Dreamfall Chapters

24
Oct
2014

Dreamfall Chapters

If I get a little excited while writing this it is because I have been waiting seven long years for this game. It's been seven years since we last visited Stark, our world in a cyberpunk future. The world of technology. It's been seven years since we went to Arcadia, the world of magic. It's been seven years since we saw April Ryan tossed off the side of a pier into the water, left for dead. It's been seven years since Zoe Castillo was placed into a deep sleep by her mother seemingly to never wake up again. Seven years of a cliffhanger, seven years of speculation, seven years without a end to one of the greatest stories in a video game in the last decade. 

Now the Seven Year wait is over. Dreamfall Chapters is here and now it's time to finish the Longest Journey.

Dreamfall Chapters Overview Trailer

*Warning the following has spoilers, you have been warned*

 

Now for those who don't know. Dreamfall Chapters is the long awaited squeal to Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. It picks off right where Dreamfall left off and it answers a quesion that many players have had for years, is April Ryan alive?

She isn't, she's dead. 

Noooooooooo!!

Well at least it looks like she's dead. They took her body, put it into a boat, and burned it. So that is about as dead as you can get. Now maybe there is some funky magic in Arcadia that can bring her back or something, we just don't know. But from the looks of it she is gone for good.

This is kinda sad, no it's really sad. I actually had to pause the game for a few minutes as I shook my head and kept telling me "no, this isn't happening, it can't be happening". After getting through that intro I finally was able to get into the game and we meet back up with Zoë Castillo. 

Zoë in case you forgot was trapped in the Dream World by her mother, Helena Chang, to keep her from telling the world of the cruel experiments she preformed on her daughter (and Zoë's sister) Faith.

Zoë has been in a coma for this entire time but she hasn't been brain dead. She's been in Dreamtime, the world of dreams, helping other people escape from their nightmares. 

We learn that Zoë's attempts to stop the release of the Dream Machines failed and now the entire world is becoming addicted to the lucid dreams of the Dream Machines. Zoë finally realizes, with the help of the Prophet, that she needs to wake herself up from her dream if she is to restore Balance to the two worlds and save humanity from the nightmare that it is creating for itself. Zoë faces her own internal demons and musters up the strength to face a future that she herself may or may-not want to see come to pass and finally wakes up.

 

Dreamfall Chapters is a throwback to the old school point and click adventure games of old. Unlike current games which push action orientated combat and gameplay, Dreamfall Chapters puts more emphasis on storytelling and world building. This is the kind of game where the puzzles aren't necessarily difficult but they do require you to dig around to find out what you are looking for. 

One puzzle that is a good example of this is when Zoë is sent to talk politics with one of the "civic leaders" of the lower district. You can't talk with her until you can produce some kind of appropriate "gift" to gain an audience. The only item in your inventory is a credit chip worth 2000 credits. You try to use the credit chip to gain entry but apparently that isn't "suitable". 

Now at this point most games would give you some kind of hint at what to do next but not in Dreamfall Chapters. As a player you have to figure out what to do next.

For me this involved me walking around and looking at the vendor tables and seeing if there was anything that I would interact with. There was a bottle of wine for 30,000 credits. So I talk with the vendor and he says he will sell it for 25,000 credits. That is still too expensive so I walk down a little bit and see the same wine, for 20,000 credits. "Ok" I think to myself, "This must be what I'm looking for", now to figure out how to get into my 2000 credit price range.

After walking down a bit I see a vendor and a customer haggling over 10 credits for a item. You inadvertently help the vendor by insulting the pride of the customer and they offer you a discount on anything they have in stock, turns out they have a bottle of wine as well. The vendor says they will give you a "good" deal for helping them, 5000 credits. 

You can kind of tell where this is going. The wine is still too expensive but I decided to see if I could haggle by going to one of the other vendors and telling them that I can get the wine for 5000 credits. Oh, so apparently all of the vendors "agreed" to not sell that bottle for anything less than 20,000 credits. They will sell there bottle for 3000 credits. Back to the lady vendor that you helped and you tell them that you were offered 3000 credits and soon thereafter they offer to sell for 2000 credits and you now have your bottle of wine.

It's gameplay like this, that doesn't hold your hands, that encourages you to pay attention to your surroundings, and listen to the characters around you that draws you into the game world that most games these days do not do.

 

I actually find the absence of combat to be refreshing in a way. Where as in an action/adventure game like Assassins Creed you spend your time between mission points running all over town jumping between buildings like Spiderman and being the Assassin hero; in Dreamfall Chapters you walk around town clicking on every NPC, every building, every item you can interact with to immerse yourself in the game world. Talking with a main NPC normally results in  multiple dialogue options, each of which provides insight into the world of Stark.

Now keep in mind that this kind of world building is much slower than other games. You really have to work at it by clicking on as many dialogue options as you can to get more immersed in the world. This can become a bit tedious because sometimes you just want to rush ahead to see what happens next in the main story. I often had to pause the game, to hold myself back from doing so. 

I suppose in retrospect it can be a good thing in that you don't want to rush ahead and miss story elements despite you wanting to do it anyways to get other story elements. That is mostly due to the brilliant storywriting of Ragnar Tørnquist and his team at Red Tread Games. 

This is old school world building at it's finest and I for one relish in it. The pacing could be a little too slow at some parts but overall it flows fairly well. If I do have one gripe with the storytelling in Book 1 of the game is that we don't spend enough time in Arcadia. Other than a small segment where we play as Kain as you escape from prison you don't spend any time in Arcadia at all. I can mostly forgive this given that this is only the first installment of a Five Book series and that future installments should "balance" out the story between the two worlds (pun intended :p).

 

Now I can't really talk about the game if I don't mention it's graphical flaws and bugs. There are plenty in the game ranging from slow framerates in Propast, lens flare glitches, lip sync glitches, static boxes that cover parts of the screen at time where the engine just fails. These problems though from what I understand are related to the Unity engine that is being used to make the game. Most of these bugs have been recognized by Red Thread Games and they are working to fix them as hey pop up. I know that for some gamers glitches such as these would make the game unplayable for them, and that is perfectly understandable.

On the other hand if you are a fan of The Longest Journey series you will likely (like me) forgive such glitches because you are there for the story and world building not the graphics. Hopefully the lessons learned with Book 1 of the series will result in a better polished game when the subsequent books come out. Red Thread Games has done a wonderful job in communicating with their fans when bugs or delays come out and I feel confident in their ability to handle future speed bumps as they come along. 

Update 10/31/14: Patch 1.1 has just been released by Red Thread Games. Performance has drastically increased in Propast making the game much more enjoyable to play. I may end up playing it again just to try and get the last achievement and enjoy the smoother framerates in 1080p.

Honestly if you are a fan of old school point and click adventure games of the same sort of Myst and The Journeyman Project then you will want to play Dreamfall Chapters. If you are a fan of The Longest Journey franchise then you should already be playing this game. Sure the game is a bit rough around the edges but if you can get past the bugs and glitches and the lack of action orientated elements then you will find yourself immersed in a beautifully crafted game world that will keep your attention from beginning to end. Now about that next Book...*puppy eyes*.

Dreamfall Chapters can be purchased online at any of the following online retailers:

Steam

GOG

Humble Store