I heard about a Kickstarter for some game called Dreamfall Chapters. This led me to finding out about Dreamfall: The Longest Journey , a sequel to – as I found out – The Longest Journey – released around 2000. I then found both of the already released ones on Steam and so now they’re now on my PC.
Despite following the chain back through the games, I didn’t really know what to expect from The Longest Journey (TLJ). The only thing I knew was that it appeared to have a good story – which is something I was looking for after To The Moon and Dear Esther. I wasn’t sure if it was some kind of RolePlaying Game (RPG) or an old LucasArts style Adventure.
It turns out to be the latter. The story starts out introducing our protagonist April Ryan, who saves a dragon egg from crashing to a canyon floor far below, and is told she has a destiny. She then wakes up and we find out that she’s an art student in an area called Venice, in Newport, in the future. From here the story starts slowly as you meet her housemates and landlord, then her friends and you’re introduced to some parts of Venice.
Being an older game there are some things you expect. The graphics are very low res, being a mixture of (mostly) static backgrounds with low poly characters moving around them in a 3D manner. Until you discover the ‘skip time’ button, you can become very frustrated with how long it can take April to move from one part to another . You canalso expect some obtuse adventure type puzzles.
On the other hand, despite those low poly counts, most of the characters have, well, a lot of character and the backgrounds, music and incidental sound effects really bring the world to life.
What I find interesting is how strange the puzzles “feel” in this game. The game is mostly story driven, with many of the puzzles being a logical extension of that story. However, every now and again there is a puzzle that feels like it’s been dropped in from another adventure game and seems to be there, just because they felt there should be a puzzle. Those dragged me out of the story, and I often had to look up the solutions. On the other hand, those that felt they were part of the story made me want to solve them myself and I enjoyed the story more because of it.
The story continues slowly as we learn more about April’s life and a bit about her background. The atmosphere is quite beautiful here, giving a sense of history and what’s changed from our time to now.
Things pick up a little as hints that the world we saw in the Prologue, in April’s “dream”, is real. My interest really picked up here, and I felt like I really had a goal – I wanted to find out more about this world, the other, and April.
At this point I began to find out a bit more about how the puzzles interacted. I realised that the bits you need to solve the “final puzzle” that take you to the next “Chapter” won’t be there until you’ve completed all the other things the game needs you to do in that chapter. If you do things in the “right” order, you probably won’t notice. However, my habit of poking and prodding and exploring meant I got ahead of the puzzles in a few parts, and it wasn’t until I’d completed a puzzle in another place that I found things had changed in the required area. The things that change aren’t obviously connected, so this got my curiosity up. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but just an interesting curiosity to me.
The story itself is well handled and each Chapter leads beautifully from one to the next. As you learn more about the worlds, and those involved, some threads are tied up, while new ones emerge. There really is a wonderful sense of discovery, and excitement as things move on. The puzzles that supported the story really helped here, as in addition to discovering new information, and confirming or denying hunches, you get the satisfaction of feeling like you were responsible for finding those things out yourself.
Supporting the story are a number of wonderful characters. Not all of them are ‘good’ of course, with some being mean, evil or just plain grumpy. Each really fits though, and I can’t think of any that don’t fit the story or feel shoehorned in. Some are a genuine joy to meet, and I was sometimes disappointed when there wasn’t as much interaction with some characters as I hoped.
There’s a real sense of tension, of pace, of needing to get to the end, as the end apparently nears. The climax, and the ending were suitably … climactic, and didn’t disappoint me. The final scenes left things wide open for a sequel, while still tying up most of the threads.
The only real disappointment was that not all the threads were tied up with regard to April’s “old life” and that left me hanging.
I’m really glad I tried this. Despite a few niggles with the interface and puzzles, it was a very satisfying, enjoyable game and story.