Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
A beautiful heroine, a disappearing boyfriend, a talking crow and an alternate reality like no other. Dreamfall is without a doubt one of the most creative and beautiful adventure games released in years. Sequel to The Longest Journey, one of the last truly great point and click adventure games of the 20th century. The game was released at a time when public interest in adventure games was seriously winding down; mainly due to the increasingly popular action and first person shooters titles taking over the market. Regardless, TLJ was a hit with both critics and gamers alike; with teenage heroin April Ryan seen as a pleasant change from the usual cardboard cut out macho protagonists seen in many games today. (I’m looking at you Marcus Fenix)
Dreamfall picks up several years after where The Longest Journey left off. However instead of jumping straight back into April’s shoes; we are introduced to Zoë Castillo. Zoë is a 20 year old college drop out living with her father in Casablanca, which we learn has just recovered from an economic breakdown. Her ex-boyfriend and best friend unexplainably disappear shortly into the adventure, leaving Zoë to unravel the secrets behind his mysterious disappearance and the surreal events that follow. If you are familiar with the series, you may feel disheartened to find that learn Funcom have completely moved away from the point and click style that led TLJ’s gameplay. This is both a good and a bad thing; while the decision to move towards a more user friendly interface and control system is clearly a way of appealing to a wider audience, it also makes for a much more fluid and accessible experience. The downside of this is the lack of emphasis on puzzles when compared to TLJ, the game has become more action orientated with less focus on observation. I am also led to believe this decision was made to accommodate for the Xbox port of the game too, which after only playing briefly appeared identical to its PC counterpart.
Theme WeekThis review is part of our inaugural “theme week” of content. Please click this link for more information!You will talk a lot in Dreamfall and I mean a lot, when you’re not solving puzzles or gawping at the beautiful visuals chances are you’ll be in one of the games many scripted moments. This will no doubt put off many gamers; those who felt MGS2 was spoilt by endless talking should do well to avoid this game. On the other hand, gamers who don’t mind a good chin wag as long as it’s actually leading somewhere will probably enjoy what Dreamfall’s cut scenes have to offer. Dreamfall’s story is for the most part a gripping and engaging experience; this is thanks to some stellar scriptwriting and a cast of lovable yet intricate characters you will meet on your adventure. A majority of titles on the market as of late seem to have some solid ideas story wise but are often hindered by a terrible script or poor voice acting; Dreamfall is anything but one of those games. The voice cast do a great job of breathing life into their characters, the humour in Dreamfall is also rather notable too with plenty of little niche touches. The small details like this are what make the game such a pleasure to explore, so much so that I recall spending almost an hour simply wandering around one of the game’s cities laughing at the pub names like ‘The Salty Seaman’ and ‘The Cock and Puss’.
Dreamfall’s control system is for the most part very simple, even the most inexperienced gamer will have no problem navigating the game’s menus and sadly flawed fight system. While exploring your surroundings you will also have both the inventory and mobile phone screen at your disposal any time; this is particularly handy when the more accomplished puzzles start to kick in. Similar to games like Shenmue before it; Dreamfall’s game world is fully interactive, allowing the player to move Zoë up any object of interest and then either ‘Examine, Navigate, Pick Up or Use’ it by using the left mouse button and clicking the desired action.
Familiar adventure game mechanics like the ability to mix items together from your inventory screen are here too which play a large part in the game’s later puzzles. Just to make sure you never get lost or go completely off track, the developers kindly implemented Zoë’s mobile phone as a means of navigation and checking message updates. This works very much like the way April Ryan’s notebook did in The Longest Journey, only the mobile phone acts as a message device other than just an electronic diary. During the opening chapters of the game, you will occasionally receive messages alerting you of menial tasks Zoë needs to play out. One of the first things you will do in Dreamfall is take part in a sparring match against your personal trainer, this also where the biggest flaw in the game becomes apparent; the fight system. When adventure games try to be something they are not (this is definitely not Tekken) this usually spells disaster, Dreamfall just manages to get away with it however; even if it is by the skin of its teeth. When a fight occurs, all you have to do is mash the left and right mouse buttons which are assigned to punch and kick (original eh?) until you win. These sections are far and few between but when they do happen they are the least fun you will have with the game and without a doubt find yourself frustrated with at least once.
The icing on the cake for Dreamfall’s cinematic presentation is definitely the game’s musical score. Mainly consisting of strong orchestral compositions which have a surprisingly varied sound scope, the music is something to behold. A majority of the score is heard during the actual exploration of the game world, rather than strictly set as background music to the cinematics. The music really helps create a unique atmosphere for each area you visit; every place will have its own special theme that really helps create a sense of character. The score is also surprisingly provocative and emotional, which suits many of the games key scenes beautifully. Kudos certainly goes to ‘Leon Willet’, writer and composer for Dreamfall, as he has created what I believe to be one of the greatest video game scores of recent years.
Some may claim Dreamfall’s story to be clichéd, this is to be expected when yet another game uses a ‘secret world of magic parallel to ours’ as its main foundation for the narrative. However it is so much more than this, what makes the game so special are the intricate details and characters that engulf you into this surreal fantasy world. As director Ragnor Tornquist explained “Games are not art – at least not yet, but there is art in games”. Dreamfall is clearly an experience rather than just a game, if you have even the slightest interest in adventure/story-based videogames then you owe it to yourself to see what exactly Dreamfall has to offer.