DREAMFALL: THE LONGEST JOURNEY
Buy on Steam
I'm not much of a hateful person, and in general, there aren't really any games I truly hate. Mostly if I don't like a game, it's just because it's not to my taste and instead of ranting on it, I simply don't play it (the Elder Scrolls games being a prime example of this). However, there is an exception, and I think it's about time I introduced you to it.
I grew up playing adventure games. Everything from Grim Fandango to Monkey Island, I played it and I loved it. One adventure game that will always hold a special place in my heart is The Longest Journey from Norwegian developer FunCom. It's an epic game that felt a tad bit overwhelming when I first played it, but had moments that touched me so deeply and left such a permanent effect on me as a person, that I simply have to say it's one of the single best PC games of all time for me. It had above decent voice acting too, even the Norwegian version featured a lot of high level actors in Norway and I think that it still holds up today, even if it might seem a bit dated to some.
So long story short, when I heard there was a sequel coming, and saw the trailer for it, I was hyped. And I mean really hyped. I had all sorts of enormous expectations for it, but I think even without those expectations I would still have been as disappointed as I was. I mean, even the title is disappointing. I mean, "Dreamfall: The Longest Journey"? Come on, how hard could it be to just call it "The Longest Journey 2: Dreamfall"? That would at least have made sense. Now I have the feeling people will be confused as to which game is the first. Talk about messing up the chronology...
So without further ado, here is my review of one of the most overrated, overhyped and underwhelming games of the decade, Dreamfall.
Oh boy, where do I begin... The gameplay in Dreamfall is an absolute mess. First off, the first thing you'll notice is that the mouse look is horizontally inverted by default. Whose fucking decision was it to do this? Did they think people PREFER turning the mouse left to look right? How stupid are these guys?! I think it's because Dreamfall is essentially a console port (bad sign right there), and in the console version they inverted the look to suit people who use joysticks. I have no idea why they thought this would translate well into PC format, so the first thing I did was basically enter the menu and invert (yes, invert) the horizontal mouselook.
If you can get past THAT atrocity, you have PLENTY of more things to worry about. PLENTY! Because the interface is a cluttered mess that could make anyone cry out in frustration. For some reason, instead of making it an oldschool point-and-click type of game, like Telltale have done so brilliantly with their adventure games lately, or like, well, THE LONGEST JOURNEY, they opted to make a sort of third person ordeal like in Grim Fandango, except here you still have to click on things so it's far less intuitive and really cumbersome. It took me a while to get used to it, but eventually I managed to get past the initial parts of the game.
Another thing that really separates Dreamfall from its predecessor is that they tried to sort of make it more of an action title, and so they have included a combat system that I have NO idea how to work. You basically just tap the buttons, but it doesn't really do any difference, and just pray you beat your opponent. Thankfully the combat system is not used that often and only in few parts of the game as most of the time you'll run around talking to characters, gathering items and all that classic stuff.
You also have some limited dialogue choices, basically just affecting how you approach another character. It doesn't really make any difference in the end and just adds a lot of fake replay value.
Some parts of the game incorporate some form of stealth, like not stepping onto any noisy objects and such, which is a bit interesting but mostly just detracts from the experience and makes it all very jarring.
Now, here's the main problem with Dreamfall. If you think the gameplay is a mess, just look at the story. I mean, it has more continuity errors and plotholes than you can imagine. If you play this game back-to-back with The Longest Journey, you're going to go insane. And this is where I'll bring in some spoilers so either skip this following part or play The Longest Journey (which you should anyway).
The first thing you'll notice is that the characters are nothing like they were in the first game. Often this is blamed on some disaster that happened prior to the game's events but after the first game, though this still doesn't explain the incosistencies with the characters. While Zoe's part plays fine, it gets pretty jarring when she arrives in Newport later on in the game. One of the clues she finds in the hotel is a photograph of April with her friends. Technically, this photograph shouldn't exist there since in the first game, April can take it with her and if she did, it wouldn't be there. There are also other incosistencies when you interview Emma and Charlie. For one, Emma claims that she always belived April while Charlie was the skeptic. This is totally backwards from the first game where Emma was always skeptical of April and Charlie was the one who believed her. Also, why is Charlie running the Café now? In the first game he clearly states he wanted to be a dancer and worked in the bar just as a part time job. He gives NO reason why he's still around, not to mention he really looks nothing like he did in the first game.
And in Arkadia, the Banda that were clearly friendly in the first game, are here merely thrown at you as enemies to defeat. They are given no personality, no dialogue, and you are forced to fight them, unlike in the first game where you befriend them and learn that they are in fact quite peaceful. How they changed so much is never explained here either. And what the hell happened to April? She is written as a whiny emo bitch who does nothing but sound emo, having lost her powers and all that. I expected April to be the heroine this time as well, and instead she's treated like a secondary character with little to no emotion outside of just being emo.
