We shouldn’t forget that Media Molecule makes amazing games. The likes of Tearaway and LittleBigPlanet were award-winners, but Dreams’ post-release discussion has centred squarely on its community. This will please the modest Guildford-based first-party, of course: it has one of the most collaborative relationships with its fans in the industry, and is eager to champion the content they create within its PS4-based imagination engine. But for those watching from the fringes, the everyday PlayStation players that love PS Studios but perhaps aren’t on first-name terms with the series’ personified traffic cone Connie, it’s perhaps a little too easy to ignore the fact that the UK team continues to create incredible content within its acclaimed 2020 title.
In fact, in this era of live service games, Dreams is, well, The Dream™, right? Sony has repeatedly reiterated its pledge to the formula, revealing that it has several projects that subscribe to the business model in the pipeline. But while the likes of Fortnite and Apex Legends will run you $40 for a couple of premium skins and potentially a Battle Pass, that’ll get you the entirety of Dreams – including access to the millions upon millions of minigames and animations that the community has already created, as well as entire chunks of content from Media Molecule itself. With no loot boxes, content packs, or virtual currencies, it’s difficult to understand how the game is sustaining itself – and believe us, we’ve asked.
What we can say with certainty is that its latest content drop, The Land of Lost Dreams, is another impeccable adventure. The overarching concept, released in time for Halloween, is to celebrate those characters that got lost on the cutting room floor. Playing out from a first-person perspective, the mini-campaign – available now, and free for everyone who owns Dreams – has been created by a team of roughly 20, who’ve been beavering away on the project since approximately August. That’s a lot of energy and effort from a studio that’s only sustained by the full-price sales of its game, but it perhaps attracts comparisons to the philosophy from another Guildford-based developer, Hello Games, who’s transformed No Man’s Sky over the past six or so years at no additional cost to original owners.
Ignoring the flabbergasting fact that the entire mini-campaign was created with a PlayStation console, Media Molecule’s wit is sharp, as it transitions from one gameplay idea to another. There’s a quest book – pristinely animated – that allows you to keep track of everything you can do, and one section even segues to a retro-style DOOM first-person shooter. The studio explained to us that, while its primary aim is of course to entertain, it still wants to show the breadth and scope of what’s possible within Dreams. Play through just the first 30 minutes or so, and your mind will be bursting with everything that’s possible.
The real difference here, though, is that the studio has collaborated with its community to integrate their creations, too. The developer believes this sets it apart from other popular titles in the genre, like Minecraft and Roblox, because creators are playing an active role in shaping many of these playable events. Exploring The Land of Lost Dreams, we discovered a fishing pond from a Japanese user with an interactive mannequin’s hand and an ultra-realistic cabin in the woods that sets ablaze as you walk by it. The quality deviates, obviously, but that’s almost part of the appeal – it’s this ragtag collection of ideas, all threaded together by the developer’s own genius.
And it deserves more attention than it’s ultimately getting. Dreams has always been a confounding proposition: it’s a truly elegant creation suite with one of the industry’s most passionate and talented communities behind it, but if we were to criticise it in any way it’s that it perhaps lacks mainstream appeal. This ultimately means many are missing out on the content Media Molecule creates, with the first-party studio electing to work within the confines of its own engine, rather than design new standalone experiences that you’d arguably expect from other PS Studios teams. Nevertheless, if this is the future we can expect from PlayStation’s push into live service, then it’s going to be very generous: its Guildford team is making must play content, and all it asks is you pay the entry fee.
Will you be checking out this latest spoopy content drop from acclaimed developer Media Molecule? Have you turned your hand to Dreams yet, and what kind of creations have you cooked up thus far? Imagine it and it will be in the comments section below.