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PAX East 2020: Solo-Developed She Dreams Elsewhere Sets A New Foundation For JRPGs

Posted on March 7, 2020 by Nick Moreno

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Sleeping is a pastime that we all enjoy, whenever we can get it. To escape from the stress of a hard day being in public or to catch up on some that we might not have managed to do the night before. It is something that many, including myself, looks forward to at the end of the day. But what if you never wake up, trapped in the inner mechanisms of your own mind? Studio Zevere captures this with the solo developer’s upcoming title She Dreams Elsewhere.

Following the story of Thalia Sullivan, she soon discovers to be enclosed in her own well being and must take on the nightmarish entities that continue to prolong her endless slumber. While at PAX East this past weekend, I demoed the game and spoke with the muscle behind the project, Davionne Gooden.

The first thing to pick up from the hands-on with She Dreams Elsewhere is the visuals used to create the comatose world that you play in. Painting the environment with a monochrome coating while simplistic does hold to contrast against the character’s sprites who bear teal and sometimes magenta, depending on their stance regarding the plot. Complemented with subtle movements of the setting’s flames, rivers, or waterfalls truly mimics calming motions that you would conjure to be for dreamlike scenarios.

However, the game shows its true colors, literally, when segments of the game strays towards the night terrors of the story. For instance, battling enemies breaks the soothing atmosphere with distorted background patterns and infusing demanding colors like red to overwhelm the player. The same can also be said for the abominations you face in combat which hold some form to familiar beings, but not enough to fully determine its influence.

When discussing the game with Gooden, he disclosed that the visuals we see now for the title actually birthed from a mistake with Photoshop previously. The initial greenlit project originally offered a fully colored experience, but following the backend incident alongside other smaller adjustment during development snowballed to what we see currently.

Noted that the game is a JRPG, the combat mechanic is the main focus of interactivity for the title. Upon embarking my first battle, I was introduced to an action wheel which varies with options like run, attack, items, etc. The concept was simple enough to pick up and helpful for understanding how the feature functions. As for the combat system itself, I found it to be more difficult than anticipating. When caught against a group of enemies, I was receiving dubious amount of damage which resulted with me healing my characters multiple times.

And this was intended for the project Gooden proclaims on the game’s Steam page. This has to do with implemented “charm” system that players will learn throughout the course of their playthrough. Utilizing the mechanic will vary on the player’s approach which will offer opportunity for variable playstyles alongside techniques for how the player should proceed each encounter.

The storyline aspect is also imbedded with a specialized mechanic that diversifies player’s outcome. While not made through pivotal moments of the game’s plot, this is instead determined through side quests that influence NPC’s opinion of your actions via the “Connection” system. Goode explained that these interactions will be implemented through social encounters that come natural despite being portrayed in the protagonist’s dream: gatherings like a party are said to be “abstract yet relatable” when projected through the dreamtime strainer that the game essentially is.

Before further discussing the game more, it should be minded that Goode prior to development of She Dreams Elsewhere worked in film. Although being an avid patron for video games, he also has a trait for creating scenes and producing projects behind a camera; evidently showing to be apparent in his current project. Goode also learned from his experience on the title that unlike directing and orchestrating a set, making a game is very cost efficient which he enjoys quite a bit in contrast. Furthermore sharing that he looks to return to film following the release of the game.

Goode since transitioning from film director to video game developer these past few years has travelled to a handful of events well before this past PAX East – which entails that the game has seen quite a bit of changes following fan reception. Especially being the only person working on the game, feedback from an exterior party does give a bigger perspective after time.

“Being a solo developer has shown to be inspiring yet terrifying,” Gooden laughs off. ”But coming to these events and seeing people play the game does help me understand what to change. Since I’m the only one working on it, you assume you already have aspects of the game down.”

Elaborating more on the build and its evolution, Gooden then goes on to tell that minor adjustments and other fine tunings has been made since then that were implemented in result from player reception. Elements of the combat system has been said to be altered to maintain the momentum of the overall experience are some of what were mentioned. One exciting element that was added into this latest build is allowing the player to pet the save point dog in the game which I acted upon each opportunity I was given.

I’ve played She Dreams Elsewhere once before on an older build back in August, but my full experience this past weekend has really encaptured a lot of anticipation for the game’s arrival later this year. In the meantime, if you are interested in possibly getting your hands on the game, you can pick up the demo on Steam now! Make sure you visit the game’s Steam page to wishlist the project while you’re at it!

She Dreams Elsewhere is said to arrive sometime in Q3 – Q4 of 2020 for PC and Xbox One.

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