App Store is bloated with apps today. In total, there are more than 2 millions apps in the App Store with 25% of it, coming from games alone. From these numbers, I can safely say that most of them are casual gamers. This opinion is supported by the statistics that's coming from Localize Direct.
From this statistics, Puzzle and Arcade are the top two genres that dominating the App Store. It means that game developers are more interested to create games that appealing to more audience. Not just making a game that only targeting hardcore gamers. They want to build games that suitable for any age and can be played in most situation, especially during boring meeting.
Speaking of which, to target casual gamers, developers are tend to create games with portrait view to facilitate the needs of commute casual gamers, playing game with just one hand. Something that's impossible to do when you have a game with landscape mode. Portrait mode game, however, isn't easy to design. Because in terms of UX, it lacks the width that's usually used to give more roomy feeling.
This lack of roomy feeling however, isn't something that can be found in Alex Kupstov from Fireflame Games latest game. Fireflame Games is renown for the classic fantastic match-3 RPG game, Dungeon Raid. After several years inactive from updating his famous game, Alex has come back alive and strong with a Roguelike/Puzzle/Board Game called I Keep Having This Dream.
I Keep Having This Dream: The Premise
I Keep Having This Dream coming with a premise of you, as the main character in this no-story game, that's always having the same but different dream. In this dream of the same but different, you will be escaping from one world to another, running away from the chase of the nemesis and beat all the snags who will always try to obstruct your way from finding the exit door.
Talking with TouchArcade, Alex Kuptsov stated that "I'm not a big fan of reusing/milking existing ideas and there's so many other things I want to try in games I make, but I think there's still interesting stuff I can do in a match-3 space without just rehashing Dungeon Raid."
If you're a Dungeon Raid fan, or at least have played and enjoyed Dungeon Raid, I Keep Having This Dream will prove to you that Alex and Fireflame Games isn't a one hit wonder.
I Keep Having This Dream: The Gameplay
Gameplay in I Keep Having This Dream is easy to learn. Like most roguelike game, I Keep Having This Dream is using turn-based system at its core. In every turn, you will be given five pieces of tile to create your own route to the exit door. Each piece will have at least two exits to connect one and another creating some sort of road for you to move.
If you are familiar with Carcassone, then putting tile like this will give you familiar experience. Just like Carcassone, the pieces in I Keep Having This Dream are all in octagonal-shape. Beside for routing your way up to the exit door, there are also status pieces and enemy pieces.
There are four types of basic pieces, Attack, Defense, Heart, and Gear pieces. While three of those pieces are working just like their name, Gear pieces here work differently. With Gear piece, whenever you're going to place this piece, you will see the so-called 'Control' spots. When you're putting the piece into that 'Control', you will be able to kind of construct the item. Accumulate 10 'Control' and you will be able to change your items into a new one. Upgrading items will result a higher number on your tiles which mean you will be faster to get stronger.
The other pieces are called the 'Snags'. These snags are the "snake in the grass" of yours in this game. You will eventually draw them in your hand, and sometimes you have no choice but to put them down to complete your route. Snags are divided into two types, basic and special. Basic snag has nothing to be afraid of as long as your attack and shield are higher than the snag's. You can also discard this basic snag (more on discard later).
On the other hand, Special Snags are way more dangerous. They come with many different abilities and skills. Moreover, they can't be discarded, so you will have a lot of trouble with these special snags. They most fearsome thing from these special snags is that they have these "While Held" and "While Placed" abilities. "While Held" means that the ability will always be triggered until you place the snag. "While Placed" means that the ability will be triggered once you put down the snag. It really can be troublesome if you don't plan yourself intelligently.
I Keep Having This Dream is already a well balanced game up to this point. The enemy is pretty hard, and Carcassone-style tile to create the route seems like making a good point. However, Alex didn't stop only with that, he leveraged the game by adding the Nemesis. This Nemesis is the one that will end the game for you, as well as the one who will help you level up. The Nemesis will chase you down relentlessly, until you have no other choice but be eaten by it.
But before we're talking further about The Nemesis. Let's talk first about what happen when you're killing a snag. When you do, a yellow droplet will be dropped based on the snag you've just killed. If it's basic snag you will get droplet with one value, two if it's a special snag. These droplets will then contribute to your experience. You however, won't be able to do anything about these droplets. Only The Nemesis, the one who can eat up the droplets you left when you're killing the snags.
The Nemesis basically won't be doing anything and standing still until you're doing several things. The first thing you do to make the Nemesis move is when you discard tiles from your hand. Your first discard, the Nemesis will only wake up and won't make any moves. The second time, it will move according to the number of tiles you discard and the experience it has consumed. The stronger the Nemesis is, the further the Nemesis will be moving.
When the Nemesis moves, whenever it meets an experience droplet, the Nemesis will consume it. You will always get experience whenever the Nemesis consume the droplets. That is unless you're out of health, only then the Nemesis will get the EXP and you're not.
