Media Molecules Dreams is finally ready for VR prime time. Does the ambitious creation platform hold up? Find out in our Dreams PSVR review!
Whats nice about reviewing Dreams five months on from launch is how much its been demystified. Theres little need to critique the games audacious creation tools and sharing systems with the caveat they might never take off; this pudding already has enough proof. Seriously, just go and check out some of the highly-rendered puddings.
Its still tough, though, to wrap your head around the enormity of Dreams. How do you stamp a score on whats essentially a YouTube-style platform of interactive experiences? Its a trickier task still when you factor in VR.
Lets try not to complicate it too much, then; if you have any interest in VRs weirder, more experimental side (which, given the very nature of the platform, theres a good chance you do), you absolutely cannot miss Dreams, even with some significant reservations for the creation mode.
Dreams brings a welcome bit of DIY to the VR scene. It allows anyone to get out there and make the game theyve always wanted to see, pending their patience with the modest learning curve and their readiness to accept adapting their vision to the games fuzzy-paint aesthetic (which is customizable but never fully escapable). The tangible bit of all this is the tools themselves. On a flatscreen, Dreams intelligent UI, existing templates and logical progression got me up and running with some pretty basic game concepts in just a few sessions. You get pretty much the same suite of tools and tutorials in VR which, in practice, actually might be the most disappointing aspect of the Dreams VR experience.
Let me explain; VR creation apps are some of the best, most wholly unique experiences you can find in headsets. The intuition of 3D painting in apps like Tilt Brush has led to the creation of entirely new works of art and simple apps like Googles Blocks can also get you up and running in this field in no time.
In terms of pure functionality, Dreams offers everything those apps do and much, much more. This toolset has the power to make entire games with deep mechanics. Again, Media Molecule has more than proved this platform is capable of that.
But, rather than go back and overhaul the Dreams learning and building experience for native VR support as you might have expected it would the developer settled on an awkward halfway house. When you first boot up Dreams, some of the games most basic on-ramping instructions will only be shown on a virtual screen, with your controllers (either two Move controllers or the DualShock 4) represented as a floating creature known as an Imp. In normal VR, navigating using the Imp is simple, but trying to negotiate 3D space on a flat screen in these tutorials is beyond clunky. Then, when you head into the Workshop, where the bulk of the games tutorials rest, youll be greeted with this message.
There are some additional videos to guide you through VR specific elements but, largely speaking, Dreams tutorials are not designed with the platform in mind, and thats a real shame. Yes, theyre fantastic for flat-screen creation, but VR support would have been best served starting from scratch with native guidance that properly communicates how much VR enhances the Dreams experience. Yes, you can still do everything you can do in the flat screen version and people already familiar with the tools will easily adapt, but this should be better at introducing new players to the weird and wonderful world of VR.
Dreams PSVR Review Indie vs Inspiration
Dreams has a strange sort of allure to it in that, many people want to see their favorite games and films paid tribute to within it but the real magic behind it is originality. VR puts an interesting spin on all that; if youve ever wanted to see what PT or Star Wars or Resident Evil or practically anything else might be like in VR, youll more than likely find it here. Heck, we could see a Halo VR tribute on PSVR in the future, which is a mind-blowing proposition. Media Molecule might scoff at the idea, but its built a dream (sorry) platform for VR in that sense. How branded content evolves against original ideas with the inclusion of VR will be fascinating to watch.
Problems also persist with the games control schemes. I had hoped that a switch to VR would make creation with the PlayStation Move controllers a much more palatable affair given the additional context of 3D space. And that is the case to some extent, but the Move controls are also plagued by the confusing button layout, which Media Molecule doesnt virtually replicate when youre making finger-tying shortcuts. Moving the camera around, too, is incredibly sensitive and begging for analog sticks to properly master. As such, the DualShock 4 surprisingly remains the best way to create in Dreams, but even then brushes up against the limited positional tracking.
