Review by RanmaRanmaRanma

Reviewed: 04/24/06

Falling into a dream or is it more a nightmare?

Six long years many adventure and computer gamers craved for a sequel to what several dub one of the all-time best adventure games ever released, The Longest Journey. Finally, developer Funcom has put forth the second entry into what seems to be an on-going series with Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.

Released on both PC and Xbox, I will be basing my review upon the Xbox version. Despite small options such as Anti-aliasing, controls and such, both version share the same content.

Story:

Dreamfall, like its predecessor, is largely focused on drawing gamers into its twin world setting consisting of the more normal half, Stark, and the magical/fantasy half, Arcadia. In order to do so, Dreamfall is overflowing with dialogue and story telling bordering heavily on being more an interactive book than an actual video-game. Luckily for us, the story is in fact quite enveloping.

Players start Dreamfall as a young teenage girl named Zoe (Zo-E) Castillo (Cas-teal) who has just recently broken off with her former boyfriend and lost all direction of what to do with her life. Shortly into the 13 chapter tale (with a prologue and epilogue as well), gamers are cast into a dark and mysterious tale that encompasses not only Zoe and her normal life but both realms in full.

Fans of The Longest Journey will be pleased to know that our heroine, April Ryan, has returned in Dreamfall in playable form. April, much like Zoe, has also lost direction in her life and become a much different person due to her former journeys. Gamers will also get to control a new character named Kian in Dreamfall, who finds himself cast on the opposite side of April and her rebellion.

The story in Dreamfall is nicely told, well written, and contains a few twists/surprises that will keep gamers interested. Longest Journey vets will leap with joy to see some fan favorite characters return other than April as well.

There is one major setback to the engaging story of Dreamfall and that falls at about the 12th hour or so when gamers reach the conclusion of our tale. Dreamfall ends with perhaps one of the biggest cliff-hangers in recent memory leaving a rather dis-pleasant taste in the beholder's mouth. Hopefully we will see a third installment that wraps things up a bit nicer.

Gameplay:

There's basically three types of gameplay in Dreamfall and unfortunately they all fall flat. Dreamfall consists of stealth segments, combat sequences, and puzzle solving.

Combat in Dreamfall is as basic as it gets. Players are given three options: attack, fierce attack and block. Movement is slow as gamers are always locked onto their target allowing little freedom and control. Attacking is also slow and the enemy AI is laughable, mostly just blocking and letting you slowly kill them.

Stealth in Dreamfall is slightly better than combat and quite frequent. Still, however, it is of poor quality. and tends to bog the game down heavily. Players can hold the L trigger to move sneakily as they hide in corners, behind walls and avoid glass on the floor. That's pretty much it. In several segments, gamers can just dart as soon as the segment starts and usually make it through without a hitch. I'm still puzzled how this young teenage girl can sneak past what's supposed to be top-notch security so easily but I guess talking birds are puzzling to.

The only gameplay type that returns from its prequel, Dreamfall essentially manages to simplify to an almost insulting extent. Puzzles in the Longest Journey were criticized as being too illogical so I guess it comes to no surprise that Funcom went overboard with simplifying the ones in Dreamfall. Gamers are essentially handheld and then force-fed what to do next. Most puzzles are as simple as finding a key card in the same room you're locked in and using it on the door. The game never dares to go beyond such simple actions.

When you combine three very weak systems and meld them into one game you end up with something that is dull and at times even annoying. It's unfortunate that Dreamfall was not play tested for fun as apparently it lacks it.

Audio:

From the wonderfully voiced characters to the surprisingly solid musical score, Dreamfall pleases gamers aurally throughout.

There is some good ambiance found in Dreamfall. Shop keepers will shout out their daily sales rep, birds will chirp, and wind will blow. Dreamfall almost always seems to have some sort of ambient sound in the background. Even still, Dreamfall's ambiance seems lacking as there should be more of a mixture going on at one time, but when compared to most other games, Dreamfall is above average in this category.

Dreamfall is loaded with audio dialogue and on the whole, it's quite solid. Characters have tons of lines to speak from major events to simple background history that will lure gamers into the worlds of Stark, Arcadia and its denizens. Kian, Zoe, and April (our main three "heroes") are specifically well voiced. Lastly, our returning favorites are all voiced by their original actors as well.

Dreamfall's soundtrack consists of both soft compelling musical scores and vocal tracks, both of which are suiting to the game's mood and situation. The ending song is a soft and soothing track as is the song that plays when Zoe returns home towards the end of the journey which not only steals the show but fits very nicely.

Video:

While the art team did a bang up job in designing Dreamfall, the actual graphical team somehow seemed to fail on their end. Dreamfall is not ugly. That's about as good as it gets. Backgrounds seem lacking in density at times yet remain appealing. Character models, however, are atrocious. Faces are plastered on and appear smudged and the hair in Dreamfall looks like clay placed atop people's heads. Colors are vibrant and locations are varied in appearance but all this can't save Dreamfall from mediocrity visually.

There is no CG in Dreamfall except towards the end of the game in a very short and unexciting sequence. The game is told predominantly through the in-game engine.

Conclusion:

Dreamfall is a game that is hard to classify. While I can't blame Funcom for trying something new with a genre that many claim to be dying (though I disagree personally), they ultimately end up creating a captivating story presented in an outdated engine with simplistic and dull gameplay.

Score: 5.9/10 (Based on technical achievements)

Bias: 6.8/10 (Based on personal preferences)
+Adventure genre fan
+ Longest Journey fan
+ Story-driven game fan

Rating: 6

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