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Dread Delusion: A Weird, Well-Executed, and Hard-to-Summarize RPG


did their best!


Recently, I purchased and played Dread Delusion, a particularly hard-to-summarize open-world RPG. There are some obvious touchstones here, but there's a much wider cocktail of inspirations than most games with this sort of retro aesthetic typically pull from. There's no easy "this is like [game you know] but [twist]," description that is meaningfully accurate. If you go in expecting Dread Delusion to be just like any game other than Dread Delusion, you'll probably be disappointed. But luckily, I think Dread Delusion as a whole is good enough that I hope I will have the opportunity to describe future RPGs as "this is like Dread Delusion."


The game has an incredible setting, I adore it. There's an American McGee's Alice style of grotesque whimsy pervading the setting. A sort of actively hostile fairy tale flavor despite not directly referencing or adapting from existing fairy tales. Where many RPGs have a historical event involving a shake-up with the Gods, that happened pretty recently for this setting. Many characters in their 30s-40s are veterans of the God Wars, where the Apostatic Union rallied to kill the fey-like gods en masse.


Much of the choice in the player's hands has to do with with how they regard the cruel, capricious, and undeniably beneficial gods. The Apostatic Union is absolutely an expanionist empire, but many places in the sky realms were more more than happy to take up arms against the tyranny of their own gods. What price is reasonable to facilitate prosperity? There are no clean moral choices available, no option to make things unambiguously better right now. Repeatedly, you are placed in a position to make society-altering decisions, and the game is careful to show this, too, is a tyranny.


The reason people compare Dread Delusion to Morrowind is pretty clear; *none* of it is Standard Fantasy. Some elements like the mushroom forests and how Dwemer-esque the Emberians are even direct correlations. This comparison fails to account for how Dread Delusion is extremely not an Elder Scrolls game in terms of approach.


Structurally, the game is very BioWare-esque. Specifically, the game feels like a series of isolated "planets" like KOTOR or Mass Effect, but you can walk from place to place contiguously. Unlike the trends of this era, the game is thankfully free of maximalist crafting and survival systems papering over relatively sparse actual content. The majority of locations that aren't related to a quest are one or two rooms long and test a single skill in exchange for an item, so the advantage of the small scale is that none of it is filler content. The central zone of Hallowshire is definitely the most dense with stuff to do and find. The real appeal of this lies in how culturally different each zone is. There's a lot of overlap between Pwyll and Hallowshire aesthetically, but the Endless Realm and Clockwork Kingdom are *very* different in quest structure, tone, and theme. Combine that with how much terrain there is in each zone, and it feels like there are three or four half-size indie RPGs in this one package.



It accomplishes this despite perhaps one of the most barebones equipment inventories I've ever seen in a RPG. So far as I am aware, if you don't count upgraded forms as “different” weapons, the game includes three weapons. Two of them are types of sword. Similarly, I think there are maybe five or six hats and armors in the game? Some of those don't even upgrade. My recommendation is to buy the Agility+ clothes and Charm+ hat in Hallow Town. I believe the equally useful Lore+ hat is available in the Endless Realm's town, Sepulchre. The secondary stat buffs you get from a fully-upgraded piece of clothing cannot be overstated. It's equivalent to 6 points in the related primary stat, and the max level for a primary stat is only 10.


While pretty much all the clothes are useful, I wouldn't recommend wasting money on armor. You don't need the extra points in Defense because the game is very easy. Maybe it's harder for people that haven't played King's Field - apparently only 0.6% of players have the "didn't die" achievement. But I'm willing to assume most people die due to falling instead of combat. As an example, I stun-locked the final boss by using the highly technical strategy of "repeatedly use the slowest attack with the slowest weapon." I ended the game with almost 90 healing potions without ever buying a single one because I only used them in the first zone and against the second-to-last enemy in the game. I hope this game gets a hard mode like Crow Country did. Just decreasing enemy flinch recovery time by, like, 15% would make the combat much more engaging. All that said, this is not a complaint. Enemies also have low HP, so low difficulty does not translate to tedium. This is hardly a significant weakness in the face of what Dread Delusion has going for it in exploration, world-building, vibes, character writing, and storytelling.


One of the biggest potential selling points is getting a FF-esque airship in this style of RPG is cool as heck. To make an airship feel like a valuable thing to have, the available methods of fast travel are very limited and have to be discovered. As a result, I think many players will have a better experience if they prioritize the main plot up until the point they get their airship. Once you have an Airship, you only need to go to one more place with it before you've hit the final dungeon. There are other airship-exclusive places to go, but not that many. The way the Airship functions is really cool - you can dock at ports, or you can drop your anchor almost anywhere there is standable ground. The anchor functions as a ladder to climb down / up automatically. You also get the spell "Emergency Airship Reembarkation", which teleports you back to your airship, even mid-fall, as suggested by the flavor of the spell as an in-universe mandatory safety feature.


I've finished my initial "No Gods, No Masters" run of the game, but I immediately started a second save file to do an "Every God, Every Master" run where I blindly endorse every deity I encounter. Dread Delusion does the Fallout thing of having ending slides for each major choice point, but these endings feel more dramatically changed by the player's final choice in the game. Luckily, you can reload your save to go back to the final dungeon and choose the other ending. Still, I want to see the all the variations of the major choices for each region.


I think Dread Delusion is a game that will likely be overshadowed between Dragon's Dogma 2 and Elden Ring's DLC. That's a shame since I think it will have appealing elements for King's Field fans, BioWare fans, and Elder Scrolls fans alike. The silver lining on the low difficulty is that the game is very easy to recommend as a result.
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Lapsed Threadcromancer
I've got this sitting in my 'to play pile.' I think either the developer or the producer have also released a new game that is riffing on early From Software's King's Field series.


did their best!
My second save file got corrupted by a power outage. Dread Delusion does not allow for manual saving, so I could not save cycle like I would in any other game. I had done every quest I am aware of, and only had the final dungeon left.

So I did the only reasonable thing I could do: started a third save file. Turns out, by selling all the consumable weapons (throwing knives, bombs, etc.) I never use, it's very easy to buy almost everything I need to buy from Hallow Town on the very first visit. Well, one of the Apostatic Union Passes is available in a hidden shop in Pwyll, accessed via a teleportation mirror in Hallow Town, so that does technically count as leaving Hallow Town. So does doing the smuggling sidequest if done the clever way.

I will be fighting some mid-game enemies with the Rusty Sword because I'm (quite unnecessarily) saving materials for the greatsword instead of the sword, and I would like to pick up my absolute best friend/accessory, the Lockbug that reduces the difficulty of all locks by one level (out of six). I can then go grab the Mechanical Lockpick as well.
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did their best!
I have finished my restarted second run. Also I added many screenshots to the initial post. Please enjoy.