A big bummer for me was also how the story also overexplained certain aspects from the first game, especially related to April. It is clearly hinted at, in the first game, that April is a dragonborn and has dragon blood. However, this is completely thrown away in this game where the white dragon explains to April that she is not really a dragon and that the "sister" term is only affectionate and never meant anything. I mean, they couldn't just leave this like a mystery? It was one of my main disappointments as I had really hoped they would give April a really epic role here, and instead they have just ruined her completely...
There's a lot of side characters here, some from the first game make a return, though all of them are horribly forgetable and most of them have little to no impact on the story. I almost wish you could play as Brian Westhouse some more and experienced his adventures with "Manny Chavez", that way it could've been an interesting prequel.
So that's probably the main problem with Dreamfall. There's a lot of stuff that's just unexplained, while other things are just unnecessarily overexplained, characters have unexpectedly changed, and the entire story seems to be written like it's only losely tied to the first game.
Okay, so with all of these negative aspects about Dreamfall there has to be something good about it, right? Well yes, Dreamfall is a stunningly beautiful game for the time, and it's probably no coincidence that the limited edition comes with an artbook showcasing how much work went into the artwork of the game. Everything is beautifully realized in 3D and the feeling of wandering through areas from TLJ in this fashion is almost creepy, and they have stayed incredibly faithful to the original design of the first game.
Some moments in the game look terribly cheesy and are obviously lifted from other media. Most notably Faith, who looks suspiciously like the girl from F.E.A.R., who in turn look suspiciously like the girl from Ring, the infamous Japanese horror flick. I really feel that these moments feel out of place and definitely not in style with the game and they're not creepy or offsetting, just cheesy and stupid.
My big issues with the graphics however, basically relate to the glossy look they attempted to give everything, making it look like a half-assed WoW clone at times, and the character animations look horrible and without any character at all. At times this game is just plain ugly to look at while other times it's breathtaking. Nothing much else to say about it, but it dated very fast, especially the scenes with Faith.
The voice acting couldn't be much more of a polar opposite from TLJ. While in TLJ you had very good voice acting, the characters in Dreamfall, and I mean all of them, sound like they're just reading a script. They're not acting per se, they have little to no emotion or understanding of what they are saying. It's like I said, they're just reading a script. What's even worse is that they have given the characters new voice actors who do a TERRIBLE job compared to the original voice actors and I can't begin to describe what a disappointment it was. This game is PAINFUL to play because of how unengaged the voice actors sound and most of the time I just want to make them shut up. Yes, TLJ was very heavy on dialogue, but the good voice acting made you WANT to listen to it, it made you WANT to dig into the story of it. Dreamfall is the polar opposite and you'll find yourself skipping conversations JUST so you won't have to listen to the horribly cheesy dialogue.
The music is okay, it's a lot more forgetable than in the first game. The game heavily uses music by the Norwegian pop group Magnet, which is okay but nothing special, and makes the game feel dated even nowadays. Whereas the first game had a lot of interesting techno jazz pieces you could listen to from the cafés jukebox, this is completely scrapped in Dreamfall, even if it would be a nice nod and connection to the first game, and you're left with a ton of forgetable orchestral score and pop music.
Overall, the sound is as half-assed as the story and gameplay.
Dreamfall is the prime example of a bad sequel. It fucks up the continuity with the first game, both in gameplay and story, suffering heavily from trying to appeal to console gamers more than the PC adventure game crowd, which I feel it should've been made for in the first place since these are the ones who loved the first game. I don't understand how they could fuck up a sequel this much but they obviously did. The graphics are okay and at times breathtaking but this doesn't change a cheesy story, a lackluster soundtrack, horrible emotionless voice acting and what is essentially a huge pile of rotten disgusting filthy CRAP covered in a sugary coating of nice graphics. It's an overrated and overhyped piece of shit that I wish I never played in the first place and while FunCom has stated they are working on another game, I really hope they scrap it. They have fucked up the TLJ franchise forever now and there's no turning back. They had so many opportunities to make a really memorable sequel, or prequel, to one of the best adventure games ever, but they wasted all of them, which is such a shame as the game really deserved a worthy sequel. Instead we got this piece of shit thrown at us as a big middle finger to everyone who loves adventure games...
I suggest you play The Longest Journey and just pretend it has no sequel. It's probably much better that way as it never really needed a sequel to begin with...
I give it 2 out of 10 Wonkers.