing. This looked like TF2 level, was a little jarring with the mood

  2. staberas says:

    It needed MORE narration..

  3. ResonanceCascade says:

    Howard Phillips OH I GET IT.

    I don’t really get the Deus Ex comparison, but it does look kind of neat. But I’m also wary that this will be another one of the slew of first-person puzzlers that doesn’t quite work out in the end. There’ve been a lot of them lately.

  4. CutieKnucklePie says:

    Howard Phillips.. Lovecraft?

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Likely, but also more likely to do with the Dream World stories than Cthulhu. Cosmic horror isn’t the only kind of story Lovecraft wrote. ;)

      • SirMonkeyWrench says:

        Lots of his dreamworld stories were also pretty cosmic horror.
        Also they benefit from being pretty light on Lovecraft’s extravagant racism.

  5. Don Reba says:

    The puzzles and the graphics style are very reminiscent of Jonathan Blow’s “The Witness”.

  6. darkath says:

    Does Esther dream of Electric Sheep ?

  7. Replication says:

    Looks pretty, but I’m pretty sure that this article’s writer has never played Deus Ex in his life.

    • Widthwood says:

      Nathan only wrote it has Deus Ex non-linearity. Which simply means it will be pretty linear, I guess.

      • TuringMachine says:

        Deus Ex = linear

        U WOT M8?

        • Wedge says:

          Well Deus Ex has multiple ways to move along what is basically the same route, so depending how you define it, quite linear. I assume Nathan is talking about the

          “All the while, you’ll collect various items that allow you to access all sorts of hidden areas and other locations off the beaten path. Depending on how much you explore, Howard’s story will take a number of different twists and turns en route to multiple different endings.”

          part, which I would say doesn’t sounds much like Deus Ex at all, as exploration in Deus Ex generally only offers character rewards, and has little to do with the main plot progression.

  8. Premium User Badge

    daphne says:

    Not really seeing the Deus Ex part of the equation, and would rather not see the Dear Esther part of it, being the near-waste of time that it is (but I think highly of 30 Flights, so go figure). This game looks quite interesting on its own.

    • norfolk says:

      Ok grumpasaurus! I thought Dear Esther was brilliant. Equal parts beautiful, compelling, sad, novel. What’s your beef?

  9. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    Right, computers will get fat too if they eat too much desert.

  10. Alaric41 says:

    I was lucky enough to play Dream at last year’s Eurogamer and have a chat with the dev team. It was pretty impressive work; puzzles with visual clues about the character’s state of mind. Kind of what I imagine The Witness will be like, only with more of the Dear Esther narrative threaded through it.

  11. jimangi says:

    Sounds like a less linear 3D version of To the Moon, which is a good thing, as long as it has the same quality of writing.

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    Andy_Panthro says:

    Wouldn’t an appropriate comparison for non-linearity be The Stanley Parable (also narration)?

    Looks good though, will have to pick this up.

  13. Kodaemon says:

    The only thing about this trailer that reminds me of Dear Esther is the music, which shamelessly rips off Jessica Curry’s work.

    • Ross Angus says:

      I felt the same thing. Who was it recently who said that computer games are too insular? They should be drawing inspiration from anything other than other games.

      Still, I’m excited about Dream. Anything which takes Dear Esther as a starting point is good to me.

    • SCdF says:

      The music feels half-way between Curry’s and Beethoven’s No. 7.

    • SelfEsteemFund says:

      Yup, pretty much

  14. Frank says:

    Nonlinear like “choose the left or right path”? That’s sure what it looks like. I need like navigating ideas more than landscapes in my Deus Ex. I guess I’ll just have to enjoy this game for what it is.

  15. Runs With Foxes says:

    Really wish people would develop a more sophisticated understanding of Deus Ex than just “multiple paths”.

    This game sounds more like Penumbra/Amnesia than anything.