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Dreamfall Chapters: Book Two - Rebels (PC) artwork

Dreamfall Chapters: Book Two - Rebels (PC) review

"Struggling to confirm; happy to reinvent."

Back in (Christ; was it that long ago?) October of last year when I first spoke about Dreamfall: Chapters, I made sure I took the time to note that game had thus far completely dropped the awful combat sections that the original Dreamfall sadly decided to try and shoehorn in. Itís still the case; no clumsy combat -- yay. Book Two, instead, introduces you to the other awful core mechanic, forced stealth, as a way to poke fun at you.

Dreamfall is funny, but that should come as a surprise to exactly no one, as every one of the vastly different outings The Longest Jouney canon has taken has been packed full of the kind of clever writing that has garnered it such a strong following. Book 2 still has a vagrant marketplace full of mumbling vendors questioning their role as a bit player in a much bigger story. A magical marketplace recently put under a strict no magic law tries to make do by ribbing Subway and promising that their overly-complex sand-witches are free of both sand and witches. Then, oh, some seemingly random choice you made in the previous book has just come back to bite you in the arse. And now people you care about are dead. And now people you trusted areÖ. Oh, shit, that escalated quickly.

Thereís going to be unavoidable comparisons made to the Telltale foundation of episodic adventuring, but decisions made throughout the first edition of Dreamfall come back at you with explosive repercussions. If something as simple as picking boring cheese soup or exotic looking sausages for dinner have the potential to blow a relationship to pieces, then dare to think what the bigger decisions might reap. Also worth noting is that some of the choices you can make throughout your journey are just plain wrong, ushering in circumstances you could have never foreseen that will have you desperately cursing your past decisions.

You had no way of knowing how massive these might become in the first book, but the second release does so much more than drop tragedy on your lap then remind you how itís all your fault. The second book is bigger, giving you another hub to explore; ZoŽ still spends time facing the music in Stark, delving into forgotten rat holes among the flashing neon lights, but more attention is paid this time around to Kian. Shortly into the game, heís dropped off in the mainland, given three vague tasks to undertake, then heís left to do this in whatever order you feel like tackling them. One of these centres around a stealth section created to make fun of you. The others have greater implications.

One of these asks you to root out a traitor within the town and is actually failable. Do a shoddy job and you can identify an innocent man and condemn him to a rather nasty fate. There will be consequences. Saying that, thereís certain consequences tied in to picking the right man as well -- itís not a guaranteed blessing. The last book relegated Kianís role to a rather liner prison break, but Book Two asks you start trying to decide what kind of person you want him to become. Heís a religious zealot who has become disenfranchised with his doctrine, but just how far from his former life do you want him to stray? He used to be a solider first, and youíre given opportunity to continue along that path, or to explore different avenues. The magical inhabitants of the world used to be subhuman enemies to him, treated only as taboo; his entire upbringing hinged upon that belief and he may struggle in his efforts to unlearn this. Or he might just decide to not unlearn this at all and adopt a more mercantile attitude, just doing what heís told to stay alive long enough to find another way. Whatever he does, there will be consequences.

A lot of the bigger choices he has to make do take relevance from things that happened in the 2006 release of Dreamfall, so it does help if youíve played that game and, you know, can recall plot points a little under a decade old. You can feel your way around this through context, but you are expected to react strongly to a returning character Iím not even going to pretend I remember despite spending a lot of time with the previous game back in the day. Maybe the chapterís biggest decision rests upon how you react to this, and it does feel a little unfair that so much weight is placed on worst-case guesswork. Perhaps itís a clever way to trick us into replaying the original Dreamfall. Damn it, I think itís worked.

Chapters feels less like a game based on snap judgment and harsh morality that more or less leads to the same destination with slightly differing landmarks and seems to be happier to punish us for trying to be merciful. Or for being ruthless. Or just for being -- choices and consequences all stack up to shape real meaning reflected throughout two distinct worlds featuring two distinct personalities. You canít accuse Ragnar TÝrnquist of lacking ambition. You can certainly laud him for living up to his lofty goals thus far.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (March 22, 2015)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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