Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
I've Never truly had feelings for a computer-generated woman, but seeing Dreamfall's heroine Zoe Castillo in motion has done something very weird to me - I'm getting strange urges to make a virtual female cups of cocoa. But this may have something to do with the fact that she's the star of the sequel to 1999's The Longest Journey, a game widely seen as a touchstone for adventuring greatness and an example of the emotional heights that games can reach should they create a narrative with believable, deep-running characters.
A Thing Of Beauty
This time around, the 2D point-and-click approach has been left by the wayside, and the perpetually balanced twin worlds of Stark (a land of science and industry) and Arcadia (a realm of magic and mysticism) are now presented in a glorious 3D action adventure model - and joined by yet another mysterious dimension known only as The Winter'. What's more, even in this age of exponentially increasing graphical knowhow, the game is truly beautiful. It has visuals so deep you could drown in them.
The extra dimension has been added in a way quite akin to the disposal of the points and clicks from Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon, with action set pieces. breaking up the adventuring. From what we've seen, however, Dreamfall M has made the shift ffl more organically, with a less rigid gameplay style and, if the player so chooses, the opportunity to engage in a spot of fisticuffs if it's needed. We've also been promised there won't be any crate shifting.
Two-thirds of the game will see you directing the beautiful brunette fortunes of the aforementioned Ms Zoe Castillo, a bubbly college dropout from Casablanca who gets embroiled in a conspiracy that covers everything from dreams to static interference. You'll also get in the shoes of April Ryan, the heroine of the original game, and a mysterious fellow called Kian - the bluepnnt being for these three plotlines to spiral around each other throughout the tale's 15 hours' worth of gameplay.
Taking you through worlds as rich and diverse as technology-infused mega-corporations, underground cities, floating cities, forests, frozen northern settlements and the twilight wastes of The Winter', Dreamfall is probably the last throw of the dice for the reinvention of old-style adventunng. We're fast running out of games to pin our hopes on, but going from what we've seen so far (and Funcom's earlier work), it's unlikely to disappoint. It's going to be a long wait though - we won't be able to put lovely Zoe through her dainty paces till late next year.
Download Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
The Very Epitome of the snazzy adventure sequel, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is bigger and better, yet somehow exactly the same adventure. Sadly, this includes sharing the same faults that probably stopped the original from bothering your hard drive. The main draw is the story, a winding, enjoyable romp, falling squarely into 'sci-fi novel' territory. It's a complete melodrama, looking like The Sims crossed with Sunset Beach. In the future.
Good Cop, Bad Cop
However, there's an odd duality at work throughout: the graphics flit between looking gorgeous and downright awful. There's decent acting in places, yet some characters sound like some smack addicts have just been dragged off the street into a recording studio. At times the script dazzles, at others it's little more than a succession of cheesy lines: "I have seen it... With my eyes. Brief moments of excitement are staggered by long periods of drudgery, inane conversations and terrible combat.
Just when things start to look up for Dreamfall, something awful happens and it plummets right back down. So, fleeting moments of high drama and intrigue, such as snooping around a druggy-addled boarding house or a creepy F.E.A.R.-esque little girl with long black hair giving you messages from beyond the grave are either followed by long, dreary conversations about how everybody's feeling or awkward, fumbling combat. All of which will have you nibbling the edges of your monitor in frustration...
What's more, there aren't really any puzzles to speak of: there are never more than a handful of items in your inventory, or more than a single location to explore at a time. This means Dreamfall never taxes the brain, and progression is more often than not a case of running to the next location and having a bit of a chat.
In this way, interaction never feels more than completely superfluous, and as a result, you don't really play Dream fall -you watch it With the story as its only saving grace, it's not so much an adventure game as a conversation 'em up; and unfortunately, that's exactly as exciting as it sounds...
Although Adventure Games remain unfashionable, there are still titles in the ancient genre worth playing. Fahrenheit, for example, was a superb, tightly-plotted adult thriller and Sam & Max's latest escapades show you can reach the heights of those early '90s LucasArts classics.
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is a sci-fi action-adventure sequel, although you don't need to have played The Longest Journey (yes, the first game had a very similar name) to enjoy it. With a complex story, three playable characters and a large supporting cast including a purple robot monkey called Wonkers - Dreamfall is a huge and original adventure with a great atmosphere and fantastic soundtrack.
Graphically, it ranges from good to inept, some of the dialogue is clunky and overwritten and the decent varied realityswitching destinations are peppered with awful combat sections. However, if you prefer your Myst to your Doom (yes, they do exist), you could do a lot worse than picking up this enthralling conversation 'em up.
It can fairly be said that the adventure genre is dead. Adventure died a long time ago, after languishing around for a while and kicking off after a particularly harsh and long term of suffering. We mourned, pulled out our copies of Full Throttle and Grim Fandango, and all but gave it a wake when out of nowhere we got Indigo Prophecy. Fahrenheit in its original release, re-titled Indigo Prophecy in the US, rocked. It seems like adventure titles might be back on the rise, with these games generating buzz for the first time in a long while. Now all we need is the quality adventure experience to back it up, and we'll be good to go.
Now for the disappointing part. Dreamfall, while entertaining, doesn't seem to do much of anything in the gameplay area, and sadly only succeeds in presenting a story, and not much else. Set in the year 2219 after a worldwide collapse (not sure if it was completely economic or what), you'll be playing the, a young woman living in the Casablanca of tomorrow. The has a bad case of college drop out lethargy, and is trying to find a purpose to life when her ex-boyfriend Reza vanishes while working on a big scoop for his newspaper, The Hand That Bites. Throw in a couple more playable characters, an alternate universe where magic is real, some ghostly visions, and The gets thrown into the adventure of a lifetime.
Now, we've all heard that before from games like this, but does the story really live up to it? I found that the first few chapters of the game were relatively boring. They don't quite have the hook you need to get pulled into the game. If you can last through it, things finally heat up in the middle, but most of the time, you'll be relying on the game's presentation to keep you going.
While the people aren't done as well as they could be, the game is designed well, and looks the part. The voice acting is on par with the rest of the game, and doesn't annoy, but between it and the soundtrack there's nothing worth getting excited about.
I've said nothing about gameplay because of just that. There's so little here to talk about that this game might as well play itself, and present you with a 15 hour movie instead. Fighting is a joke, the game seems to involve far too much stealth for its own good, and the single gameplay improvement they've made provides you exactly zero real benefit. By clicking the left stick you can enter observation mode, and drag a cursor around the screen looking at stuff. All you can do is look; you can't use this as an easy way to interact with things or anything of the sort, so it's really a wasted feature.
All in all, I'm seriously disappointed with this game. I really do want adventure titles to come back with a vengeance, and the only way we're going to get that is to see more cross-genre games that incorporate action or FPS gameplay with a heavy adventure base. As always, the truth is in the gameplay. When it's as non-existent as this, you know exactly what I'll say. Walk on by.
Snapshots and Media
- Discworld 2
- Hercs Adventures
- Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb
- Maximo: Ghosts to Glory
- Pitfall: The Lost Expedition
- Ratchet & Clank
- Starfox Adventures
- Sub Culture
- The Adventures of Cookie and Cream
- The Curse of Monkey Island
- The Lion King: Simba's Mighty Adventure
- Tiny Toons Adventures: The Great Beanstalk
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Master Quest
- Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game
- Chronicles of The Sword
- Companions Of Xanth
- Daryl F. Gates' Police Quest: Open Season
- Ecstatica II
- Hell Cab
- Litil Divil
- The Legend of Kyrandia - Book Three: Malcolm's Revenge
- The Legend of Kyrandia - Book Two: The Hand of Fate