IMPRESSIONS: She Dreams Elsewhere Demo

Monday, August 17th, 2020

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First a quick note. This isn’t the first time I played She Dreams Elsewhere. The first time I just took a chance on the demo on a whim, not knowing what to expect. After being completely engrossed, it was an easy decision to try it again. The second time was all about noting my reactions to the game and especially taking screenshots. And though the demo can be beaten in 30-40 minutes, I’ve spent 2 hours in my total playtime. You might be wondering why I’ve gone to so much effort for She Dreams Elsewhere. The simple answer is cause it’s amazing.

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She Dreams Elsewhere is a turn based RPG that features elements of several classics. It has combat that’s similar to the Persona series, with artwork that’s like an edgier EarthBound. As for the music, it has some of the urban flair I so loved in The World Ends With You, though these are entirely unique compositions. Despite those similarities, the best thing about this game is how it still stands on its own two feet. Sure, it references classics, but it’s very much its own adventure. One example of this is how the game features a nearly all black cast of characters, a rarity in the game industry.

She Dreams Elsewhere | Nightmare

The demo starts with you controlling Thalia. She doesn’t know where she is, and is wandering in oppressive darkness. She comes across a curious room, seemingly made out of flowing water. The centerpiece is an elegant mirror. As she looks into it, someone starts talking with her. It’s quickly apparent this person is not a friend, and the situation quickly spirals out of control. Thalia is attacked, and summarily defeated by the mysterious stranger. Just as you think she’s totally defeated, she wakes up. Was it all a dream? The answer is quite complex, but the quick answer is not exactly.

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As you interact with your environment, it’s apparent that Thalia is someone that suffers from depression. She is not her best friend, and is plagued by insecurity and dark thoughts. It’s not all doom and gloom, she actually has a sharp and biting wit. But the dominant theme is one of sadness. I actually was really drawn into the game because of this. While I’m far from clinically depressed, I have been known to suffer from some gloomy moments of doubt. I felt the writing for Thalia is totally genuine and engaging, and it made me want to keep playing. You will read lots of dialogue as you progress through the demo, and you’ll be allowed to decide how Thalia reacts to many conversations. I often picked the darker choices, just to see what happened. I’m honestly not sure if your choices matter in terms of how the game progresses, but it’s still interesting. This might all sound random, but Thalia’s battle with her own darkness is a central theme of She Dreams Elsewhere.

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After you leave a party hosted by Thalia’s friends, Amia and Oliver, you find her dog Laury. Last time you saw your canine companion, he was comfortable at home. What’s he doing out? Thalia chases after her errant doggo, only to find herself in another perplexing situation. She opens a door and is greeted with madness. You’re in a place called Oblivion. It’s full of hypnotic lights and damning darkness. I should quickly mention, I love how She Dreams Elsewhere uses color. Most of the game is animated in black and white pixels, with key details colored light blue. Meanwhile those entities that threaten you are colored purple. It’s simple, but it’s also very distinct. And the artwork is much different in battle. Each of your characters has an elegantly drawn portrait, and all the enemy designs are like graffiti brought to horrible life. They’re abstract, weird and bloodthirsty. Which sets the stage well for this experience.

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Thalia is pretty capable during combat. She can use various elemental attacks, and by exploiting a foe’s weakness, they’ll be temporarily downed. That means they’re frozen for a couple turns and unable to fight back. By carefully downing the right foes, and tracking the turn order, you could potentially deprive foes of any chance to retaliate. Again, this reminded me a lot of Persona, but in the best possible way. As you attack, your LP bar increases. When it hits 100, you can use a powerful attack. If you’re with a friend and you down all foes, you join forces for an uber powerful Link Up attack. It’s very dynamic and fun. Thanks to the fact you heal fully after each battle, the combat never outwore its welcome. It’s addictive as hell, and assuming the end product is robust and meaty, it’ll make for a great adventure.

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Another nice thing about She Dreams Elsewhere is that you can play it a couple ways. The first time I played, I did so easily with keyboard and mouse. But the second time around, I discovered it also features full controller support, and enjoyed playing it with my Xbox 360 controller. Though I will say, right now there’s still some quirks to both options that I hope are ironed out by the time it finally releases. Nothing game breaking, but small and annoying features like the buttons not responding quickly or having to use ESC to exit certain menus.

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Lastly I’m gonna mention something spoilery, so stop reading if you want to go into the demo without any knowledge. She Dreams Elsewhere is all about Thalia actually being in a coma, trapped in her own mind. Which wouldn’t necessarily be so bad, except it seems her negative thoughts are actively trying to kill her. Which is a totally fascinating concept. I really enjoyed my time with the game, and am excited that it’s coming to both Steam and Xbox One. All I can hope is that the game lives up to my initial hype. Right now it’s really impressive and pretty damned unique. I truly think this could be a defining RPG of whatever year it comes out. If that sounds like your sort of game, consider wishlisting it on Steam, and following the creator on Twitter. And please stay tuned to oprainfall in the coming days for a 2 part interview with Davionne Gooden, the developer of the game!

She Dreams Elsewhere | Boss

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.