Review by ranion
WARNING - some SPOILERS follow!!
It is unfortunate that after creating one of the greatest adventure games of all time, The Longest Journey, that this is the best Funcom could come up with for a sequel. All the game really has going for it is the story, which itself is unclear and incomplete. I am completely baffled how this could be nominated for awards, let alone win a couple.
This time around, April Ryan and friends find themselves in a 3-D adventure game that handles a lot like Tomb Raider (not necessarily bad). Gameplay can best be categorized into three areas: puzzle-solving, fighting, and what could be called "interactive fiction". Puzzle-solving elements are few and far between and don't require very much thought. They are severely lacking in the cleverness that was the hallmark of Longest Journey and feel mostly tacked on to give you something to do other than talk to people. The action elements are negligible and boring. Most of the time you'll find yourself fighting monsters that aren't really supposed to be fought, as in you hit them and no damage is done. Why put us through the frustration? If you want us to defeat a monster with a puzzle then don't give us the option to fight it. The people who you are actually allowed to fight are extremely easy to beat.
The vast majority of the game falls into the "interactive fiction" category. You lead Zoe (mostly) around the game hitting buttons to open doors and talking to lots and lots of people. You'll spend a lot of time listening and, at first, you'll be intrigued about what is going on. To its credit, the game does start off very well. If it maintained this level of quality throughout, then the game may have excelled. However, the story falls apart about half way through. Let's find out why:
1- Zoe's motivation as she travels between worlds is never clearly defined in the second half. Early in the game, she is forced to go there or kisses a magical tulip so she can go looking for someone. But later on, she just sort of travels to keep the game rolling. For instance, in the Jail scenario, she travels to Arcadia, gets captured, escapes, doesn't accomplish anything else, and then immediately wants to go back to Stark. Why go in the first place?
2- From the beginning of the game Zoe is told to find and save April. It is never made clear to us what this means or how in fact Zoe helped April at all. Considering how things wound up, I would hate to see what would have happened if April wasn't helped. This is a problem when so much of the game revolves around this theme.
3- It almost feels like they wrote half the story, decided to not to finish it and just call it a cliffhanger. I could list all of the interesting things raised in the story that were never resolved or even addressed in anyway (look closely at the Undreaming in the intro because its the last time you'll see it all game). This does not feel like a tactifully done cliffhanger. This feels like someone ripped your favorite book in two and refused to relinquish the second half. Where is Disc 2?
4- The game lacks new and interesting characters, like those that made the Longest Journey a success. Zoe is well done, but the remaining two playable characters leave something to be desired. April feels just like a poorly done cameo (if you didn't play the Longest Journey, you probably won't care about her at all), and Kian (I think that is the spelling of his name, I didn't see him enough on screen to really be sure) suffers from poor character development. You see the end points of his personal struggle, but nothing much in between. The non-playing characters are equally blah. Most of the main NPCs are rehashed from the first game and seem to be added just for the familiarity factor. Again, if you haven't played the Longest Journey these characters will seem very shallow.
5- The whole Dreaming, Undreaming, Storytime thing was way too abstract. How are all these things and places connected? Anyone can rattle off a bunch of made up words and give you practically no details on them.
In summary, give Hideo Nakata the credit he deserves.
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