Tristan Kalogeropoulos
03 Sep, 2006

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey Review

PC Review | Not really the longest journey we've ever taken.
These days, it's extremely rare for new IP to get a sequel. And it's especially surprising when that title is one of the most original, story-driven games to hit the market in recent times. The original Longest Journey fitted this description to a tee. In a gaming landscape where we see endless World War 2 and urban-themed games, a game based around a girl, whose world flits between the magical land of Arcadia and the mundane, scientific world of Stark, seems slightly out of place. And indeed it is. Whatever the the reason for this is, The Longest Journey was well deserving of a sequel, and it has now come along in the form of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, a game which has unfortunately left us with mixed feelings.

In Dreamfall, we follow the story of Zoe Castillo - a girl in her late teens and living in 2219, who has fallen into a rut and is not sure where she fits into the world. Things change when she gets embroiled in a rather complicated plot involving large corporations, undercover reporters, and alternate realities. Essentially, it's a science fiction story with some fantasy leanings. There are small parts in the game where the player gets to control a woman called April Ryan (who was the protaganist in the original game), a character who is a fighter monk from a race of conquerors and, for a brief period, a man who travels through dimensions to another world. It all sounds extremely convoluted but the game does a good job of holding the story together.

Zoe is one of the coolest characters we've seen in a while.

Zoe is one of the coolest characters we've seen in a while.
Times have changed, and the point-and-click adventure game appears to be a thing of the past. In recognition of this, developer Aspyr Media has taken a different approach in terms of the user interface. This new direction has both positives and negatives. Gone are the static (yet well-rendered) backgrounds of the old days. We now follow one of the three characters we get to control in the game from a third person perspective. The interface is still unobtrusive and helps the player feel part of the story. Any object that can be interacted with in the environment is highlighted with light green brackets. Movement involves keyboard and player, while item interaction is controlled via the mouse. All of this works relatively well. Sometimes the camera is a little uncooperative, but most of the time this is only when you are in the corner of a room. This is not a major issue either, as you are never really in an urgent situation when this happens.

Graphically the game is fairly solid, and, although unremarkable, offers the player a reasonably good sense of the places and characters. The design of all the locales is extremely nice, and each gives an idea of what the developers were intending us to feel when visiting them. There are times when the close-up views of the characters is a little rough-looking, but beyond this everything fits together pretty well.

Thinking of investing in some magical waterfront property?

Thinking of investing in some magical waterfront property?
The puzzles in Dreamfall do not come close to the difficulty of those in its predecessor. There are no longer any of the esoteric 'combine pliers with a blow-up rubber duck and a rope to get a key' tasks (believe it or not this was a puzzle in the first game). Whilst these puzzles may have gone a little too far in terms of a challenge, Dreamfall’s puzzles do not really go far enough. Most of the time, the player gets each and every one of the required steps spelled out for them, and it's simply a matter of ferrying the character to fetch and return an item. This is one of the most disappointing aspects of the game.

The story and characters of the first game were its most endearing features. Dreamfall follows suit with extremely good character design and an involving narrative. This is definitely the game's strongest point. The one gripe we had with the story was its length. Compared to other games in the genre, Dreamfall has an extremely brief lifespan, and can be finished over a weekend. The story also leaves many questions unanswered, and sets the story up for a follow-up game, which may annoy some people.

The voiceover work in Dreamfall is one of the best examples of how to do things right that we’ve seen for a long time. This is indeed a welcome change to the usual over-the-top drivel that spews from the mouths of many a game character these days. Each character has their own personality and the script does them all justice.

Dreamfall's gameplay is extremely limited. As we said before, the player often feels as though they are just escorting whichever character they are playing from cutscene to cutscene. When the time to solve a puzzle or interact with the environment does arrive, it is in a limited capacity and ultimately much of what makes a game a game is removed. We would have liked to see some more involving puzzles and less obvious tasks.

Let's fight! Oh, on second thought let's not.

Let's fight! Oh, on second thought let's not.
The fighting system seems to be something that was tacked onto the game to allow it to fit into the current landscape of similar products. As with many games where it is not a central aspect of the gameplay mechanic, it feels extremely badly thought out and implemented. There are not many times when you have to fight anyone but when you do the movement, and control of it, feels extremely wooden. It seems it would have been better for Aspyr to put the effort that was invested in the fighting system into developing the puzzles and increasing the interactivity of the game. It would have provided the player with a much better experience.

The narrative that is presented in Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, along with the characters, are some of the best we have seen. Despite this, the game fails to deliver any really compelling gameplay, and, in the end, is more of an interactive story. Even though it has many good aspects, it is unfortunately not a game that we can recommend to everyone. Fans of the original, or people who enjoy a game that offers little challenge but strong narrative, may want to check it out, but if it’s action and involving gameplay you're looking for, leave this one alone.
The Score
Fans of the original, or people who enjoy a game that offers little challenge, but strong narrative, may want to check this out. If it’s action and involving gameplay you're after, leave this one well alone.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Dreamfall: The Longest Journey Content

Dreamfall now an Xbox Original
28 Mar, 2008 Purchase it for 1200 MS points.
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey now on Steam
16 Jan, 2007 It took a long journey to get to there.
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey Preview
08 Jan, 2006 Take a look at the sequel to one of the best adventure games ever made.
7 years ago
Yes. doesnt sound great. But still worth a look i reckon...
7 years ago
I am a huge p'n'c nut. Have been since the days of SCUMM games. I absolutely loved TLJ, and am really looking forward to giving this one a go.

I want to finish PostMortem first. Then I will probably play the syberia games. Then.. DREAMFALL here I come icon_smile.gif
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