Dreamfall: The Longest Journey Review (PC)

The title "The Longest Journey" is a familiar one to many gamers from the year 2000. This was a game that was given tremendous attention for its creativity in story, characters and environments, as well as character interactions that caught and held the attention. Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is the sequel to the original The Longest Journey and brings with it some of the best ideas from the original, some of its own charm and a few unnecessary hangers on.

Self defense class. What college drop outs do for fun Zoe has consistently bad hair, likely a carryover from her console roots

One of the greatest aspects of this game is the storyline and character interactions. Which means if you're looking for a straight forward shoot 'em up game you're going to be disappointed. There is combat in Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, but it is hardly the emphasis. The game opens with introducing the lead character, a young woman by the name of Zoe. When we first meet her she's in a coma in a futuristic version of the city of Casablanca. Zoe, herself, narrates this first sequence explaining that the world is in terrible danger and she's stuck in the middle of it. Once this information is given, the player is flashed back two weeks to a much more wakeful point in Zoe's life. We learn that Zoe is a student in a bioengineering program who is having what looks like a very long month. She's dropped out of college, broken up with her boyfriend and moved home to try to get her feet under her. On top of all of that Zoe has begun seeing visions that she doesn't understand, mostly in black and white. Usually these appear as a small girl, showing up in television screens and whispering to her. In the beginning Zoe has explanations for all of this, but quickly she runs out of excuses and the ringing of her cellphone begins the adventure to answer the vision which will take Zoe far from home, and quickly into trouble.

Your tutorial for learning controls and getting a feel for the story is the walk about around Zoe's home town of Casablanca. Here you'll meet her father, ex boyfriend, self defense trainer and several other influential members of society. You'll learn how to use Zoe's cellphone as a type of log book to keep track of what you're doing along the way, and you'll get some first hand combat practice, as well as good practice in keeping silent and eavesdropping. Take the time to examine your surroundings closely wherever you go, as there are many hidden pieces of information that you'll pass over otherwise.

As the storyline moves forward Zoe travels between dimensions and cities, solving mysteries and facing enemies along the way. The settings that you travel through during this game are beautiful, from Casablanca to a metropolis of Arcadia to the austere and frightening lands of Winter, the setting will catch the attention every time.

Graphically the backgrounds are lovely, though there are times the character models are only passable. Sometimes the models get caught in awkward movements or camera angles, which can be a bit on the annoying side as the rest is usually pretty good. In particular the animation for the running made me giggle in a less than good way. Mostly it reminded me of much earlier technology where the arms don't move right, and the facial expressions don't always match the mood of the situation. I do get amused by Zoe's ever changing wardrobe, from monklike robes to her much more modern attire she keeps one guessing what she'll show up in next.

Bracketing helps you to find interactable features of the rooms It's the six million dollar man arm pump! However I love this city. I could live there

The sound aspects of this game are, for the most part, very well done. The one annoying bit is the breaking up of some of the dialog based on how much can be loaded at any one time. Sometimes this makes the performance a little choppy, but that can usually be over looked. The word choice for the dialog and performance of the voice actors are snappy and fresh, fun to listen to, which is very important as the story relies so much on character interactions. The background tract is beautifully scored and rises and falls with the storyline very well. This follows in the steps of the original beautifully and helps to keep the game involving as you move from place to place.

Likely the most controversial aspect of the game lies in the game play which has some very nice moments, but also some of the issues that most bugged me about the game. In Dreamfall: The Longest Journey you can control three different characters depending on where you are and who you need at the moment. The game play interface is pretty much the same with all three, consisting of a minimalist approach. The inventory is kept simple, as are your options for combat, or puzzle solving. The combat aspects sometimes feel rather forced, not always fitting into the storyline and seeming to be just thrown in there so that this isn't just another adventure game but a combat game too. The conversations that are had with other characters are interesting and fun, but can also be annoying when all conversation points always railroad to the same conclusion no matter what you do. This push to stay on the linear path is needed, in some ways, to present such a complex story, but it also restricts the freedom that is gained from the fully interactive 3D nature of the game.

As far as replayability don't expect too much. There is very little real need or reason for going back and replaying after the first go through.

I bet you're not looking at the beautiful background shot here Proof positive that all college students, even ex students eat the same

At the end of the day I found Dreamfall: The Longest Journey satisfying to play. Whether it's a worthy sequel is harder to say as I'm not sure the comparison is accurate, but I do think the two games fit together in style and story driven game play. The puzzle aspect of both games seems to be a set of extremes. The Longest Journey took a lot of criticism for puzzles that were too complex and almost illogical and Dreamfall can easily be criticized for going too far in the opposite direction. It makes me wonder if we can expect a third installment that finds the balance somewhere in between.

Top game moment: I didn't have a specific moment so much as a more general enjoyment of the 3D environment and the ability to really go virtually everywhere with the characters.