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Dreamfall - beautiful and bittersweet but a journey that ends too soon

Submitted by Jakob on 8 May, 2006 - 15:09.My Blog | Computer & Video Games | Reviews

I just finished Dreamfall, the sequel to the highly acclaimed game The Longest Journey. I have some mixed views and feelings regarding the game, but in summary I'd say it is beautiful, mesmerizing but also utterly confusing. It is a game that pushes the limits in many ways, visually and mostly when it comes to its narrative form. This game is more like a journey, an interactive movie that pulls you in and gets into your heart, which is why the separation in the end is so painful.

Arcadia, playing April, outside the inn. Look at the snow, this is the most realistic rendering of snow I've seen in a game. Looks much better than Oblivion, but it doesn't surprise me the slighest since we Scandinavians actually know what snow looks like. :)

The Longest Journey introduced April Ryan, a young art student who for reasons primarily related to fate and the story's underpinnings, had to more or less save the world, or the worlds as it turned out. Playing April Ryan you traveled to Arcadia, the other world where magic exists, a world unlike our world known as Stark where science rules. The Longest Journey was by many praised as being the best adventure game ever created. It was a game that stood out in so many ways, not just for its unconventional story and unprecedented narrative, but it combined beautiful graphics with great sound and music and to that a wonderful dialog that kept you entertained. April is a cynical character, a sort of pragmatic idealist and the characters she encounters range from the bizarre to the terrifying. All in all, it's a hodgepodge of Scandinavian tales and mythology from many different cultures.

while being outstanding the graphics still aren't what makes this game shine, it is its story, the characters and its heart-rending moments

While the game was praised and acclaimed by game reviewers and fans, it never really had the following some other titles got, probably because it was an adventure game which has become one of the smaller genres. It was developed by then almost unknown Norwegian company Funcom which later released Anarchy Online, an online massive multiplayer game with an immense world and a science-fiction story that would make a great novel on its own.

In Arcadia, as April. Glowing mushrooms, funny *mushrooms*... (old roleplaying group joke!)

With TLJ's success and high standards the expectations for Dreamfall have been high than ever since Dreamfall was announced about a year ago. I haven't played TLJ since 2001 so playing Dreamfall marked my return to this game world, and the many references to the previous game made me recall many things I'd forgotten. Dreamfall introduces 20 year old Zo� Castillo, who lives in Casablanca with her father. Her mother is claimed to be dead and her father is often away on business trips. Zo� is kind of in limbo, she really doesn't know what she wants to do with her life and is generally fed up with things and so the story begins. One day Zo�'s ex-boyfriend, whom she has some apparently confusing emotions about, calls her and needs a favor and she is drawn into the web of a major global corporation and a conspiracy that involves both Stark and Arcadia.

the game draws upon some classic themes, such as trust, faith and love and it seems everyone has something or someone to relate to

In Dreamfall you get to explore both worlds, the futuristic Stark with its cyberpunk-inspired information and communication technology and Arcadia, the world with magic and dragons. You will revisit many locations from TLJ but this time in full 3D (click the screenshots to see some high resolution shots of what the game looks like). While being outstanding the graphics still aren't what makes this game shine, it is its story, the characters and its heart-rending moments.

In Arcadia, as April. The game is filled with beautiful jawdropping landscapes.

The puzzle moments aren't as many, and not so hard as one might expect from an adventure game, which I like. I don't have the patience to solve puzzles, and I managed to solve most of the puzzles in Dreamfall without needing any help. This leaves you time to concentrate on the story, following first Zo� and then April and eventually a man called Kian. The narrative is that of a movie, and you will start to care for the characters just like you do when you read a very well-written book or watch a movie, anxiously wondering about them long after you finished watching or reading. The game draws upon some classic themes, such as trust, faith and love and it seems everyone has something or someone to relate to. It's a well-crafted narrative that keeps you yearning for more, which makes the game's abrupt, sudden and rather unexpected ending so much more than just a narrative cliffhanger, according to some people it ruins part of the experience.

In Arcadia, as Zo. I tell you, it isn't pre-rendered!

What makes Dreamfall so great and so interesting is its cinematic feel. Movies and games have a lot in common and it is not the first time cinematic narration has been used to create engaging and compelling gameplay experiences, another fine example is the game Mafia. Cinematic narration is not very common in games and with so many violent action-oriented games being released today there's little room for a form of narrative that requires not just a talented team of designers and developers, but a fanbase that enjoys games in a reflective rather than merely experiential way. I love it, and I wish there were more games like Dreamfall, fantastic outerwordly experiences that allow your imagination to roam free.

Stark, as Zo. Even gloomy industrial environments seem attractive!

Reading people's reviews I've seen those who love the ending and those who hate it, I guess I'm somewhere in between. I wish more story arcs were completed and we were given some form of closure, but on the other hand, the game's characters getting nothing of that sort the current ending might be argued for as being more involving and true to the game. We know something for sure, there will be a sequel. According to the game's designer and story writer, Ragnar T�rnquist, Dreamfall was intended as the first part of two, two games making up the second episode of a trilogy with The Longest Journey being the first episode. There will be a sequel, and the game's entire community seems to hold its breath waiting for another chance to return to the world of dreams and fantasies.

You can order Dreamfall and the The Longest Journey directly from Amazon by using the links below. Buying either game is no brainer, they're both outstanding instant classics that should be on your shelf! :)

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