You might think it odd to include among the works of science fiction a video game that features magic, dragons, and a talking bird. That’s one of the great things about the games of the Longest Journey series: they contain multitudes.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I don’t spend a lot of time playing video games anymore, mostly because I don’t have time. But part of it also has to do with not wanting to give my money to an industry in which forcing employees to work themselves nearly to death is a common and accepted practice. I know, most gamers don’t give a crap about those sorts of things, but I do.
Dreamfall Chapters is the sequel to 2006’s Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, which itself was the sequel to 1999’s The Longest Journey. I loved the earlier games, but the second in the series, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, didn’t really end in a satisfying way. Too many loose threads, too many questions. And for a long time, there was no news, no hint of a sequel, a wrapping-up of the series. I, like many fans, were left to wonder: what happened to Zoë? What happened to April? What happened?
And then, joy of joys, we got word of a Kickstarter campaign, a new game called Dreamfall Chapters. Of course I chipped in. For my pledge, I got a T-shirt (which no longer fits), a book of concept art (which is pretty cool), and some other neat stuff I never even bothered to look at. Because all I wanted was the game.
So I waited. Game development is, after all, a lengthy process. Dreamfall Chapters was made by an independent studio based in Norway called Red Thread Games. The team consists of people who created the previous games in the series. I wonder what working conditions were like. They certainly took their time, which is a good sign as far as I’m concerned.
Anyway, it was worth the wait. To be back in that world with those characters was a profound, moving experience for me (I had one of those soul-crushing desk jobs at the time, so to feel anything seemed like a miracle). The game has everything: a deep story, characters I actually cared about (a rare thing), and yes, a talking bird. Love that guy. What was his name?
The player alternately takes control of three characters: Zoë Castillo, Kian Alvane, and Saga. Part of the game takes place in a future city straight out of cyberpunk. This is Stark, the world of science and technology (see? it’s sci-fi). We also travel to Arcadia, a world of magic mixed with a bit of steampunk. There’s talk of dreams and conspiracies and rebellion, but I’d hate to give too much away.
It’s not a perfect game. Players unfamiliar to the franchise would probably be a bit lost, even with a video recap, which the developers have graciously provided. The gameplay consists of puzzles, some of which are goddamn infuriating. More than once, to my shame, I needed to ask the internet for help. And while the game encourages exploration of the world, there really isn’t enough to discover. That’s understandable, considering the size of the team that made it. Still, it didn’t quite slake my thirst for exploration.
Dreamfall Chapters is an impressive achievement. Firing it back up after a couple years to take screenshots for this post, I felt a powerful urge to dive back in, but sadly, I don’t have time. It took 23 hours to complete the game the first time, according to my Steam profile, and I just don’t have that to spare at the moment (granted, it wouldn’t take me as long to solve the puzzles the second time around). But I find it inspiring, as a storyteller, to reminisce about this particular game. I think that pretty much says all you need to know about it.
Speaking of which, I’ve got a book to edit. See you next time.