Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey Cover
Platforms Xbox, Windows
Genre One Hour Dream
MtAMinutes to Action 35
Score 7  Clock score of 7Gameplay: 7
Fun Factor: 6
Gfx/Sound: 8
Story: 8
Buy from Amazon

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is an adventure game released in 2006 for Xbox and Windows. It's the sequel to The Longest Journey, a straight point-and-click adventurer released seven years earlier. Dreamfall takes advantage of the beefier hardware and features fully navigable 3D environments that plays more like Shenmue than Syberia. This may very well be the evolution of adventure games right before our eyes.

I never played the original Longest Journey, well, I take that back. I played the demo for a few minutes then turned it off. So much for the first hour of a demo, huh? There's something to be said about starting in the middle of any story driven game, it usually doesn't work. But that's The Longest Journey, and this is Dreamfall! If you're curious about the game after the review, it's readily available on both Steam and Xbox Live Originals on the 360. Check it out, after we check out the first hour of Dreamfall.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select New Game and the first hour of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey begins. Light shines brightly through a carved window. "Tainted" appears on the screen. "I am at the crossroads between waking and dream," a man begins narrating. He's writing in a journal in a small room with just a desk and mattress on the floor.

02 - The man finishes writing and signs his entry Brian Westhouse. I get control of him and a monk enters, he asks me to follow him.

03 - I walk through the halls of the building, examining things on the walls. I arrive in a room where a group of monks are meditating around something.

04 - As I try to leave the room, the monk tells me the ritual is ready, and asks me to step onto the dais. I'm expecting a light show as I get sucked into another vortex or something.

Dreamfall Brian Westhouse

05 - Actually a bunch of leaves encircle my body and then light shoots out of my eye sockets, creepy. The scene switches to a snowy glacier, Brian appears near a man.

07 - The man appears angry at Brian... what the, suddenly a giant tentacle monster appears in the sky! That was really weird. Now a woman appears in a bed, "One" flashes on the screen.

08 - Zoe Castilla, she's in a coma, but she's narrating her current situation.

09 - Nice place to be in a coma, pretty much right on a sandy beach. We're flashing back to Zoe's past, two weeks earlier. Zoe's watching a floating TV.

10 - Suddenly, something takes over her television and begins speaking directly to Zoe, "find her, save her." What the... a purple ape just jumped on her bed and talked to her... I think we're far enough in the future that this is the norm?

Dreamfall Zoe Castillo Coma

11 - Zoe's in really short shorts, not bad. We check her messages on her mobile phone, she has to get to the gym.

12 - Her purple ape, Wonkers, wants to play a game, what is this, Bonzi Buddy? He's ready to give me the news and my daily schedule, creepy little dude.

16 - I'm just wandering around Zoe's room, checking stuff out. She likes to comment on everything in her British accent. We change into some more appropriate clothes for heading outside.

17 - We head downstairs and Zoe's dad is there, he's heading out to Bombay today. He mentions they live in Cape Town.

19 - They banter a bit about Zoe going back to school, then I get a few options to talk to dad about. The dialogue menu is actually a bit like Mass Effect, only bigger.

Dreamfall Zoe Castillo Short Shorts Wonkers

22 - I leave the house and head for the gym. I start wandering around the nearby area and a huge four propellered plane flies overhead.

23 - Looks like you can talk to anyone around town, Shenmue style. I run into Liv and she says she has something to show me... we head inside her gypsy cave.

24 - Oh oh, the TV is talking to me again, "save April." Liv didn't notice it of course. She says it could have been the Static. Sounds mysterious.

26 - They're still blabbing on about how Zoe's life sucks.

28 - Now they're talking about Reza, Zoe's ex-boyfriend. Did I come in here for a reason?

Dreamfall Zoe Castillo Casablanca

30 - So Liv has an application for mobile phones that makes them invisible, hides them from the Eye in the Sky. Sounds like a dystopian, zero-privacy society that they live in.

31 - The game reminds me that I'm really late for the gym now... guess I really have to find this joint.

32 - Another girl runs up and says she's going to the gym, why didn't Zoe follow her? Oh, awesome. You can click the left stick and you'll be able to focus your view on distant objects. Hard to explain but it allows you to examine stuff from further away.

34 - The gym, found it! Zoe automatically changed into her gym outfit, not that her last one wouldn't have worked. Women. I approach Jama, an intense looking woman doing Tai Chi or something. I can choose to be apologetic or confrontational with her. I like conversation systems like that.

35 - Nice, I enter single combat with Jama! A and X fight, B blocks. Fighting was a bit awkward though, I'd like to try it again. I think I "beat" her this time. She wants to fight again...?

Dreamfall Zoe Castillo Jama Fighting

38 - Okay, that's enough of that. Practice is over, now what? Of course, the TV! "Find April Ryan! Save her!" This is getting a bit freaky, okay, Zoe actually said that too.

40 - Someone calls and asks me to meet them at Moca Loca. Oh, it was Reza.

41 - Well, that wasn't too hard to find. Reza and Zoe sit on a bench together and they idly chat. I get the choice of inviting Reza to the party, why not? He's busy though.

