With the sheer volume of titles being released, I sometimes go in blind with a review, and Dreadlands was a title that fits into that category. The visuals had a particular Borderlands flavour, but other than that, I was a little ill-informed.
Let’s clear up now that Dreadlands is a turn-based game, erring on the apocalypse with Mad Max-like gangs fighting for territories and overall power. Power isn’t just from numbers, but who controls the glow; the currency in the game, among various salvageable items.
Taking control of a team of vagabonds, you have to make use of your environments to execute a tactical combat masterclass for your party of rogues; take out the enemies and take the plunder while you’re there.
Dreadlands PC Review
I’m on the fence a little with turn-based strategy, being more in the camp of real-time, but cutting to the chase early on: Dreadlands, from Blackfox Studios and Fatshark, is a game that changes that outlook – almost immediately.
A bit like Partisans 1941, a game I highly recommend, you control your motley crew with a series of action points to move around a map and strategically wipe out the opposition.
What’s different about Dreadlands is the focus on ranged and melee combat. While melee features in many similar games, it plays a significant role in turning the tide of a match as it changes how you receive attacks as well, literally switching out the two variations of combat at the press of a button: melee or range.
But to play the close quarters game, which I thrive on, you have to close the ground, and that’s not an easy task. Cover is vital to survival, and Dreadlands employs the same system where you’re fully protected, half protected or out in the open.
Build The Foundations
You start Dreadlands with a small team, stealing a base to operate from – your hub for recruitment, customisations and healing, grab a mission then head out to the world map.
Regardless of the faction/gang you choose, you’ll have the primary mission and one side quest (that you can choose depending on who you talk to). Side quests don’t stack, so you need to choose wisely; if you’re struggling, you can abandon it and start a new one, but sacrificing the progress of the one you cancel.
Main missions are perhaps more accurate to do and will meet your current level. Each player can level up individually, choosing MVP after each battle, and your gang will also gain notoriety, a.k.a. fame, so that that you can take part in dungeon crawling type raids.
A note on levelling up: one character will be level with the MVP award and to achieve the maximum points on offer, you need to complete a series of challenges such as reviving a player, charging with a melee attack three times, ensuring your leader doesn’t take any damage and so on.
A Level Playing Field
Once you leave your base, you’ll have a real-time world map where you can click on shaded areas to reveal new locations such as dwellings, towns, encounters (which can be random loot drops or a skirmish) or get yourself ambushed by a rival gang.
When visiting an establishment, you will get the chance to accept a side mission, buy medical supplies, new gear and build your reputation by trading gear. The higher the reputation, the better the equipment, but rather than paying just credits, you have to pay in glow too, which is a little scarce.
As for the Dreadlands battles, you’ll often see a quick set-piece setting up the gang rivalry, get the isometric battle arena and ready up your team for attack/defence. Your team is made up of a variety of classes like all-rounders, ranged, animals and also bounty hunters that you pay per round. They all have similar commands, but individual perks too.
At the start of the battle, you’ll get to pick from a set of four tactic cards (that you can change the loadout at your base) and these can be played once per battle such as having +2 movement spaces, blocking a ranged attackers gun, or reviving a fallen ally.
Round One: Fight!
By default, each player gets two action points, and you can use one to move to a designated space, the other to shoot, to use both to gain some ground or perhaps use a special ability like a long-range shot that uses up two slots. When your slots are gone, you move to the next player or end your turn.
Attacks have a range restriction, but tactic cards can be used mostly without limitation, so blocking an opponents gun is always a good thing. When nearby, you can engage in a melee attack, and this locks you into a melee battle. What does that mean? You can’t be attacked by ranged attacks; likewise, you can’t perform them.
Should your player get to zero HP, they’ll be downed, but you can revive them with bandages or a card. If you don’t revive them by X number of turns, they’ll be dead and can’t be used in the battle any longer. Likewise, an enemy can cut the countdown and execute them if in range, but you can do it to them too.
If a leader is lost in Dreadlands, after the enemy finishes their turn, you win. Alternatively, you can dominate and wipe out a large number of the enemy gang, and this will lower their morale, forcing them to miss attacks and incur other debuffs.
There’s quite a lot to cover with Dreadlands mechanics that I’ve missed, such as the Endless Dungeon, or recruiting new members or even playing online. I didn’t do the latter 1) I’m unlikely to play the game online just yet and happy to play it as a solo effort, and 2) it’s guaranteed to eat away time I don’t have!
I’ve been mildly obsessed with Dreadlands as it’s a nice pace, what with it being turn-based, but it’s hardly shooting fish in a barrel. I must have repeated some of the same battles about half a dozen times as it’s quite challenging, but usually boils down to a poor strategy such as getting my guns jammed.
By the way, a gun can jam with the tactic card, or if a character shoots twice in quick succession, it increases the chance of being jammed. The only way to unjam it is to use a repair kit or a tactic card if you have it; otherwise, you’re stuck with a melee attack for the rest of the battle. Additionally, characters won’t permanently die, least I didn’t experience it, but they can get long-term injuries that you need to fix with a make-do glow injection or at your base via the medical centre.
A bit of a longer review here, but that’s because there’s a lot to say. It’s a cool game. The UI is intuitive, the learning curve is excellent, and you get to know your team and develop their skill tree based on your playing style. You can customise and rename the characters too.
On a side note, Dreadlands out of Early Access fairly recently, and judging by some comments on Steam, others have encountered many bugs. I don’t recall anything other than when playing for a while; the fullscreen mode ended up showing my taskbar for some reason. Far from game-breaking as I could enter the options to change it. As for any other bugs, I didn’t see anything, and couldn’t comment on the multiplayer side of things – this review is based on my anti-social experience alone.
Dreadlands Review Summary
A turn-based strategy with RPG elements, Dreadlands is an excellent title for those with plenty of time on their hands. It will grab you by whatever genitalia you sport and keep you locked in for hours.