The Dreamfall timeline is a complicated one. Bear with us. The original game, The Longest Journey, released in 2000 and was followed up in 2006 with Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. It lay dormant for nine years until the launch of Dreamfall Chapters, an episodic continuation of the series. The first episode of Dreamfall Chapters released in 2014 but its fifth and final episode didn’t materialise until 2016. Now, in 2017, the entire Chapters series has been remastered and compiled into a single game, The Final Cut, for its journey to consoles.
Dreamfall Chapters is a third person adventure title that tries hard to pick up the bygone era of point-and-click adventures from almost 20 years ago. You are given certain tasks that require you to talk to NPC’s and solve environmental puzzles to gain access to newer areas. The story follows two protagonists, the first being Zoe Castillo, still trapped in a coma from the previous game and stuck in ‘Storytime,’ a pseudo-alternate dimension not unlike the machine world in The Matrix. The second is Kian Alvane. Kian lives in another realm called Marcuria, a place of magic and ancient myths. Eventually the two characters find their stories intertwining into a single tale of fate and sacrifice.
While Dreamfall Chapters presents beautiful vistas to take in, interesting characters to talk to and an overall plot that seems good on paper, it does take over half the game for the story to really find some thrust, and by then it feels too little, too late. That said, I absolutely loved speaking to most of the games NPC’s and a lot of them were a highlight for me even over the main story itself. Kidbot is voiced by a young child, which adds a great deal of genuine character, and was genuinely cute and funny to follow around. Even the joke writing was pretty on point, more laughs found their mark than didn’t. My feeling in completing the game was that the acting and conversations themselves were better than the game they live in
The conversations, while an aural treat, are visually rather dull. Everyone stands around without any facial animations or emotions. If it weren’t for the voice overs, I would have had a harder time pulling myself through to the end. There is just no real way to feel or see that there is even a conversation going on beyond the voice acting. It can be quite a drag if you’re listening to a conversation you wish you hadn’t started, talking about sausages or paperwork that needed filing, or lack of a real hairdresser in the area, or a conversation regarding subliminal messages being emailed around the office? I think, you get my point. Also everyone seems to have a lot to say about entirely random objects. Remember the wonderful Broken Sword series? You click on a bin, you get a quick and witty remark, you move on. In Dreamfall, you get a 5 minute conversation on why the bins are scary and the backstory of how the bin got there. It’s a bin, guys. Nobody cares about the inner life of the bin.
Where the game does succeed in mirroring the point-and-click adventures of the past is in the level of frustration it can instill. There are echoes of the hated pixel-hunting mechanic that plagued 90’s era point-and-clicks, feeling around for an item that may not be visible to you, just off screen. One instance of this saw me trying to get a boat over a river in order to reach a barrel. Simple problem. How to solve it? There was a bell next to the boat’s captain. Can I ring it? No. I have to drop something on it from above. I need Kitbot’s help to do that. So I try everything in sight. No dice. After twenty minutes of furiously scratching my head I finally find the item I need, far above my character’s head, tucked away in a corner of the screen where nothing would ever call attention to it. I thought we all agreed this kind of thing wasn’t fun decades ago and moved forward. Send this mechanic back to the 90’s where it belongs.
In another twist of the bizarro knife, the game also seems to rely on the player’s knowledge of previous titles in order to solve certain puzzles. For a game that’s been trying to tell a story for seventeen years, this seems like a lot to ask.
Hallmarks of the game’s crowdfunded origins can be seen throughout Occasional graphical errors and clipping can hold up the gameplay sometimes, shadows floating above characters and some models even walking on air in some instances.
In the end, it feels like maybe Dreamfall should have been left in the early-to-mid 2000’s where it felt most at home. When I finished Dreamfall: The Longest Journey in 2013, I had spent almost 40 hours with a fantastic character, an amazing and lovable purple toy gorilla and it left beautiful and fond memories of vibrant worlds beyond ours, of magic and myth and of a centralized and scary conspiracy about governments and corporations mind controlling your dreams. It’s a bummer that Dreamfall Chapters wasn’t able to recapture that vibe.
Score: 4.0 out of 10
Highlights: Outstanding Voice Acting, Beautiful Environments, Excellent Soundtrack
Lowlights: Pixel Hunting, Overcooked narrative, Extremely long and boring conversations
Developer: Red Thread Games, Funcom
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: Out Now.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4.