Dreaming is the closest thing we experience to an alternate dimension. Sometimes our dreams are pleasant and frivolous, leaving us to awaken in a positive state of mind. Other times, we’re caught in an endless void riddled with inescapable fears we didn’t know— or want to admit— we had.
Regardless of dream quality, we’re able to wake up knowing it was only in our heads. But what happens when the line between reality and illusion is blurred? What if the deepest corners of our minds are too much to endure? What if the nightmare is too difficult to confront?
What if you can’t wake up?
Meet Thalia. And She Dreams Elsewhere.
A woman crippled by anxiety and self-deprecation, Thalia is struggling to find her way. She’s partying too much, ignoring self-care, and behind on bills. She doesn’t have a true north. But eventually, her actions—or lack thereof—begin to catch up with her. She’s caught in an inescapable nightmare which only she can conquer, a spiteful twin ravaging what was once an escape from the real world. If she can’t overcome her inner demons, she may never wake up again.
She Dreams Elsewhere is a bizarre adventure RPG blending real-world themes like depression, sleep depravity, and self-identity with a psychedelic dream world straight out of Black Mirror. Much like the Netflix darling, the game focuses heavily on mental health and how its impact can greatly affect even the simplest tasks of everyday life. Blend that with the modern vernacular used in the dialogue and real-life situations like being too drunk in social settings and this indie game can really hit home.
Like any RPG, this game has a turn-based combat system, but it certainly isn’t what I expected. Rather than assembling an arsenal of guns and swords, players will use simple physical attacks along with verbal assaults. In fact, the first weapon your character is capable of using is a “sick burn” capable of setting your enemy ablaze. Forget the old “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Thalia won’t hold back from ripping the enemy a new one.
The graphics in She Dreams Elsewhere are akin to two-dimensional Nintendo games of decades past, but again, with a twist. The base format is much like the first installments of Pokemon, with mostly one primary color used in various shades accompanied by one or two supplemental colors. But for the most part, that’s in the “real world.” Much to Thalia’s chagrin, the dream world is a hallucinogenic trip with psychedelic color palettes that move every which way—you know, as a nightmare would.
Enemies resemble caricatures that sometimes look innocent and other times look like terrifying renditions of psychotic monsters. Imagine this world set to Mimi Page’s exquisite soundtrack, which warps the mind and makes you second guess whether you’re in a dream of your own, and the game takes your inner being on a ride you may not be ready for.
While indie developer Studio Zevere has yet to set a concrete release date, it’s slated to hit Steam, PC, MAC, Xbox Game Pass, and Nintendo Switch sometime in 2021. If the trailer is any indication, She Dreams Elsewhere looks to be a masterpiece in the making.
Don’t sleep on it. Unless… you already have?