But creation is only one part of the Dreams VR experience.
Ive already revisited one of the all-time scariest games, P.T., piloted an X-Wing, and admired that stunning Unreal Engine 5 demo inside my headset with Dreams. More importantly, Ive discovered some brilliantly-fleshed out original concepts too that have amazed, delighted and surprised. On the flip side, its had me nauseous, confused and often bewildered.
Its a messy little thing, but thats sort of the point.
Navigating Dreams hub of user-generated content in VR isnt so much a rollercoaster as an exhilarating and oddly amusing dash through a minefield. Theres strong curation from Media Molecule itself, but the real magic requires a risky dive into its ever-expanding pool of creations. Youll find a dizzying array of fantastic ideas varying in quality of execution, endless memes, hastily-abandoned prototypes and tacked-on VR support. Even Media Molecules own VR showcase, Inside The Box, wrestles with control schemes and ideas with only some success, and many of the existing non-VR creations that have enabled support are strangely scaled, breaking every rule in the book of VR design. If you thought Five Nights At Freddys VR was disturbing, wait until youve played a broken fan tribute with muffled screams recorded through a PlayStation camera.
Dreams PSVR Review Comfort
Dreams offers a wealth of comfort options that are all enabled by default and, more importantly, will let you filter out experiences not necessarily optimized for VR. The game will boot you to Cinema Mode when framerate suffers and Media Molecule offers plenty of comfort tips. That said, itll still be hard to spend entire sessions in the game without coming across intense content, but there are ratings in place to help guide you.
Theres plenty of comfort options to shield you from the worst offenders, of course, but it can only do so much. Every time you click on a new game, youre rolling the dice, but the reward is often worth the risk. In one play session I found Hard Reset, a moody, atmospheric 6DOF exploration game that, even if it wasnt built for VR exclusively, seemed to possess a powerful understanding of immersion.Bionic Revolution, meanwhile, promises a simple VR shooter that frankly plays better than some SteamVR shovelware.
This all sort of speaks for itself its a better review of the game than myself or anyone else could write up. You might have to shovel through a lot of misses to find the hits but, when you do, Dreams absolutely sings. And the chances are youll have a lot of fun wading through the former category anyway. On a platform thats still in need of a lot of content to sustain it, Dreams offers a hugely compelling hub of VR intrigue that youll want to return to time and again. Even if its creative elements arent as strong as newcomers might hope, this limitless playground is more than enough reason to dive in.
Its true, though, that the game does have certain technical constraints in VR, especially from what Ive played on a standard PS4. While theres no extra limits on the size of your creations, dynamic rendering can reduce them to a blur, for example, and the game will boot you to PSVRs Cinema Mode if it runs into framerate hitches. Still, its no secret that Dreams released at the tail end of a generation with a long roadmap ahead of it and, as exciting as it is in its current form, I cant help but wonder what the future holds on other systems, where VR support is likely to shine even brighter. Media Molecule is interested in a PC version and, of course, PS5 looms too.
Until then, we have an immensely promising foundation. A strong community is already cropping up around Dreams PSVR support; one thats free to experiment and tinker in ways that big-budget games might not be able. VR is often described as a wild west of game development, and in many ways Dreams is the epicenter of all of that.
Dreams creative mode might not integrate with PSVR as naturally as hoped, but its cemented position as a hub of invention makes it an easy recommendation. Paired with the platforms inherent comfort issues, its sprawling, untamed ecosystem can prove to be a minefield to navigate, but for every unwelcome rollercoaster ride (literally and figuratively), theres another wish waiting to be fulfilled or something genuinely original to discover. The only way to truly judge Dreams is by the strength of its creations and those already speak for themselves; if you want to embrace VRs experimental side, you shouldnt miss it.
Dreams is available now on PS4 for $39.99. The VR support comes as a free update. For more on how we arrived at this score, check out our review guidelines. What do you make of our Dreams PSVR review? Let us know in the comments below!
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