Review by Antpants
Dreamfall is more of an interactive story than it is a game
Dreamfall is a game that struggles with its own identity. The real issue of this game is whether it is a game to be enjoyed or a story to be enjoyed. My opinion falls on the latter. I view this game as an adventure story with a game tacked onto it. While this works for some people, it didn't for me.
Graphically, Dreamfall is a stellar production. The atmosphere in this game draws you in and doesn't let you go. There is a great range of fantastically rendered locations and the character animations are detailed and believable. Every new level is a new experience and the environment has a fair deal of interactivity to it.
Dreamfall has a wonderfully endearing and enjoyable soundtrack. The music is fitting to the moment, tense when in a tough situation and heartfelt in emotional situations. The voice work is some of the best to grace this console and every character delivers masterful performances.
This really is what this game is all about. It isn't about playing a game, it's about reading/watching a story unfold, a story that meanders and grips you from the word go. As game writing goes, this game excels as one of the best stories written on this console. The gamer cannot help but get drawn up in a story so masterfully penned. One note on this is that the end did come a bit abruptly and left some questions unanswered, but on the whole, it is the story that carries this game on its shoulders. You are Zoe (but not playable exclusively, you do play other characters too), a teenager with a lot of confusion and questions for her future. Zoe is asked to do a seemingly harmless favour by a good friend and quickly finds herself caught up in a much bigger situation.
This is the area that gave me the largest difficulty when deciding whether I liked the game or not. With all previous games I had played, even those that were more driven by story, there was a level of gameplay implemented that had me feeling that at the core, it was still a game. With Dreamfall, the gameplay seemed so tacked on that I felt that it was a story I was progressing through and not a game. I found myself becoming bored and craving more combat, puzzles and interaction beyond conversations.
There is a combat system, but rarely is this ever used. When utilized, it doesn't hold up as an enjoyable system. There are a select amount of puzzles (mostly lock picking) which if fleshed out a bit more, would help the gameplay greatly. Sadly that isn't the case either.
So what is left? In truth, a lot of conversation and running around makes up the bulk of the game.
Difficulty is not really a factor in this game, mostly because the intent of the designers was to keep you wrapped up in the constantly evolving story. Since gameplay is very primitive in this game, there isn't much that can go wrong for you. You will not likely have any problem with the few puzzles or stealth sneaking sections that make up this game. Additionally, the decisions you make with regards to conversation choices do not really impact the game at all as most of the time, you will find yourself progressing the same path, regardless of your decision.
I have a real problem with this game. I see a fantastic foundation for a fully blown action/adventure, but it seems to me that the developers had little interest in the game and a load of interest in the execution of story. And what a great story it is. If you are the type who likes fiction and want to be drawn along in a compelling story, this game will have you happily going along for the ride. If you're looking for some interactive gameplay and button pushing, you are barking up the wrong tree and will become bored very quickly. As a person that enjoys the good combination of story and good gaming, I found this title seriously lacking, which is a pity. Dreamfall has the foundation to be a great game, as most well written stories are, but that's where the buck stops. It's a great story and a poorly executed game. I would classify it as an interactive story more than a game.
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