When Nemesis has collected 10 droplets, you and the Nemesis will level up. Upon level up, you will have one chance each to spend into two categories. The first one is for you to choice which status you want to increase. The second one is for you to choose your passive ability. This passive ability will be a game changer if you know how to use it. It will unlock Events (more on this later), give your items some extra effect (chance of sending snags away, chance to deal more damage, etc), as well as give you a combo possibility (again, more on this on the next section).
As for the Events, you won't be able to access events when you haven't unlocked this. However, worry less because they will usually come to you when you haven't unlocked the perk. When you've done it, you will be able to choose one event to be prepared out of three offers. Then you will have to place tiles according the color of that particular event. There's a counter in the event panel to let you know if you have closer in the preparation. Once you've ready to launch the even, just tap it and the event effect will be running right away, then you will have to choose another event again.
I Keep Having This Dream: Things I Like
I love the idea and concept behind this game. I think it's brilliant and full of potential expansion. Combining roguelike RPG with boardgame concept makes me super squish my head to find the best combo to make me explore the game further.
I also love the combo idea where you can make yourself super strong when you've combined the right combination. What I mean about combo possibility is that you can actually plan your passive ability choice. For example, there's this ability that will add more attack every time you discard a heart card. This ability can be a combo with another ability that says, whenever you're in full health, the nemesis won't be moving when you discard heart tiles. This doesn't stop, there's this ability that says, whenever your shield is lower than your attack, add 1 more shield every turn. It means you discard heart tiles, Nemesis will be just fine with that, but your attack and shield will be increased.
The snags ability is also a huge part of my love for I Keep Having This Dream. With 100+ special enemies with each of them have very variative ability to disturb my game, I have different experience everytime I play. Like the "bell snags" - they have a 50% chance of spawning another bell snag and bell snags don't allow you to discard.
Of course the main antagonist/protagonist, The Nemesis, plays a huge part of love hate relation in this game. The Nemesis acts as both your doom slayer, but at the same time, it will helps you get your EXP to level up your character. When you find the right way to manage this Nemesis, you can pass through the floor quite easily and smoothly.
The only thing that left me a bit unsettled is the roguelike element reward. Every time you've finished a floor, you will be rewarded with a key. The more floors you can escape from, the more keys you will get. These keys, are the one that will be given to you once you're dead. The thing is, these keys won't help you get stronger in your next visit. You will only be able to unlock three things with these keys. A new avatar, a new snag, or a new event, and that's it. All those super complicated things and you only get this, for me, that's not very rewarding.
I Keep Having This Dream: Tips, Tricks, and Guides
Despite the lack of reward, I Keep Having This Dream promises a lot of in-game puzzle that's really interesting to solve. So I've compiled some tips and tricks that you might want to implement in order to make your exploration become further.
Know How Nemesis Moves
This is important as the way to survive I Keep Having This Dream is by managing how the Nemesis moves. Taken from the Nemesis description, these are some bullet points you might want to remember.
- When you discard, Nemesis moves to the nearest XP droplet or 1 tile per level if there's no XP droplets
- Nemesis gets 1 XP per snag you discard
- When nemesis eats an XP droplet, it gets 1 XP, and you get XP at the value of the droplet
- When you health reaches 0, Nemesis moves through a number of XP droplets based on its level (e.g. if it's level 5 it will move through the next 5 droplets). You don't get any XP during this.
Don't spend too long in one floor. The snags that coming at you will eventually become a lot harder the longer time you spend on that particular floor. That's why you don't try to extend your time to levelling or upgrading items. You just walk as the flow and go as fast you can. Just match the Control tiles when it's near your path.
Pick the Right Combination when Level Up
At your first level up, try not to pick Event perks first. At the early stage, you might want to make sure Nemesis doesn't move at all. Just then when the enemies get harder, then you need to pick events or item abilities perk.
Also know that you can create combination from perks. There is this ability that says "receive 1 shield for every attack tiles". That's one heck of amazing perks and you got to take it when you have this perk. Unless, something better coming up.
Be Careful with Tiles Placement
I couldn't recall how many times I stuck at the exit door because I just put the tiles anywhere as long as it aligns with the goal route. You can never have more than ONE path that points into the center hexagon. If any of the existing tiles around the exit tile have a path pointing into the center besides your current tile, no tile will work. The solution is to simply have the Nemesis clear off any other tile with a path into the center, than your way is clear.
That's why you need to be very careful when planning your route. Make sure you're putting the right tile and you won't have any problem.
Tricks to deal with Special Snags
Special Snags are annoying and pain in the face. I know that. However, when you notice about it, snags ability also can be combined one and another. That's if you remember all the snags ability. There are these two snags that I've encountered that its ability when combined, instead of annoying, is giving an upper hand to us.
There is this snag that will create pain tiles according to your attack. There is also another snag that will change the nearest non-blank tile to a blank one. This obviously helps a lot as it's better to have blank tile rather than pain tile.
Despite being great in gameplay and strategic thinking, I Keep Having This Dream lacks the resolve after a game session is over. Nevertheless, I Keep Having This Dream offers a very fantastic gameplay overall. If anything, I'd suggest to fix the reward system, then the game will become a really solid strategic game that has a fantastic gameplay. Till then, I'll be patiently waiting for the update and the time to update this post too.