Adventure Games

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

  • Review Date: 2014-01
  • Release Date: 2006-04
  • Developer: Funcom
  • Rating: 9.5

I decided to return to playing adventure games after a long, long hiatus. I'm talking 18 years. The last I played was 1996's The Neverhood, a strange game but one I'll never forget. What I miss is the feeling of being fully immersed into the game, into the fantastic enviroments and feeling like you're really there. Action games, no matter how special they look, just don't have that level of immersion. The reason for this is their lack of storyline and emotion connection to the worlds. As well as in an action game you're rushed through the levels at speed. In an adventure game, you spend a lot of time on each level.

Ironically, the puzzles are part of adventure games that I don't enjoy so much. It's the story and atmosphere that's important, the puzzles I usually 'walkthrough' my way. Not that I can't solve them, but that I don't have the patience.

So I returned to adventure games in 2013 hoping to catch up on the classics from the last dozen years, anything from 2000. Sadly, that meant I skipped The Longest Journey in 1999, which I now realise is one of the best adventure games.

So far I'm 12 games in from 2002-2008. I Certainly have plenty more to play, probably another 30-50 games before I catch right up. The only notables so far are probably Syberia I & II. To be honest, I've been left very underwhelmed. Syberia II I really struggled to give it an 8/10, while it had some great settings in the second half, the story actually wasn't that interesting. It felt like a slightly budget title, just like every other game I've played so far. I started wondering if it's really worth playing all these 2000s adventure games when most of them feel like a chore to get through...

Then came along Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. What a masterpiece. It's not perfect of course, hence why I can't give it a perfect score. The puzzle solving is a little basic for the adventure puzzle-gamer, the stealth didn't work, the fight sequences were messy, the controls were a bit odd. Dreamfall is only part puzzler, part cinematic experience. You spend just as much time moving to different areas and talking to characters. A good portion of the game is cinematic sequences. You almost feel like you're watching a movie in the last quarter.

In fact, Dreamfall could quite easily be retold on the big screen, even as a multiple part saga. The story of the original game in 1999 follows April Ryan, a shifter who can travel from Stark (a futuristic earth) to Arcadia, a fantasy world, where she attempts to restore balance. The sequel follows Zoe Castillo, a dreamer, also able to travel to Arcadia but not through physical form. She attempts to find her ex-boyfriend and unravel the mystery around WATIcorp and why the realities are in danger, as well as travel to Arcadia to save April Ryan. In some ways, not playing the original meant I knew far less about was going on and made Dreamfall more mysterious. You definitely don't have to have played the original game. I struggle to come up with a better story told within a game. It's quite fantastic.

The design of Dreamfall is also very good, feeling more like triple A quality production. You're not left to explore the same areas over and over again, instead constantly discovering new locations. This is unlike even Syberia which only has four or five 2.5D locations that become far too repetitive. While Dreamfall gets off to a bit of a slow start which the slightly average looking area where Zoe lives, once you get to Arcadia I was very impressed. There are plenty of big budget games of 2006 that don't look this good.

Overall Dreamfall is a great example of what makes a classic adventure game. It may not have had a plethora of challenging puzzles, but it makes up for that with involving characters, a creative world and captivating story. The final part of the trilogy, which is slated for November 2014 release, will undoubtedly be my most anticipated game of 2014.