I’m a sucker for a good strategy game, and my years of early turn-based CRPGs like Fallout and Fallout 2 cemented my desire for turn-based combat in a post-apocalyptic setting. When I first saw Dreadlands, I was excited for what looked to me like an X-Com + Borderlands combination that couldn’t lose. And while Dreadlands certainly looks the part, it’s cooking in Early Access for a while to reach its full potential.
Dreadlands is extremely X-Com-like, but you play as a post-apocalyptic fighter and his or her gang of misfits. There’s no home base, but there is an overworld map you can explore that makes the whole thing reminiscent of Wasteland. Even without a home base, there is still a good amount of small group management, as you have to juggle income and keep your bandages and ammo stocked. And while I don’t mind management aspects, Dreadlands’ system does seem to be a little bit overly complicated, and less than fun—something I hope gets ironed out through Early Access.
The actual gameplay of Dreadlands works a lot like X-Com and similar turn based games. In Dreadlands, you normally have two actions per turn, and can attack either ranged or melee. Unfortunately, Dreadlands never felt as tactical as X-Com, and mechanics like weapon jamming distract from the pace and overall experience. But if you do find yourself down on your luck, you can use different cards to change your luck.
Before each mission, you are given a hand of tactics cards that can be used during the ensuing battle. These are randomly drawn from five, and you have a chance to discard/redraw one time. These cards are powerful, and can do everything from instantly reviving downed teammates, to giving an ally an extra attack. Sometimes your encounter can be made extremely easy by the luck of the draw. Downed teammates aren’t lost permanently, but you do suffer a penalty if they are downed too often without seeking medical treatment.
Dreadlands purports itself to be a colorful experience. It really isn’t. I find the artstyle of Dreadlands to be one of its worst aspects in its current state. I hope this Early Access period is used to make the art style stand out. The graphics are a bit hard to praise in general—low poly, and generally ugly. Ugly isn’t always bad, especially if the gameplay is fun—but ugly in this case makes the game actually harder to play. I find myself having a hard time differentiating units against gray backdrops.
After Early Access Dreadlands is supposed to have a full multiplayer experience—co-op, PvP with seasonal rankings, etc, and its single player is going to be complete with a whole third faction to play as. Right now, you can play as two unique factions, each with their own campaign and unique units, but you can also expect a full campaign, and a home base to manage and upgrade.
Dreadlands can potentially meet its full potential through Early Access. The setting is a great one for a turn-based game, but while I love the art for the interstitials, the in-game art style is just rough. I’ll be keeping my eye on Dreadlands as it goes down its development path, so stay tuned.
Dreadlands is available on Steam Early Access now.