Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"The Undreaming is unchained."

Hello, everyone. Long time no see. I was busy, school and all. Besides, I bought myself a new graphics card (Leadtek WinFast A7600 GT TDH) and am now playing tonnes of new games. One of them is Dreamfall, about which I'm going to talk now (not that it requires a very powerful graphics card, but it uses Pixel Shader v1.0, which is not present on the GeForce 6 series).

Dreamfall is the sequel to the highly acclaimed adventure game The Longest Journey. I'm quite certain that playing this game will give little delight to those who haven't played the first game of the trilogy. Did I say trilogy? of course I did. These two games are part of a trilogy, the upcoming sequel, Dreamfall Chapters, being in production as we speak.

I'd like to talk about this a bit. Sadly, Dreamfall suffers from the "Jump to Trilogy Syndrome", also known as "Buy One Get One Free: Sequels" (NOTE: These names are purely fictional). Much like the dreaded "Dragonball Effect", this audio-visual item production trend is devastating to the content (and value) of the final product and consists in the following: The producers create a game/movie/whatever without any intention of making a sequel; when the game/movie/whatever becomes a great success, they decide to make not one, but instantly two sequels. Of course, the original material had a stand-alone ending, as no sequel was intended at that point. Because of this, the sequel features plot hooks that appear artificial, to override the ending of the first part. Also, the first sequel ends with a huge cliffhanger, to make room for the second sequel. You can observe this phenomenon at games such as God of War and movies such as the first Star Wars trilogy.

Having made this scarce general presentation, I'll proceed with the review through the comparison of Dreamfall toThe Longest Journey. First off, the game is no longer a point-and-click adventure game, instead it is an action adventure game. You now take control of your character from a third person point of view, make full use of the keyboard and also take part in scenes where talking isn't enough to get you past, but rather you require to employ force and go into combat mode or sneak past the guards that are simply just too tough to fight. This is the biggest change and can be felt throughout the game. As a downside, you can no longer experience the majestic sceneries you did in the first game. As a plus point, it creates a different approach to the game and the pacing of the three different elements (dialogue, stealth and combat) was just perfect for my taste. The controls are a bit difficult at the beginning, but you get used to them fast, however, due to a lack of a full explanation of the controls, you tend to get in situations where you know what to do, but you don't know how to do it (HINT: To throw things, you have to use the focus field, pressing the right mouse button, and then select what you want to throw from your inventory, pressing the middle mouse button).

The story of the game seems a bit far fetched at the beginning (due to the "Jump to Trilogy Syndrome"), but you get accustomed to it easily and it becomes really engaging, just like in the first game. However, if in the first game you saw the whole world through the eyes of April Ryan, the story being focused around her for most of its part, in the sequel you will alternatively control three characters, thus giving you a wider perspective of the world(s), and less focus on a single person. Also, the dialogues have changed, giving you the option of taking different attitudes towards the characters you interact with. For example, when you wish to board a ship, you may convince the captain by explaining, pleading, bribing or threatening him.

The overall feel of the game is a much more serious one. Humour and puns either come from characters of the first game, who retain they're jokes of old, or from funny reference to the original game. The sequel has few comical elements on it's own. I truly miss dialogues such as those with the guard at the crash site or the detective. Warning! This section contains spoilers. That having been said, I missed the cryptic remarks of Cortez, but were glad to see the comeback of characters such as Crow, Roper Klacks, Brian Westhouse, the Dark People, Gordon Halloway and the White of the Draic Kin. New comic faces include Theoretically Blind Bob and the Chinese Salesman. Spoilers end here.

The game seems a lot shorter than the first part. Also, I have to admit that I looked into a walkthrough at one point (in The Longest Journey I did that twice). Otherwise, the puzzles are not that difficult and quite self-explanatory. I think the highest number of items in my inventory at any given point was five.

Conclusion: for those who played the first game, this is certainly a must. You will definitely love it (and excitingly wait for the concluding part of the trilogy). To those who haven't played the first one, I recommend you skip this one and instead play that one beforehand.

1 comment:

dr. Vincze-Nagy AndrĂ¡s said...

First of all I was really glad to read your review of Dreamfall. It is a beautiful game, the first game that made me cry in the end, I must admit.
When Paul, our friend said that you have made a review on your blog, he said that you are pulling it down, because of some "sequel-syndrome", he said. I was a little bit mad, that anyone can say wrong things about this game, but now that I have read your review I think you're fully right about it.
The first game was to stand-alone, and this one yells for a sequel. This is really a "syndrome" you can observe nowadays especially in movies, probably I haven't observed this when I finished the game, because of the pink curtain before my eyes.
Second thing. I read that you had problems with the controls. When I played this game I had no internet at home for 3 weeks, so I had no chance to peek in the walkthrough. I actually spent 3 days in the balcony when I realized how can I progress :):):):)
Third thing. It still remains the greatest game universe of all time for me. The Longest Journey was a milestone in my life, thanks to you and your brother. Dreamfall is the first game I actually brought, for money, for real, in original. If I would see TLJ in original I would buy that too. And I can't wait to see Dreamfall Chapters.
And let me end this here with a goof I've found in the game. Well, it is not a real goof, but for us, TLJ fans, it is annoying.
The first game ended (where it starts, like all good stories :) )with the image of April, as an old woman, with the old Crow on her side. So people can think, that after the adventures they lived together they have never separated.
And in Dreamfall April meets Crow after long years. They are hardly knowing each-other. :( It is so sad! I repeat, it is not a real goof, but it ruins the game universe's sentimental consistency. Thanks for this review, I'm looking forward to read more of you r posts.