My relationship with retro video games is quite particular. Although I love collecting discs and cartridges, I don’t usually play the SNES, PSX or emulate games from old consoles. But when I come across a retro title that catches my eye, I have an instant fever that forces me to see enormous amounts of gameplays and even let’s play complete on Youtube.
Although I knew that From Software had launched a saga that was a kind of ‘Dark Souls’ in the first person, it was a little over a year ago when I really inquired about ‘King’s Field‘. And what a Christmas those. I saw practically the entire story of this subsaga developed on PSX and PS2, as well as that madness called ‘Shadow Tower Abyss’, which was still a “protosouls” with guns.
So when I discovered ‘Dread Delusion’ on Steam, I was very nervous. This game is in early access, and is a mix between those strange and cryptic settings of the ‘King’s Field’, and the open fantasy world of the Elder Scrolls. In addition to having a graphic section low poly so typical of the PSX generation, as well as the demakes that usually go so viral.
my partner said Alex Pascual in a recent Nexus that the secret of the remakes is to bring back a game, but making it much more accessible without us realizing it. And I add, the remakes they have to be a new version of the game that we all remember, and not the game that it really was. Maybe I want to experience ‘The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind’ again, but maybe not the championing of the enemies that followed you even inside buildings.
Is he remake of an idea
I think ‘Dread Delusion’ does just that. Is he remake perfect of an idea, not of a specific game. It’s the closest I’ll get to ‘Arena’, ‘Daggerfall’ and ‘King’s Field’ without getting into those dry titles. And it is also a title with tremendously refined ideas and a lot of content even in early access.
The game starts with a clear nod to the Elder Scrolls, since you start out as a prisoner who is going to be released by chance. Let’s remember ‘Oblivion’ where the Emperor himself opens your cell, or Skyrim and the arrival of the dragon that paralyzes the executioner who was going to cut off your head. Well, here are the strange faction of the inquisitors, who speak to you through some disturbing technological angels, who need help with Vella Callose, a pirate who has decimated her troops.
Lots of decisions to make in Dread Delusion
With that mission, the world opens up to us. We can start traveling around the floating islands, both following this story and not doing it. What this does is it opens the first bridge that makes you leave “prologue island” by giving you a passport from the inquisition. But a few minutes later I saw how to get this document in at least two different ways. This is how ‘Dread Delusion’ makes it clear to you how open the story and progression are.
I have followed the initial mission until I found the directions to a floating city, since they are usually good places to progress quickly and get new missions, but now I am completely free. I have been introduced to various factions with different motivations, as well as being able to get better gear and stumble upon secrets.
And where is ‘King’s Field’? Well, in many places. For starters, the setting is much darker and heavier than in the Elder Scrolls, as well as the story a bit more cryptic. The graphic style, which reminds us more of PSX than of the arts in sprites of the first Elder Scrolls, also collaborates in this regard.
And the enemies, of course. When you see those hunchbacked enemies that have their mouths in their stomachs, huge insects or grotesque goblins, you will remember From Software’s first work. The cadence of the combat, which has some heavy weight and a layer of strategy so as not to face several enemies at the same time, is also quite similar to those PSX titles.
There are two details, however, that I found very intelligent about ‘Dread Delusion’. In particular, they are very interesting because how well they understand how open worlds have changedbut without making concessions in terms of difficulty or sabotaging the principles of exploration, combat and different ways of tackling the missions that must prevail in these titles.
The map is more special than it seems
Let’s start with the map… Even if the game doesn’t. Why am I saying this? Well, because maybe I spent 3 or 4 hours without a map, and I could have spent much more if I didn’t pay attention to the dialogues. When I open the map menu, it appears that I don’t have any, and a character in the middle of nowhere that I find after the prologue recommends that I look for someone from the wizard academy.
These scholars are in charge of making maps, although these are not very useful. The reason is that floating islands don’t stop moving, and they soon become obsolete. It is through many dialogues with not a few characters that I am recommended to look for a specific scholar who tries to make a triangulated map between many different places, collecting the trajectories of the islands.
Once this character is found, and acquired a compass that seemed very important, we are given the mission of surveying the islands. Now, every time I’m in a place that seems important, I have to open my map and my character will draw a little bit more. A very intelligent way that exploration is not trivial, as we are used to today in open worlds.
The progression is very clever.
The second point is the progression. There’s no experience level system as such, but no attribute boosts for using weapons, jumping or running like in ‘Oblivion’. What we will do is look for a kind of collectible skulls called “delusion“. We will need a pair to raise an attribute among four different ones, which govern skills such as defense, attack, charisma, mana or stamina, to name a few.
This does two things: on the one hand it the map feels much more concentrated because you will search for every corner, as well as give real depth to the collectibles of the game. When unlocking a secret corridor, the normal thing is to find a coin or a potion, the rare an object, and the most special, a “delusion”.
In this way, the open world takes advantage of every nook and cranny to pose a small visual challenge, a platform (which with floating islands can be dangerous) or a demanding combat. Nothing very complicated, but enough so that the risk-reward mechanics start to appear in your mind with each step you take.
‘Dread Delusion’ has been in early access on Steam since June 2022, and the promise of the development team is that this phase of development will last around 6 or 9 months; so there should not be too much left for the launch of the final version. Although the texts are in English at the moment, and that is something that puts off those who do not speak the language, I recommend the experience if you want to play the unrecognized son of ‘Skyrim’ and ‘King’s Field’.