Dreadlands Review, A Turn-Based Strategy Borderlands
Dreadlands is a turn-based strategy game with RPG elements. Developed by Blackfox Studios and published by Fatshark. Dreadlands has a Borderlands (Get Borderlands 3 for $20 here) aesthetic withXCOM gameplay mechanics & a sprinkle of Wasteland on top. Naturally, if you are a fan of these two strategy games you are going to have some fun here. However, if you are looking for the fast-paced action of a Borderlands game you’ve come to the wrong place. As players will need to be mindful of their commands in battle.
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So what’s the whole idea of Dreadlands? I hear you say. Well, Players must lead a gang of survivors of the dangerous dreadlands to success and glory! Upon starting the game, players will get the choice between three unique factions:
Tinkerers, Druids, and Brawn… Meet the People of the Dreadlands
Tribe-kin – nature-worshipping people who control beasts on the battlefield. As a result of this, the Tribes-kin are specialists in melee combat. However, what the tribes-kin excel in, they lose in range, as those beasts cannot engage in ranged combat. Additionally, The Tribes-kin are able to deploy totems that can aid in many ways on the battlefield.
Skarbacks – Former slaves, these guys don’t mess around. As Skarbacks are tough with powerful abilities that dish out some serious damage. However, they suffer from low movement and have the least amount of healing options out of the three factions.
Scrappers – renowned tinkerers who fight utilizing mines, poison, and other ingenious contraptions. They are the most versatile faction in the game. However, they don’t excel in either range or movement stats.
The Borderlands aesthetic looks great and the visuals are pretty good for an indie title. The game does a good job explaining the world of Dreadlands through a great cinematic consisting of narration and cartoonish art.
In-game graphics are good but don’t achieve anything too commendable. The game ran smoothly on extreme graphics. (i7 6700k, GTX 1070, 16GB ram). However minor glitches could be seen such as bushes popping in and out. But this was a rare occurrence. Beyond the exterior of the pleasing visuals also lies a well-thought out gameplay.
The Gameplay Experience
Playing as the Tribes-kin I had a lot of fun ordering my beasts to attack my enemies. However, I was skeptical of the melee-based faction, wondering if the gameplay would offer variation and tactics. Dreadlands proved me wrong as the faction was well balanced for combat. As Tribes-kin include powerful snipers called hunters that can pin down enemies while your melee units rush in for the kill.
The game includes a card system that acts as abilities or perks that can be used in battle. These cards are very powerful if used correctly as they range from, giving a unit an extra AP (action point), reviving a downed unit, jam your opponent’s gun, and many more. Synergizing these cards with unit abilities can be powerful if used correctly.
While turn-based games such as BattleTech and XCOM can be extremely punishing if players make a bad move. Dreadlands is a lot more lenient when it comes to the death of characters. Unlike XCOM, when a unit’s health reaches zero they move into a downed state, in which the player can attempt to revive them. Units can be revived a maximum of three times before they are knocked off the board. However, the unit won’t die and become injured instead. These injuries stack and if not addressed at the medical center can leave permanent damage on the unit. Because of this Dreadlands lacks a sense of urgency in combat that those other titles have.
Your Very Own Gang Hideout
Of course, there would be no gang without a hideout. Early in the game, you will take over a gang’s base. Here you can kit out your fighters with armor, weapons, and items. It’s also where you will be able to heal your injured fighters. You can further upgrade your base’s functions, such as improving the barracks, allowing you to have more fighters. To do this you will have to spend your well-earned cash which is split into four resources:
Medical Supplies – used to create healing items for your injured fighters and consumable items to use in battle.
Credits – used to hire new gang members and purchase items from traders.
Scrap Metal – used at the workshop to improve your base, or alternatively, it can be used to improve your reputation with settlements.
Glow – the rarest resource that is used to upgrade weapons and armor or even create special items.
It should be noted that junk and items collected out in battles are a pain to convert into scrap. As it takes a couple of seconds to convert, which can become tedious if you have collected a lot of junk. Furthermore, items do not stack.
An Interesting World to Explore
Players will be able to explore the world by accessing the world map. Where you will traverse across terrain discovering dungeons, encounters, settlements and rival gang hideouts. The mechanic is similar to Wasteland 2’s world map system. There is plenty to do and explore.
What Dreadlands Struggles With
While there’s a lot that Dreadlands does right, however, it also does fail in certain areas. The leniency in a fighter’s survival means that the player does not worry about their fighters & becomes less invested in the combat. In addition, Dreadlands seriously lacks in the audio department, as the in-game track becomes monotonous. Combined with a lack of sound effects, such as no footsteps, idle character sounds, feedback on navigating menus and buttons. Ultimately leaving Dreadlands feel a little hollow.
This is a shame as Black Fox Studios made an effort with the Dreadlands setting, as the player can find lots of information on each of the three factions and settlements around the world.
The final problem with the game is a lack of variation in the battle maps as the player will often feel as though they are fighting in the same layout. with slight cover differences.
Overall Dreadlands is a good indie turn-based strategy game that has good mechanics. Combined with an interesting world with lots to do and explore, Dreadlands offers great value as a player could sink many hours into this game, leveling their fighters, improving their base, finding loot. Each faction has traits that feel unique from one another. However, Dreadlands is in no way a perfect game, and what it lacks brings the overall score down. At £19.49 it’s worth the money for the playtime.
Summary: Dreadlands is a turn-based skirmish strategy game where you battle for the valuable resource – Glonithium, “Glow” for short. Explore the lush world in Dreadlands by traveling across its many regions with your misfit gang of miscreants and mercenaries.