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Dreamfall: The Longest Journey (PC) artwork

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey (PC) review


"Even though the title of the piece may conjure images having to do with the sleep cycle, Dreamfall itself has nothing to do with boring. Just from the opening trailer, which is backed by smooth, alternative sounds of a Norwegian, you can catch a brief glimpse of the incredible places youíll go, and the people you can meetósome of them are going to be ordinary, some of them are strange, and some of them amazing. In any case, the longest journey of Dreamfall is one that rarely leav..."



Even though the title of the piece may conjure images having to do with the sleep cycle, Dreamfall itself has nothing to do with boring. Just from the opening trailer, which is backed by smooth, alternative sounds of a Norwegian, you can catch a brief glimpse of the incredible places youíll go, and the people you can meet--some of them are going to be ordinary, some of them are strange, and some of them amazing. In any case, the longest journey of Dreamfall is one that rarely leaves you in the same spot for too long. And if gratuitous underwear scenes and the breaking into of unscrupulous megacorporations doesnít float your boat, they probably will now.

Dreamfall, per its main selling point, boasts copious amounts of scene variety and character. (Three protagonists, across three distinct worlds, they say, but donít let that fool you completely; Winter is basically a snow globe.) The game first takes place in the cyberpunk world of Stark, a place similar enough in fashion to the one you know, yet where the exponential rate of technological advancement is bound to attract abuse from unsavory types as much as it will benefit the general quality of life. ZoŽ Castillo is to embark on a quest to find a friend whoís gone missing; ordinarily, it would be a straightforward enough task, but sheís also being haunted by visions. From a little girl. On television.

(Incidentally, ZoŽ rhymes with snowy. And in this game lies an abundance of snowy scenes in the game which one canít help but find kinda pretty.)

Somewhere elsewhere, the fantastical world of Arcadia exists at some indeterminate point in space/time relative to Stark, with a nature the exact opposite; birds talk, ships fly, and magic is easily accessible for those who believe. Here, the remaining two protagonists reside, albeit at opposite ends of the earth as well as opposing sides of a war; April Ryan, continuing her story from a previous game you should look into, is leading a rebellion against an empire that believes magic is godless (or something), of which Kian is champion. Itís a bit difficult to keep straight with the three of them are beginning as far away as can be, but you can imagine their destinies will entwine somehow.

Dreamfall is often slow in its pace, in no small part due to its overdependence on loading screens. Aware of this, the developers have resorted to a kind of muzakesque scoring that may help wash away some of the impatience. Because, after all, itís an adventure, right, so you can expect going in that much of the time will be spent simply walking from place to place. The bulk of the obstacles youíre usually dealing with in between are modest inventory puzzles, which shouldnít faze anyone. To accommodate ZoŽ and companyís penchant for breaking and entering, youíll have to deal with the occasional stealth level which will no doubt sounds dreadful, but even those turn out to be fairly easy. Those security robots are ridiculously slow, and they leave openings. Like a sieve!

In fact, itís both to its credit and detriment that Dreamfallís game design has a tendency to err on the side of simplicity; for example, the combat, while at times is enough to provide some sense of added interactivity to a scene, is really far too basic to be interesting in and of itself. Generally, the battles in the game are pointless exercises that manage to avoid being obtrusive Ė and in one instance, combat mode is even a hindrance, seeing as the enemy NPC is invincible and thereís no escape function. (This encounter can be avoided with some effort, however.)

The puzzles tend to share in the quality of being unobtrusive; for the most part, the gameplay in Dreamfall is an easily digestible poo-poo platter; exquisite in appearance, if simplistic in flavor. Unfortunately, there are exceptions; two of them, in particular, wait to sneak up on the player with the egregiousness of rocks masquerading as a garnish. Such as that music puzzle, which lacks anything but the slightest indication of being a music puzzle. (I figured it was a music puzzle eventually, but apparently Iím tone-deaf.) On the off-chance youíre able to complete these without help, itís unlikely youíd garner a sense of accomplishment anyway, so if you go on and read a walkthrough for that no one will blame you. And you'll be able to tell immediately where these parts of the game are when you suddenly develop an urge to punch Wonkers, ZoŽís lovable robot gorilla friend.

Despite hiccups in its gameplay, Dreamfall is thoroughly engrossing as a narrative; itís enough to keep you going, even in all the worst spots. The vision it presents is greater than the deficiencies in its form, although ultimately thereís the small wish the game itself could have been a little more involving. It warrants mentioning that Dreamfall is also supposed to be a first of two parts, so closure may be also be wanting at the end. (Basically, only one of many plots gets it.) Even so, for the experience alone itís worth going as far as it does, even if you choose not to bother with the continuation. As they say, it was about the journey.

As was stated earlier; Dreamfall is never boring, yet in many ways it does indeed share a lot in common with the process of sleep. For instance, it requires little physical effort, and can often be exciting once you get into it. Every now and then youíll fall off the bed and take a bump in the middle, but all that means is that you pick yourself up and keep on going. And by the time you wake up, all you feel like is you want to keep on sleeping.

Rating: 7/10

disco1960's avatar
Community review by disco1960 (September 12, 2007)

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