The story of Cathuria Games’ upcoming action-adventure game Dream Cycle is based on the H.P. Lovecraft series by the same name. Created by Lara Croft designer Toby Gard, Dream Cycle promises to take players on an epic adventure through a sprawling and ever-expanding dream world, where magic and modernity collide.
In Dream Cycle, players control Morgan Carter, an arcane apprentice, as she navigates the Dreamlands in search of her Great Great Grand Uncle Randolph, who has stolen her power in a bid to ascend to godhood. She will need to use both magic and combat tactics to defeat grotesque enemies and explore the expansive world on her way to confronting this relative and, possibly, getting out of the Dream Realms.
Combat in Dream Cycle is primarily stealth-based, similar to the stealth mechanics in the Assassin’s Creed series. Morgan can crouch to become more hidden and assassinate enemies with swords, bows, and guns by striking at weak points from the shadows. However, Morgan also wields powerful magic, and players can cast spells to create light, teleport and platform around the environment, see objectives, and more. The combination of magic with ranged and melee weapons allows Morgan some versatility against a variety of creatures and situations.
At least in the early hours of Dream Cycle‘s gameplay, combat is surprisingly simple, with Morgan able to completely eliminate most early-game threats by striking from the shadows. Larger enemies may require a few extra hits to take down, but fights aren’t usually very difficult. It’s clear that combat is less of a focus, however, and exploration and uncovering the mystery surrounding Morgan’s appearance in the Dreamlands are the primary objectives.
Though it is not technically considered a platformer, players will also spend a lot of time in the early hours of Dream Cycle finding creative ways around massive ruins and rock formations using Morgan’s teleportation skill. Players can climb and teleport to reach new areas of the Dreamlands, find their objectives, get out of tight spots, and even sneak up on enemies. As Morgan’s skills and powers improve during her adventures, she will eventually unlock new abilities, like flight, to allow for even more creativity and mobility.
The art of Dream Cycle is gorgeous and innovative, with a unique style that blends 2D line work with 3D rendering. Objects farther away from Morgan appear like silhouettes and outlines. As Morgan gets closer to these objects, their details and full rendering become clearer. The effect is a dizzying and surreal artistic experience that gives the entire game a distinctive dreamlike quality. The various landscapes Morgan explores, from the dismal labyrinth under the library to the main Cavern where she receives her epic quest, are breathtaking. When combined with a score by original Tomb Raider composer Nathan McCree, players will almost certainly find themselves fully immersed in the Dreamlands.
As it stands, the Dreamlands are nice to look at, but they feel somewhat empty. In the early game, Morgan has very few interactions with anyone, friend or foe, and very few objects to interact with beyond the platforming mechanic. Based on the description on Dream Cycle‘s Steam page, Cathuria Games hopes to create “an ever-growing platform for mystery and adventure.” Over time, there seems to be an intent to add new realms and biomes, new powers, new adventures and objectives, and new enemy types to continuously expand the Dreamlands. This is a lofty goal given the current size and scope of Morgan’s story, but in a game that so strongly emphasizes exploration and adventure, new content will almost certainly come naturally and be welcomed, potentially helping to flesh out even the earlier hours of the game to help improve the somewhat empty feeling.
Dream Cycle fully immerses players in a beautiful and stylistic new world that feels both familiar and original. Though there is a lot going on in Dream Cycle, including the combination of platforming and action RPG combat mechanics, and magic and traditional weapons, there is clearly a dreamlike logic holding all the pieces together. While the story and combat are not exceptionally complex, they are still engaging, and their simplicity helps highlight the deep and creative exploration and adventure features. The question remains whether the post-launch goals for Dream Cycle are truly attainable without repeating environments or creating tons of beautiful but empty space between adventures. Still, given the creativity and quality Dream Cycle already demonstrates in Early Access, this will almost certainly be one title worth keeping an eye on.
Dream Cycle is in Early Access and is available for PC. Screen Rant was provided with a PC code for the purpose of this preview.