Adventure games have become a thing of the past, and despite efforts of many, it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. Luckily, lately adventure games have been a bit more prevalent. We may not have them in abundance as we did with games like Curse of Monkey Isle, Day of the Tentacle, or Grim Fandango, but lately we have received games in the form of Myst IV, Indigo Prophecy, and now Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. So the big question: is Dreamfall the game that adventure gamers have been waiting for, or are we all better off waiting for the upcoming Sam and Max Sequel?
Dreamfall is set in a futuristic landscape where everyone has a cell phone and is connected to “the wire” (think of it sort of like the internet but it’s everywhere and it always knows where you are too). You play the role of Zoë Castillo, a college dropout who just seems to have lost her purpose. The game begins as you lounge around the house just like every other day, once again late for the gym (you’ve even lost the desire to work out and practice your martial arts).
When your friend Reza asks you to do him a simple favor, “Just pick up a package for me” your life begins to turn upside-down. You get attacked while grabbing the package, and when you finally return, Reza’s apartment has been sacked! There’s only one thing a girl like Zoë can do in a time like this. Find Reza before its too late.
As you progress you begin to unravel a whole lot more than you ever expected including hints of a land called Arcadia, one which “shifters” can reach at their leisure. Of course shifters are uncommon these days if not completely extinct. A lot of questions are left to be answered like “is Arcadia real?” and “who is that little girl who keeps appearing on screens and telling me to save April Ryan?” It looks like Zoë’s life isn’t going to be quite as boring as it had once been.
Of course, that’s only one side of the story. Throughout the game you also take on the role of a few Arcadians such as the one and only April Ryan who is now a part of a resistance movement against the Azadi who saved her city from downfall only to take it for themselves. Finally, you take on the role of Kian, an Apostle of the Six, and another Arcadian is one of the Azadi. Kian is a skilled warrior, and his quest will have him travel to far lands to eliminate a threat to the Six as he follows through with his unquestionable faith.
The gameplay is primarily focused on exploration and conversation. You walk around towns speaking to the locals, receiving hints, and eventually finding the next portion of your mission which is constantly updated in your mobile phone as you progress. Other times you will encounter some items you need to use to solve a puzzle or combine together to create a new item. One such encounter had you combine a stick and a rag which you then dip into a flammable liquid, and ignite using the spark from a heater to create a makeshift torch. Unfortunately, moments like those are few and far between. You never really have an abundance of items in the game, and you get them very sporadically and use them almost immediately.
The game also has some combat although it is very simple it its design (which isn’t a bad thing considering the type of game Dreamfall is). You have a light attack, a strong attack and a block. Light attacks are quick but can be blocked; strong attacks are slow but unblockable. You also have the ability to dodge while using the block button. A nice feature of the combat is that pressing various directions while pushing the action keys results in a different attack. The combat though feels a bit sluggish and outdated. The combat obviously wasn’t the focus of the game and you hardly ever have any encounters to worry about anyway.
The end result is a game that is heavy on story and light on everything else. The game is more of an interactive movie than a game experience, but considering the story, this is actually somewhat refreshing. The perspective of three characters gives a largely cinematic experience, and the fact that the game is mainly told from the perspective of Zoë helps you to connect with her and the struggles she faces.
Graphically, the game is quite impressive. The viewing distance is incredible and often times there will be snow falling to the ground showing off some nice particle effects. The character models are well detailed for the most part with Zoë in particular being exceptionally detailed. The game has a realistic appearance which really aids in telling the story that Funcom wanted to tell. Architecture ranges from dank caves to lush cities, futuristic landscapes to barren medieval towns.
The issue with the game graphically though comes not from the detail, but from the animation. Considering that the game is heavy on the cinematics with gameplay taking a back seat, you assume the animation for cut scenes would be well designed. Unfortunately characters are rigid throughout conversations, sometimes making a motion with an arm only to return it back to its original position. Having the characters move realistically within the cinemas would go a long way to increase the production value of this title.
Dreamfall has excellent sound. The entire game has spoken dialogue, and the voice actors are actually very believable. Zoë’s character in particular, a girl with a slight British accent really helped you feel like the characters were real. Other characters such as April Ryan, Kian, were excellently cast coming across with emotion. Even supporting characters were well voiced. There was one character with very little emotion in their voice but being of another race this may have been an intentional decision and really didn’t hurt the games presentation in any way. All characters lips moved smoothly following the dialogue perfectly. Sound effects were varied and believable, whether it was a futuristic taxi driving up or the sound or swords clashing in Arcadia.
Music in the game was fairly good using some music from various artists as well as having original music to complement the game. Never once do you feel the music is out of place, and most of the time it seems to fade away and just become a part of the game which is always an accomplishment.
Overall Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is a fun game which is heavy on cinematics and should be a fun ride for most adventure game players. The game could use some polish in the animation department, and a bit more actual gameplay would have been welcome. When you walk away from Dreamfall though, you come away with an awe inspiring story which rivals many of the films you’ll find in theatres this year. This alone makes Dreamfall a worthy title. If you can handle a game that isn’t quite a game but isn’t really a movie, Dreamfall should fit the bill nicely.
BEST FEATURE – A deep and highly developed story that all can enjoy
WORST FEATURE – Stiff characters during conversations need to go
Replay Value 6/10
Impact Rating 8/10
Overall Rating 78/100