Review by Hisairness2345

Reviewed: 06/28/06

If you're reading this...you must play this game.

It’s simple, if you’re reading this, you must play this game. You most likely have some interest in story-driven adventure games. This is one of the most compelling videogame stories to come around combined with some extremely likable characters and beautiful scenery. Granted it does have its shortcomings such as some underdeveloped gameplay mechanics but they can easily be overlooked for those that enjoy good story-driven games.

Dreamfall is not a game that will win any merits with its gameplay mechanics. The fighting system is very simplistic and without flair. A stealth mechanic comes into play within certain parts of the game but they play out as more of a nuisance than something that really adds anything to the experience. To make matters worse, the camera can be a bit uncooperative at times in tight quarters. There’s also a little program on Zoe’s cell phone that’s used to hack into electronic systems and serves as a puzzle within the game. It is a bit contrived and gets harder as you progress through the game. It really isn’t too troublesome until you get to the last one in the game and it was the first time I was really annoyed by the game. Luckily it’s over and done with quickly. However despite all of this, the game truly excels remarkably, and probably more so than any game has in a long time, when it comes to interactions with NPCs. The game takes place in fully realized worlds and you’ll find yourself wanting to hear what everyone has to say. You’ll also be able to hear what your own character thinks about almost everything in the game. It adds a lot to the immersion and you’ll more than likely overlook the awkward combat and stealth sequences, which are thrown in every once in a while to add variety I suppose, to be able to experience this world.

Compelling character design, a well written script, some great artistic direction, and remarkable voice acting come together to deliver an extremely cinematic experience. Each world that you explore is thoughtfully designed and is littered with details and people to talk to. The game does a great job of getting you involved with all of the characters and making you raise questions and want to answer them. It all culminates in a conclusion which includes one of the most endearing scenes ever in a videogame between Zoe and the girl that constantly haunts her throughout the game through static images on TV screens. Don’t worry, I haven’t spoiled a thing, you’ll definitely want to finish this game to find out. Many have found the conclusion as a whole to be unsatisfactory because it is a little open ended but it does a better job than it has been given credit for. It really ends in a heartfelt and positive way when for a second it almost makes you think that it may take a very dark turn.

Visually, Dreamfall is above average. The scenery is extremely well designed and a few of the Xbox’s graphical tricks are thrown in to spice things up such as some really nice bump mapping and reflections as well as beautiful lighting, fog, and water effects. The game runs in 480p progressive scan and it sharpens things up and makes the colors more vibrant which adds tremendously to the experience. Characters are often seen up close during conversation and they lip sync and emote very well to give the dialogue some punch. However, the limitations of the Xbox rear their ugly heads. Up close some of the textures are over-filtered and look muddy. Aliasing and flickering can be spotted in certain scenes. Although, the character models for some of the main characters such as Zoe and April are outstanding (especially Zoe), other characters feature more simple facial models and don’t look quite so nice. The gripe with the facial models is especially apparent when you finally get to see what that girl on the TV screens looks like at the end. I was hoping for a much better modeled character and was a little disappointed but I guess it’s the price that is paid for having such a huge number of NPCs to create. To its credit, most of the characters have some well designed character models and costumes. A few of the animations do look a little stilted though (be prepared for one of the most awkward looking on screen kisses ever). Overall, the visually are pleasing and add rather than detract from the experience.

Audio-wise the game fares much better. The game is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The surround effects are effective, especially in town where you can hear the ambient noise and chatter of salesmen all around. The Dolby Digital is also noticed within the games bassy sweeping score. Deep bass and clear crisp treble adds nicely to the experience. Some good songs are thrown in during certain scenes and really liven it up as well as adding appropriate amounts of sentiment where it’s needed. Overall, the sound adds many layers of dimension to the game.

If you’re on the fence about this game, don’t be. It’s definitely worth the experience. It’s one of the most compelling videogame stories to come around in a while and is told so masterfully. The game just builds and builds and when you think it can’t get any better, the end will sweep you off of your feet. The few gameplay and graphical flaws can be easily overlooked at that point. Do yourself a favor, turn off the subtitles, crank up the volume, and watch and listen to this wonderful cinematic experience.

Rating: 8

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