Review by Demon27248

Reviewed: 11/20/14

Fantastic start, but that's it


Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is a story-based, point-and-clickish adventure game in the style of Fahrenheit, The Walking Dead & The Wolf Among Us. The reason why I use the term, ‘point-and-clickish’, is because the game follows the structure of a point-and-click adventure game, though you don’t do any actual pointing & clicking. While Dreamfall gets off to a truly fantastic start, it looses momentum, drags on, anti-climaxes & ends with an awful cliffhanger that leaves all but one story thread unresolved.

Writing - Story: 4/10

Since this game literally revolves around the story, it’s going to be hard to give any actual info about it without it turning into a spoiler of sorts, so instead, I will simply refer to events that occur as ‘events’ & discuss them critically without actually saying what they are.

Dreamfall gets off to a promising start. We’re introduced to the likeable protagonist, Zoe Castillo, a college dropout lacking direction in life, as well as the futuristic setting, heavily reliant on technology. She gets herself caught up in the huge events that follow that involve a government-like agency, big companies, & other forces beyond her understanding at the time. It was instantly attractive, engaging, suspenseful & always unpredictable. So where did it all go wrong? If I were to pinpoint that moment, it would be at the end of the 4th chapter (of a 14 chapter game). Nothing big actually happens then, it was simply the quality of the writing that took a downward turn. The unpredictability was lost, & simply it became very uninteresting.

The ‘climax’ of the game was the point where all 3 playable characters were together, & then an event happens. It was seriously undermined by the slow yet unsuspenseful setup to it, as well as poor direction, written more about below, & also voice acting & dialogue may have had a part to play as well. Either way, the result is an anti-climax, not an intelligent & well thought out climax that the writer probably intended. It’s not hard to see what the writer intended though, but it simply wasn’t delivered in any way.

The ending was the worst part of the game. It was a truly awful cliffhanger that didn’t leave any of the threads of plot Dreamfall started resolved, apart from one. There’s finally a sequel out now, after ~8 years, but after being in development hell for so long, I don’t imagine it would be very good, *cough* Duke Nukem Forever *cough*.

Writing - Characters: 7/10
Despite issues with the story, the characters in Dreamfall were still written well for the most part. Zoe Castillo was a likeable protagonist, her character developed as the game progressed, empathy is felt for her as well as the other playable & side characters. My only problem is with a certain character’s sudden change of heart that felt seriously out of character. Maybe there was a lot happening off screen that the game didn’t show? Or maybe the character’s words were different from his thoughts? Anyway, overall, the characters were still written well.

Writing - Setting: 9/10

The setting that the player’s introduced to is a somewhat dystopic, sci-fi world heavily reliant on technology. It’s in general, just very well crafted & was a pleasure to walk through to experience the culture of it. It combines elements of government-like oppression & blackmarket soft/hardware trade with technology sprinkled on top, if that makes any sense, & had contrasting areas of high & low levels of wealth as well as non-residential areas.

There’re also places you go later in the game that are vastly different & unreliant on technology though it may be a spoiler to talk about them in detail, so I’ll just summarise by saying that they were very good too.

Writing - Dialogue: 6/10

Dialogue in Dreamfall was decent overall. There were highs, & there were lows. Some of it just seemed odd, such as a few lines spoken by Kian Alvane, but there were a few memorable lines too.

Gameplay - Overall: 7/10

Dreamfall predominantly has point-and-clickish adventuring to make up its gameplay. It makes use of a ‘focus field’ system instead of the standard clicking. Basically, this involves clicking the left stick to create a field of vision for your character & then clicking the face buttons to input certain commands. You can also input commands while standing directly in front of an object & facing it & need to in order to do certain actions that involve using your hands & such.

There’s a lot more free roam in Dreamfall than other games of its nature even though during free roam sections you’ll tend to have distinct objectives that you need to proceed to & don’t get much choice in what to do with no side quests & such. Still, it’s always nice to have a little free roaming.

