A Review of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
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When I first heard that Aspyr and Funcom had released a successor to the classic adventure game The Longest Journey, I had mixed feelings. Having played The Longest Journey in college, I spent many hours engrossed in the merging worlds of heroine April Ryan, playing late into the night and into the early morning as I followed the captivating storyline. However, as much as I enjoyed the story, I found the many Myst-like puzzles to be intrusive, overly difficult, and extremely annoying. So I picked up Dreamfall: The Longest Journey with both excitement and trepidation. Excitement at the possibility that I could once again get lost in a deep story, but nervous that the obtuse and frustrating puzzles would mar my enjoyment of the game.
I was very happily surprised. Dreamfall delivered an interesting and engaging plot that surpassed my expectations by miles. You enter the game as Zoe Castillo, a British college dropout who, similar to The Longest Journey's April Ryan, is unsure of what she should do of her life. She is simultaneously apathetic to all pursuits and desperate for a purpose. Before long, she finds herself in the middle a mystery -- in fact, she lands in the middle of several, all of which seem to somehow intertwine in her futuristic yet strangely familiar world. Zoe begins to receive strange messages from a girl not unlike the unsettling Samara of The Ring. At the same time, Zoe's ex-boyfriend disappears, leaving the young woman to find the answers behind his leaving. Zoe leaves town to follow the breadcrumb trail of both the girl and her ex, and soon she finds herself on an adventure that she could never have dreamed of. Through the course of the game you will get to play as two other characters, one of them being The Longest Journey's April Ryan, but you spend the majority of your time playing as Zoe, who is smart, sassy, and a good soul.
The story immediately drew me into the game and continued to hold my rapt attention. However, the game play is not for everyone. You spend much of the time following leads, picking up clues, and talking with other characters. A fun facet of Dreamfall is that you can influence the nuances of the game through your interactions and choices. There is even a little bit of combat, which is a new addition since The Longest Journey.
And then there are the puzzles. When I first stepped out into Zoe's hometown of Casablanca, I cringed at the thought of the inane puzzles that marred my memory of The Longest Journey. However, I soon discovered to my relief that Dreamfall's puzzles are neither as numerous nor as consistently difficult. Some of the puzzles I encountered were incredibly simple, while others more of a challenge. Simply put, the difficulty of the puzzles vary so as to satisfy a gamer like myself who is more interested in following the story as well as a gamer who enjoys a good puzzle. A gamer who puzzled out Myst without any help might find Dreamfall too simple, but I thought the new policy on puzzles was refreshing.
The story of Dreamfall picks up over six years following where The Longest Journey left off. However, Dreamfall does not assume that you have any knowledge of its predecessor. I was relieved that the game require you to remember the details of The Longest Journey as it had been years since I played it and I had forgotten much of the story.
The voice acting is superb in Dreamfall, which is an area in which many games often fall flat. The music is also quite lovely, and is a wonderful backdrop to the beautiful graphics. The detail of your surrounding in the game is very high, and you can interact with many objects and people which do not directly intersect with the plot.
As much as I truly loved playing Dreamfall, I did have one gripe about the game -- the controls. You can control Zoe's movements either through the arrow keys on your keyboard or with the standard w, s, a, d keys combination, and you can use the mouse to smooth turning. However, using the keyboard alone is very clunky, and when using the mouse I always made Zoe turn the wrong way that I thought would correspond with the mouse's movement. I could not adjust the mouse's directional movement in the game, and I never quite got used to this issue.
However, in the scope of the game's engrossing story, wonderful graphics, excellent voice acting and highly enjoyable game play, this control problem seems to be a relatively slight issue. It's not often that you find a well-made game with an intricate story and a couple of butt-kicking heroines.