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Dreamfall Chapters: Book Five - Redux (PC) artwork

Dreamfall Chapters: Book Five - Redux (PC) review


"Journey's End"


That’s it, then.

Dreamfall Chapters: Book Five – Redux has the unenviable task of not only wrapping up its own plot, but offering a proper conclusion to the original Dreamfall, released back in 2006. That’s a heavy task in and of itself; both games are companion pieces to The Longest Journey, a mammoth tale of twin worlds and the people who can move between them. That initial story was begun much further back, in 1999, and has threads of its own woven into Chapter’s narrative. What all of this means is that, at least for now, a story that took more than fifteen years in the telling has finally drawn to a close.

It’s a lot of narrative to conclude. And while Ragnar Tørnquist’s trio of games has sometimes come under fire for mechanical failings, there’s rarely been much complaint about the encyclopaedic lore and deep intertwining plot lines. These tales are a clear labour of love, all brilliantly sobering, self-deprecating, tragic and immersive. They're about a futuristic dystopia under the ever watchful eye of a Big Brother with ill intentions and a magical world at war with religious zealots determined to wipe magic out completely. So, yeah, there’s a lot of ground to cover, and Redux does struggle to bring closure to it all. There are still some questions unanswered, while others seem rushed through, thrown in during a static corridor of exposition leading to the big villain reveal some of us figured out in 2006 (and, to be fair, even the game pokes fun at itself for giving this away too early). There’s a lot of weight on the shoulders of Redux, so credit where credit is due: its knees might wobble now and then, but they never buckle.

Dreamfall Chapters: Book Five - Redux (PC) image


Screen time is roughly split between the two protagonists, who mainly stick to their respective worlds to tidy away their efforts. Kian returns to his résistance army, which is under different shades of disaster depending on some of the running choices you’ve made thus far in the adventure. Zoe, on the other hand, finds herself returning to Stark in a way she couldn’t have expected. While Kian’s left to pick up the pieces of his shattered comrades, Zoe’s trying to piece together her origins.

That description sounds vague, doesn’t it? Some of that is because I’m graciously tiptoeing around spoilers, but some of it is also because a lot of what you'll experience depends on those pesky choices you’ve made. Sometimes, they kind of matter. Kian’s shattered group is tragically splintered regardless of what you’ve done, but people you’ve grown close to and come to rely on are either alive or dead based purely on your actions. You have that soul-destroying sucker punch at the end of the fourth book to deal with, for instance. On the other end of the spectrum, everything you’ve come to believe about Zoe’s adventure is turned on its head in a second, forcing you in an instant to re-evaluate everything you’ve done thus far and to ask yourself if any of it really mattered, or if any of it was real at all.

Dreamfall Chapters: Book Five - Redux (PC) image


Maybe we’ve done things differently, you and I? Maybe you didn’t buy the cheese soup for lunch a year and a half ago. Maybe your interrogation of an Azardi commander was less brutal, perhaps your sense of justice less fatal. How you approach such choices changes things; it changes people – how they look at you, how you ultimately evolve within their ranks. Maybe your Zoe tried to follow her old footsteps and rediscover a world she left behind, or maybe she was eager to burn all bridges down and start everything fresh. There are consequences for radical departures, just as there are for playing it safe. There are wrong decisions to make, where innocent people suffer or worlds fall apart. Or people don’t get cheese soup for lunch and have to make do with some kind of futuristic sausage thing, instead.

Redux is all about closing the book, but it doesn’t lose itself to that end. It still has some life left in the story it tells; it still has some ways to surprise you. Commendably, it isn't afraid even at this late stage to not only turn off the lights, but also to show others to you in a different shade. But it’s still an end, and I’m going to miss Tørnquist’s worlds. A direct sequel to the first game was teased as a Kickstarter goal that was never reached, and he’s recently commented on how unlikely it is that he'll ever make that game now. Dreamfall: Chapters looks like the definitive end. But it still gives way to retrospect.

All the way back in 1999, there was a forbidding door that April Ryan couldn’t help being drawn towards. Maybe it’s time to learn a little more about it...


5/5

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (June 20, 2016)

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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