Maybe I was spoiled by The Walking Dead? But conversations often don’t give you any choice on what to say & even when they do, it doesn’t affect anything at all. This does, however, give the director/writer more artistic control over the game & is only a minor inconvenience in the gameplay.

Combat & Stealth were the worst parts of Dreamfall’s gameplay. Combat sections were simply no fun at all & really should never have been in the game to begin with. Stealth sections were very basic. The first 2 I liked, but the ones after that were very poor. That being said, there aren’t many combat & stealth sections in Dreamfall, & due to their infrequency, it doesn’t really undermine the rest of the game (story does enough to do that already).

Controls: 6/10

Movement can get a little clunky at times, there are camera issues in tight corridors & there are also a few context sensitive issues but generally everything works okay. Inventory is managed with the D-Pad & sneak mode is activated by holding the left trigger.

Art Direction - Visual: 9/10

The writer(s) set out to create complex & diverse worlds as mentioned in ‘Writing - Setting’ & the artists executed that near-perfectly. All of the settings were wonderfully realised, from the more economically developed, sun-soaked Casablanca, under the effect of technological dependence & government-like control to the less-economically developed areas which were appropriately dark & moody & the places which you visit that are vastly different from the aforementioned, Dreamfall delivers.

Art Direction - Cinematography: 6/10

Dreamfall doesn’t do anything amazing in the aspect but everything is as it should be. Some panoramic camera angles of settings are note-worthy.

Sound Direction - Overall: 6/10

Dreamfall’s musical score was good & usually appropriate, there were a few memorable melodies in it that added to the atmosphere. There was a nice little surround sound effect of ghost voices every time the little girl from ‘The Ring’ was on screen. It had one (or maybe two) song(s) that would play quite often that sounded pretty good & played in appropriate circumstance & one towards the end that reminded me of Red Dead Redemptions similar thing. Sound effects held up but weren’t great & sometimes a bit lacking to be honest. One example is the lack of (good) cave/water sound effects in one particular area that would’ve added much to the atmosphere.

Direction in Climax:

The major factor of the Climax being an Anti-Climax was the direction. It’s not easy to lay the blame on one factor alone, it’s more a mix of the poor voice acting of one of the characters involved, the way the characters involved speak (a way that does not generate suspense or excitement), the dialogue which seemed a little too lengthy for this particular segment, the lack of the camera doing anything interesting, the lack of an accompanying score possibly, the lack of body language & the not-very-good facial expressions.

Technology - Graphics: 8/10

Graphics were great for a 2006 6th gen game. Good environmental textures that looked realistic for the time, my only minor problem is with the facial expressions which seemed inferior to Fahrenheit though superior to most non-story based games ~late ‘05/early ’06.

Technology - Sound: 7/10

Not really much to say here. Generally, the effects all sounded good, the sword effect was a little bland & unrealistic though. The music & musical score were both of high quality.

Technology - Other:

There were lots & lots of loading screens in Dreamfall, although the load time is reasonably short.

Voice Acting: 5/10

The voice acting in Dreamfall wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good either. Zoe & April Ryan were done well but Kian Alvane as well as Damien Cavanaugh were not & The Ring girl is sometimes (unintentionally?) comical with her voice.

Replay Value: 2/10

There are no different choices, few different bits of dialogue & even there is to see can be seen in a single play through so I don’t have any reason to play this game again unless I feel like experiencing the story again in a year or so time, but that would probably be to play Dreamfall Chapters if I forget the story of Dreamfall by then.

Overall: 5/10

The thing about games in the nature of Dreamfall is that Story makes or breaks the game, & Dreamfall’s story did not deliver, which is a shame because it got off to such a promising start & had such a great setting & visual art direction. If the first 4 chapters of the game were extracted, & released as the first part of an episodic adventure game, I probably would have given it an 8 or a 9/10. If you’re looking for a story based adventure game on the Xbox, go with Fahrenheit. If you’ve already played Fahrenheit, you might enjoy Dreamfall, but don’t go in expecting anything amazing.

Rating: 5

Product Release: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey (EU, 08/11/06)

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