Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

Shogun 2: Total War Gold Edition

 

In 1999 a magical game was released that wowed audiences with its intricate plotline, relatable characters, and fully realized worlds.  The Longest Journey was hailed as one of the best adventure games of its time, so, naturally, its sequel’s release was hotly anticipated.  When Dreamfall released in 2007, it received similar acclaim as well.  Having already reviewed the original game, I figured it was natural to give spydistrict readers a look at its sequel.

 

 

DEVELOPER:
Funcom

 

PUBLISHER:
Aspyr
Empire Interactive

 

ENGINE:
Shark 3D

 

DATE OF RELEASE:
17th April, 2006 (Microsoft Windows)
18th April, 2006 (XBOX)

 

What’s Faith Got to Do With It?

 

Zoe Castillo’s life has hit a dead-end.  Having dropped out of college, she lives at home with her father and spends most of her day sleeping in.  She has trouble committing to anything; her tae-kwon doe teacher criticizes her for her lack of follow through on a regular basis.  One could say she’s lost direction, that her faith in herself has been depleted.  When her ex digs up a high-profile story, however, Zoe’s life takes a turn for the strange.  She’s suddenly pulled into a conspiracy that spans not only the world, but two parallel worlds.  In order to see her journey through to the end, she’ll have to take a risk to find her purpose.

 

But Zoe is only one of three main characters that Dreamfall features.  April Ryan, the main character of the first game, also makes a return.  Like Zoe, she too has lost faith.  Trapped in a world that was never meant to be her home, she’s become hard-hearted and despondent.  And then there’s Kian Alvane, a young prophet who has devoted his life to his religion and to his goddess.  All three of these characters intertwine in one epic story that centers some very complex themes.

 

 

Yes, like The Longest Journey, Dreamfall is very interested in telling a story that explores heavy thematic material.  But whereas the last game had to do with the balance between logic and spirituality, Dreamfall centers its conceit around the concept of faith.  “What do we do when we’ve lost our original purpose?” the game wants to ask, “Where do we go when everything we thought was true turns false?”  These are some heavy questions for a game to pose, and Dreamfall gives no simple answers.

 

Yet while the game tells a serious story, it still retains a comedic-light hearted flair.  This is no doubt due to the extremely likeable and well written characters.   Some old favorites make returns here.  Crow, the ever faithful sidekick is back and cracking jokes like usual, and formerly evil wizard Roeper Klacks returns as a reformed magic salesman.  Some sure to be new favorites are also introduced.  Blind Bob, an old beggar who is only theoretically blind is hilarious as he recounts his near fatal encounters with magical heat charms, and Wonkers the Watilla (a purple gorilla for those not in the know) makes an impression as a cuddly, slightly creepy robotic stuffed animal.

 

 

 Gameplay-lite

 

While the story and writing have retained their high quality, the gameplay is remarkably different.  Whereas The Longest Journey was a 2-D point and click adventure game, Dreamfall is a 3-Dimensional action/adventure, with more emphasis on the adventuring than in action.  There’s no pointing and clicking to be done here; each item is interactable based upon how close one gets to it (or him/her depending on the situation.  A purple ring circles around the desired target on-screen letting you know what you’re interfacing with.  When you want to do something with the object in the target, hitting the space bar will bring up a on-screen circle that contains a multitude of options.  If you wanted to climb up a cliff, for instance, you’d see an illustration of a person doing so.  Selecting that action would allow you to climb.

 

This style of gameplay is more action-oriented than before, and much more simplistic.  Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the game’s combat system.  Combat is controlled through the keyboard and the mouse; clicking the left mouse button will deliver a strong blow, while the right will deliver a lighter attack.  One can tell that the designers meant for this system to be strategic; there are health bars and a block button.  But it’s anything but.  Just smashing the attack button will get you through most of the battles.  Ultimately the fighting system is clumsy and would have better left on the cutting room floor.  Then there are the stealth missions.  At times you’ll need to sneak around or by enemies so that they don’t see you.  These mission are once again clumsy and awkward.  They feel out-of-place in an adventure game.  Overall, the action bits of this action/adventure fail to stick or make an impact.

 

 

The difficulty on the puzzles has also been dialed back.  It’s always apparent what you need to do; you’ll never find yourself wondering what step to take next.  Many of the so-called puzzles are actually fetch quests, requiring you to run from one person back to another.  You won’t get any riddles or puzzles like the ones in The Longest Journey.

 

By the Balance

 

These tweaks to the game formula turn the game into more of an interactive movie than an actual computer game.  Whether or not you enjoy the game will rest heavily on your appetite for long cutscenes and long dialogue trees.  If you’re looking for a game that boasts a strong narrative, though, you’ll definitely enjoy yourself.  Just be prepared for a major cliffhanger at the end.

 

 

 

 

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