Card battles and rogue-likes probably aren’t a combination you necessarily think about, but that’s exactly what you get in Dream Quest [$2.99]. It may sound weird, but it actually works very well, with some potentially deep gameplay that keeps you coming back for more. Unfortunately, outside of the battle system there’s a lot to be desired, but Dream Quest still has enough going for it to be worth exploring.

Dream Quest’s visuals are probably the first thing you’ll notice when you launch the game and, for the most part, they leave a lot to be desired. From the crudely drawn stick figures on the cards to the generic sprites on the game map, there’s really not much to enjoy. Granted, it’s not like rogue-like titles have a particularly high standard for visual quality, but Dream Quest doesn’t exactly hit whatever low bar it’s been set at. Sure, I’m the first to admit that nice graphics aren’t necessary or even important for a rogue-like, but it’s still disappointing.

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Dream Quest’s battle system is where the game gets interesting. When an enemy is encountered on the field you’re given the option to fight. Do so and you enter into a turn-based battle with cards acting as your weapons. Each turn allows you to draw (and keep) a certain amount of cards and the enemy does the same. While early battles will have you throwing all your cards at the opposition each turn, as you earn better and more nuanced cards it becomes an interesting balance of keeping cards and earning new cards to use.

While the rogue-like nature of Dream Quest means that you’ll lose all those pretty cards you earn during a run with each new playthrough, it does offer a few nuggets of of permanency that aid in replayability. Hitting in-game achievements offer small perks like starting a new run with more gold or traits while a simple scoring system lets players accumulate points that can eventually be cashed in to “unlock” achievement perks without actually hitting the criteria. I think adding elements like this to rogue-likes make each playthrough a bit more rewarding so I’m glad Dream Quest incorporates it.

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Dream Quest offers a lot of cool ideas but I think it suffers a lot from a lack of refinement that affects other portions of the game. Obviously randomness is an inherent part of a rogue-like, but I felt that too many runs were unbalanced and left you in a position of impending death on the first floor. On a related note, I think the characters are pretty unbalanced as well, with one in particularly feeling overpowered while the rest seemed to inflate the difficulty of the already iffy randomization of the levels.

I also would have liked a way to to get a bit more variety in cards beyond the uniques for each of the character classes. The vast majority of cards seen are simple attack or mana regeneration cards, so early stages of a run (of which you’ll have many) can be a bit boring until you’ve gained a few levels and learned a few cards. Thankfully, Dream Quest gets better the further into a run you can get, although true to rogue-like form there’s a lot of luck involved simply to get further in.

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Superficially it’s easy to overlook Dream Quest. However, once you get past its peculiar looks there’s a somewhat deep rogue-like that’s fascinating to play. The card-based battle system works well and there’s a lot of potential for enjoyment. The biggest disappointment is probably in the fact that so much of Dream Quest hinges on potential. I feel like there are so many secondary aspects that could be improved to make the overall game a better experience. Thankfully, the developers seem to be taking feedback to heart and have already made some improvements which should hopefully continue. Regardless, that battle system is mighty interesting and I think makes Dream Quest worth checking out.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • TouchMint

    Hey glad to see this finally get reviewed its a pretty great game once you get past the art. Indie Power!!!

  • Slothwerks

    One of the most brilliant games I've played in a long time. I haven't sunk this many hours into a game since Dungeon Raid. As far as roguelikes go, you either win/die fairly quickly, and the game definitely has that 'one more go' feel. There is tons of variety in terms of classes, and each class has it's own unique feel that prioritizes certain types of cards. There's a surprising amount of depth here as well, as well as tons of new stuff to unlock.

    It's brutally hard; took me at least 75 play-throughs to finally win, and even so, I rarely can pull it off. There's a certain amount of luck involved, but there is also a ton of strategy as evidenced by the discussions in the forum thread. It serves to make it all the more satisfying when you win. If you're looking for something really easy, this isn't the game for you, although you'd probably be put off by ANY roguelike :P

    I know the art is off-putting at first, but if you're a fan of RPG games and ESPECIALLY card games (Dominion, Thunderstone, and to some extent, Hearthstone) you'll almost definitely enjoy this game. It's not the prettiest game, but the art is functional and oddly charming after awhile.

    Easily my GOTY pick so far for 2014.

    • prodigygwa

      Hearing you bro!!!!

  • Hypocrypha

    Yeah being a huge card game fan I just can't get past the art, no matter how "awesome" the mechanics are. The dev said he ran out of money and that good art costs $10,000 USD, to which I replied on the thread that you could get any art student or Fiverr to do it for considerably less. Guess at this point he just had zero interest in updating the art. Oh well. App Store bar lowered once again.

    • limmyfox

      For a huge 'card fan' there sure is a lot of emphasise placed on art. For others who are more interested about the actual game than the fluff that is called art that kids these days tend to prioritise, there is an incredible amount of depth in this game and once you allow yourself to get past the art you will realise how functional they are despite how poorly they look and you will end up appreciating its design in and straightforward functionality. Give it a chance, like all of us you will be pleasantly surprised!

  • Hpmor

    One of the best games I have played in a very long time. As for the art, it is what it is, but it allows you to distinguish between cards very easily and frankly, after playing for so many hours, I really could not care less and lots of other people on the forum feel the same way. Redrawing 300+ cards and 50+ monsters in consistent quality is also not that small a job.

    As for randomness, when you dig into this game, the random factor remains but is greatly reduced - my success rates are a lot higher than at the beginning, not because of the perks you get for previous wins, but because you learn and refine your strategy. A lot of things that seem like questionable design decisions turn out to be very well thought through, also evidenced by the posts of the developer who is very active in the forum.

    Give it a try if you are into card building and rogue likes ...

  • mojojojo82

    Epic game. 4* is too low.

    • David

      Agreed. Although my first impression was that it was a four star game, the more time you spend the deeper and more complex it feels.

      Also, reviewer is either unaware of or didn't post that it's a DRAFTING card game rogue like. Which is a separate genre, and in which complaining about randomness is missing the point. Drafting games are exactly about making the best combination out of unpredictable choices.

  • Zenfar

    Looks like a fun battle system and worth a go!

  • styles

    Excellent game if you like rogue-likes and e.g. Ascension or german boardgames in general. Graphics grow on you and hopefully people do not skip this gem due the functional look..

    • T-REZ5000

      I've played this quite a bit and agree that the mechanisms are sound, but the "art" design certainly has not grown on me. Looks just as crappy now as it did when I first played it. That being said, I feel like I definitely got my money's worth.

Dream Quest Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 4