DREAMWEB / Empire Interactive / PC
Dreamweb is a game that is really more interesting than it is good. It's an intriguing concept, and you'll plod through it to see what'll happen next, but the actual gameplay is mediocre and uninspiring.
It's kind of like a retelling of Blade Runner, if Blade Runner starred a potentially psychotic and delusional killer. The game takes place in your fairly typical Blade-esque cyberpunk future of high-tech mixed with urban decay, constant rain, lots of trenchcoats, etc. Protagonist Ryan is a low-wage bartender and a bit of a techhead. He hates his job and his life isn't exactly a fantasy world, but he has an attractive and supportive girlfriend, his own digs, etc. I mean, in the cyberpunk future, this is actually a decent life, it could certainly get a lot worse. I mean he doesn't have to run the streets geeking chummers for their creds, or whatever. But for some reason, he keeps having nightmares, which culminate in a dream about red-robed monks who steward some sort of techno-futuristic version of the collective unconscious of humanity. The monk crew tells Ryan that he's been chosen to kill seven people that are actually some sort of evil entities in disguise, who will end up destroying the world if allowed to live. So Ryan just sort of casually turns his back on his life and sets out on a quest to execute these people one by one.
Aside from the obvious visual borrowings, the game also heavily leans on inspiration from Vangelis' ambient Blade Runner soundtrack. It's pretty well done, though, and the game also has some great sound effects work. Unfortunately the music and sound are pretty much the high point of everything here.
As far as the gameplay goes, the interface is basically smooth and pretty well thought out, but for some reason the actual active portion of the game's playfield is limited to only about 1/3 of the screen. The rest of the screen is kind of a mix of waste of space and a giant, needless profile shot of Ryan's none-too-appealing mug. While the game is very straightforward and fairly easy, it does throw you for a bit of a loop by making nearly every little irrelevant object able to be picked up, but gives you only a limited inventory space of about 30 slots or so. While a lot of stuff is obvious garbage, there's a lot of chaff around too in the form of items that look like they *might* wind up being useful later but never really do. The scrunched playfield also makes the sprite work and backgrounds really only competent at best, the game is far from being a graphical marvel.
The whole of the game's appeal - music and sound aside - is really centered on speculating whether or not Ryan was delusional, or a psychopath, or whether the whole Dreamweb thing is real. I'm inclined to think that it was originally intended to all be real and straightforward, and the "delusional" angle was written in by players later as an unintended consequence of the game's general lack of characterization and kind of sloppy writing (and due to the fact that Ryan constantly gets warped out of situations that there's little chance he'd have escaped on his own.) There's a lot more potential here than is ever realized. Aside from focusing on the sanity angle more, the game could have also explored Ryan's relationship with his girlfriend Eden better. She seems to be sweet, beautiful and supportive ... yet also just sort of lounges in the background and seems largely irrelevant to Ryan. Does he care so little about her that she doesn't even factor into his decision to go on a killing spree? If so, why? Due to the minimal, amateurish writing, we'll never know.
The sum total of the game is ultimately a plodding grind that you play just to see gory and shocking scenes, and ends up leaving you with little of real intellectual or philosophical consequence to chew on despite the build-up. Sure sounds great, tho, and cyberpunkers might dig the atmosphere enough to overlook the game's limitations.
* misc. downloads
* great review
* Gameplay Videos
* lol this game's ending srsly