Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jul 17, 2006

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

Dreamfall is the sequel to The Longest Journey, an adventure game that followed the travels of April Ryan, a young girl who discovered she could travel between the real world and a magical fantasy realm. She had some very fun, quirky, enjoyable adventures, and the game wound up fairly well at the end with a solid victory for the good guys.

I'm not normally a fan of adventure games because I have limited patience for the "Use Toothpaste on Frog" phenomenon: that is, some extremely non-intuitive, non-logical step you have to take in order to solve a puzzle so you can progress. However, The Longest Journey had only one instance of this problem that I noticed, so I liked it.

In Dreamfall, you return to the magic/science dual worlds of Stark and Arcadia (with the addition of another unexplained realm called Winter) as Zoe, and again, strange events unfold.

The game was a series of somewhat unpleasant shocks from the moment I bought it, starting with the amount of hard drive space it required just to install it on my computer: 7 GB. It also ran right up against the Number of Disks rule, having six CD's in the box. (The Number of Disks Rule is a computer-game standard I made up: once you have more disks than you have fingers, it's time to convert to a new medium with more storage space. Sadly, this rule only applies to computer games.)

The beginning of the actual game, however, was extremely enjoyable, with the expected tutorial-like setting where you explore the various actions available to you. There are simple puzzles and tasks to complete along with exposition for the overall story. There is a new combat system, not present in the original game, which took some trial-and-error to learn. Quick and easy fun.

Unfortunately, as the game progressed the puzzles didn't get any harder. In fact, they required very little thinking of any kind; usually you were told exactly what you had to do and how to do it; the only exception was the lock-picking mini-game, which came with no instructions. It was very easy to figure out, though. I also had to sit through interminable conversations between characters that often made little sense, the conversations and cut scenes often lasting two or even three times as long as the independant action sequences. It's a very "in" game, too, in that you'd be very, very lost if you had not played the first one. The combat system is essentially pointless as well; it is not an RPG element, it is yet another mini-game.

That, and it ends on a cliffhanger. I can almost understand cliffhangers in books, but in a video game? What happened, the budget ran out and you shipped whatever you had? Come on.

Despite its many serious faults, however, the game was as distracting and attention-sucking as a good book, and it takes maybe 8 hours to play, so I'll definitely be getting the next one to find out what happens. However, I think I'll be waiting for it to hit the cheap shelves this time.

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