Dread Delusion Review — Classically Strange

Dread Delusion is an homage to old-school RPGs, and it feels right at home among the best of them.
Dread Delusion Review Featured Image

Steam user Murdos describes Dread Delusion as “Vaporwave Vvardenfell.” Even with the roughly 15 years of writing experience I have under my belt, I struggle to think of a more apt description.

Dread Delusion is an RPG built in loving homage to games of the 2000s, a bygone era of RPGs made before you could just watch your favorite YouTuber speed-run a game’s story in one four-hour-long video. It seeks to capture the feeling many players felt playing The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind or Baldur’s Gate 2 back in the day, a feeling of fantastical whimsy where the world of the game is alien and strange and yours to explore.

I can say that Dread Delusion most certainly succeeds in this aspect.

Dread Delusion Castle
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

The game feels strange, unknowable, and odd in a way that feels very homely to me. Much of the game’s familiarity comes from its graphics. It is purposefully designed to look outdated, with small textured, low-poly models and crisp, ancient-sounding audio. It was created to feel at home in a time that upsets me to admit was over 20 years ago, and you could easily mistake it as having been released in the late 90s or early 2000s.

The game is purposefully artefacted so heavily that part of me wonders if it could have captured the same feeling it sought to capture if it had been made with more modern graphics. Could Dread Delusion feel as alien and strange yet utterly familiar as the classic RPGs it seeks to emulate if not for its low-poly visual presentation?

I can’t know for sure, but I imagine if any game could feel as wonderfully weird as old-time RPGs were with advanced graphics, it would probably be Dread Delusion. The game’s enemies and environments are phenomenally strange and interesting to look at, further building upon the strong setting Dread Delusion has going for it.

Dread Delusion’s story and setting are special, dark, uncomfortable, and odd, and I really enjoy it. The game follows your quest as a prisoner to the Inquisition, an order dedicated to keeping gods from returning nearly 40 years after a terrible war that killed them off and removed their influence from the land. You track down a legendary former soldier and mercenary, one of the most dangerous people alive, and attempt to stop her from unleashing a weapon that could destroy the world.

While I wasn’t always keen on the game’s character writing (I feel some characters are written a little too predictably or tropey,) I found myself deeply engaged with the game’s story and the stories of its many side quests. This is even true despite one major flaw I felt the game suffered from, specifically within its storytelling.

Dread Delusion Knight
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Dread Delusion seems to be afraid to allow players to suffer any consequences for their actions.

I’ll use an early mission in the game as an example, doing my best not to spoil the quest for anyone who ends up playing the game. While investigating rumors of worship of the old gods in a village, I stalked a hooded figure under the cover of darkness to find an ancient shrine to the god’s corpse and evidence that they were trying to bring the god back.

At least, that’s how it played out. Had things gone my way, I don’t think I would have made it that far on my own. My first instinct was to attack the hooded figure, something the game would not allow me to do. I think I spoke to the figure, who told me I’d better get back or there would be consequences!

I must have approached the figure there or four more times while stalking them, only to be told the same thing. I was also most definitely spotted by the figure within their secret shrine, which triggered no hostile reaction and just the same line of dialogue when approaching them.

Dread Delusion Iron Maiden
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

In situations like these, Dread Delusion betrays its promise of an open-world adventure where quests have multiple avenues to complete. It would be very easy to program a few alternate ways to complete the quest, depending on player interaction. Have the hooded figure drop a note that reveals the cave’s location if the player attacks them. Have secret correspondence, pointing out where the cave would be if the player got spotted and scared the hooded figure away from their shrine. Have the hooded figure approach the player within the cave and allow a smaller version of the interaction that comes shortly after.

This is something that continues throughout each and every quest in the game, with the game barring you both from the possibility of messing up but also from possible shortcuts that could be achieved through less obvious means. There’s no killing NPCs, no stealing a secret note detailing hidden answers to a quest, and there aren’t even any alternative routes to quest completion, period. Thus, every quest in the game feels incredibly linear as you are only presented with one path forward through objectives or dialogue, with no means of circumnavigating.

That isn’t to say the game is completely devoid of player choice. The order in which you complete quests is largely up to you, and the world is completely open, allowing you to navigate freely once you get past the first drawbridge. There are certain large decisions that greatly impact the end of the story (with over 30 different endings to choose from,) and most quests do end with a decision to be made.

I only wish the decisions were less ending-based and more focused on how to proceed. There are plenty of times I felt like there were more obvious ways to complete a task given to me but with no way to go about it. I felt as though I was often being railroaded through the developer’s designed path toward quest competition.

For a game about roleplaying, this felt needlessly constrictive, though I can’t say it took away too much from the other aspects that made Dread Delusion great.

Dread Delusion Map
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Dread Delusion features no quest pointers, no built-in HUD compass, and no map unless you’re ready to work for it. All quest locations are discovered through directions given in dialogue. For some, this is going to be an exciting and unique feature, and while I enjoyed it, I can certainly see how it would be just one of a few polarizing aspects of Dread Delusion.

The Final Word

Though some aspects of the game may be polarizing, Dread Delusion is undoubtedly a unique and exciting title, built for fans of classic RPGs to enjoy. Some will love it, and some will hate the game’s retro aesthetic, but no RPG enthusiast can deny the game’s excellent world-building and engaging stories.

8

Try Hard Guides received a PC review code for this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in our Game Reviews page! Dread Delusion is available on Steam.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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