43 - Reza is working on a big story, but won't tell Zoe anything about it. That's the cue for Zoe to complain about her life.

44 - Okay, Zoe doesn't live in Cape Town, she recently moved from there though, sounds like that's where she was going to school.

Dreamfall Zoe Castillo Reza

46 - Reza asks a favor, wants me to head downtown to pick up a package. Zoe's up for it.

49 - I find a taxi cab waiting for me and the game transports me to the correct building. Downtown... literally? Looks like we're underground, under the other city maybe. Weird. I get in an elevator going up.

50 - Now we are pretty far up in the sky! There are flying cars and huge skyscrapers. I approach clad in black leather and sunglasses. She's acting suspicious.

51 - Holy crap, on the screen behind her is a woman trapped in a room. She's waving her arms at a camera. The leather-clad lady doesn't see her. I attempt to distract her.

53 - I convince her to step away from the console for a second and check a side room... that gives me the opportunity to check the computer, and get caught! We start brawling immediately, she calls for Kano. Who is this, Sonya Blade? Well, that really wouldn't make much sense.

Dreamfall Receptionist

54 - I take her out without getting hit once. Zoe can't believe she did it.

55 - Well, there's Kano, messing with the door that's holding Helena in, my package contact. He EMP'd the circuitry and then runs off.

56 - I climb on top of the vestibule and manually release the door. Helena says we have to get out of the building quickly, we go down the elevator... isn't this the only way the bad guys could have gone too? Doesn't seem to concern the ladies.

59 - Zoe explains to Helena she needs the package, she gives it to me. The package is for Reza's eyes only, she won't tell me anything.

60 - We get into separate taxis and I arrive back in town. Well, that's the end of the first hour of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey!

Time for some scores out of 10.

Dreamfall Zoe Castillo Helena Trapped

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 35

Gameplay: 7
Well, the minutes to action is a bit misleading, you get control of Brian and Zoe pretty quick, and there's plenty of stuff to investigate and people to talk to. I try to stay consistent with my definition of action from game to game, so it ends up being 35 minutes. Don't let this bother you too much though.

Dreamfall features an explorable city with a ton of stuff to look at and a bunch of people to talk to. Focusing on something in particular to examine can sometimes be difficult to target, but tapping the A button will eventually find it. Fighting seems really clunky, and if it's limited to just light attack, hard attack, and block the entire game, it's going to get pretty dull. Hopefully it continues to focus more on adventure elements than fighting. Considering there were only two people to fight, I can't complain too much.

So far the adventuring elements have been pretty basic, usually after an hour your inventory will be overfilling with junk, but Zoe's still only has her cell phone. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing, but it's refreshing to concentrate on a real story and characters instead of abstract items and funky puzzles.

Fun Factor: 6
I think Dreamfall's biggest issue early on is that it is so talky. Zoe goes on and on about her crappy life and after the third conversation, we get it! I know this is the descendant of a point-and-clicker, but those generally seemed more interactive than even Dreamfall is. When the action finally did get rolling, we're also introduced to the generally awful fighting engine, it just seems completely out of place. It's like they were really trying to copy Shenmue as much as possible.

Don't get me wrong, the world is intriguing, and some of the environments are flat out inspiring. I think Dreamfall has a ton of potential to be a really fun game, just bring it on sooner than later, please.

Graphics and Sound: 8
Dreamfall looks pretty good even though I've been playing mostly only Xbox 360 games lately. Like I said above, the city looks great, I really like their art direction with a futuristic looking Casablanca setting. The contrasting styles of a classic north African city and advanced technology play off each other well. We need more games set in non-standard but realistic areas; think Assassin's Creed as another example.

Zoe's English accent is a little heavy for my taste, but research shows that Ellie Conrad-Leigh is actually British, so at least it's natural. The other characters sound good though, and I will admit, I have an awful ear for music... nothing really stood out for me. I really need to start listening for it better in the future.

Story: 8
We get the trifecta of classic story cliches in Dreamfall's first hour: the mysterious stranger writing about mysterious things, the comatose girl flashing back to before her injury, and the WTF tentacle monster in the sky. We also get a whole lot of complaining about Zoe's current life, how she's not in college, how she broke up with her boyfriend, it goes on and on. Of course, don't forget the TV talking directly to Zoe. Wow, this game really packs in a lot of plot elements really early. Dreamfall also features a rich, futuristic, but believable world (Casablanca as it turns out), and despite her whining, Zoe is likable.

The more I think about it, the more I'm impressed by everything Dreamfall sets up. There's the mention of the Eye in the Sky; is this some system watching everyone's movement and interaction with others? Is Zoe going to have to destroy it before her story is over? It's really intriguing. The conversations run too long in my opinion, but at least you get some conversation options, but I wonder, do they actually drive anything?

Overall: 7
I've always been a fan of adventure games, and Shenmue is one of my favorite games of all time, so it's pretty natural that I also enjoyed Dreamfall's first hour. There's a few things that worry me: that there may be way too much clunky fighting in the game, and that the story might be chock full of lame plot cliches. I think I may give this one a chance though and go all the way. Once again, the game is available on both Steam and Xbox Live Originals, so give it a try if you missed it and like adventure games.

Dreamfall Zoe Castillo