This "spooky" indie RPG is actually dark as hell, and even though it's inspired by Zelda, Chrono Trigger, and Undertale I've never seen anything like it

The latest subject in my ongoing 'hey, look at this cool indie game I found' is a uniquely dark spin on some beloved RPGs with a wonderfully thick atmosphere and an innovative combat system unlike anything I've ever seen.

Dreamed Away, from France-based solo developer Nicolas Petton, is billed as an "emotional action-rpg" with "spooky" elements inspired by his real-life son's drawings. Video game inspirations include beloved retro titles like Zelda: A Link to the Past, Earthbound, Mother 3, and Chrono Trigger, as well as more modern classics including Undertale and Everhood. And although the word spooky suggests a somewhat playful tone, the themes in Dreamed Away are actually incredibly heavy.

"My story focuses on the often fluctuating bond between siblings, fear of death and the experience of questioning reality," Petton says.

You play as Théo, a boy who wakes up to find his home transformed and inhabited by ghosts. He steps outside and realizes he's been swept off somewhere very far from home; darker, more mysterious, and much more dangerous. "Explore a unique reality, duel forces of the ever-encroaching darkness, and try not to lose yourself along the way," reads the description on Kickstarter.

I played the free demo for a little while and really fell in love with the game's thick, moody, almost oppressive atmosphere. There's a thrill to enjoying the world, but it's so, so dark! Like, literally black in a lot of areas. Even when you're outside the literal dark place, which is what I've named the place with the ghosts because I've been playing Alan Wake, the world is cast under a shadow from the rainy clouds. Combined with the melancholic score, there's an ever-present sense of impending doom as the story, rich with existential dread, unfolds.

Dreamed Away

(Image credit: Pineapple Works)

The combat system is where Dreamed Away really soars, as each encounter presents different mini-games baked into the turn-based battling. For example, an early fight with a ghost required me to dodge projectiles and complete skill checks to perform attacks. The same fight threw blocks with arrows on them that I had to hit at the right time and with the corresponding button on my keyboard, not dissimilar to Guitar Hero.

A later fight with a dead and bleeding little girl was much more intense, as she hurled fireballs at me with ferocious speed and put me through a similar sort of Guitar Hero-type mini-game as before, but the inputs moved through the screen much faster and more chaotically.

If I had to choose between turn-based and real-time battles in RPGs, I'd hesitantly pick turn-based as I slightly prefer the more tactical feel, but with Dreamed Away, you get the best of both worlds: the intensity of real-time with the strategy of turn-based. Although this is far, far from the first game to do something vaguely similar, I've never seen it implemented in this way.

If this sounds like exactly your jam, as it does mine, we're not alone. Petton says the Steam demo has been downloaded 23,000 times and the Kickstarter campaign was fully funded in just two weeks. Dreamed Away is scheduled to launch in February 2025 on PC, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox.

Here are some more upcoming indie games to put on your radar.

Jordan Gerblick

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked as a copy editor while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG on the side. Now, as GamesRadar's west coast Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.