In honor of the release of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, I feel it is important to remind everyone of the masterpiece that was the original Longest Journey. If you haven't played it yet, you should and here's why:
Steven Spielberg just signed a multi game deal with Electronic Arts to be a co-designer/consultant. When asked if he thought that games were a legitimate art form, he simple responded, "Not yet". He argued that because games are not usually laid out like a standard form of storytelling, the maturity level to tell an adult story in a game was not all there. He ended by saying, "We're not at the point where your average person cries at the end of level 6".
I want you to honestly think back: Have you ever cried while playing a videogame? Not from the joy of beating level 6, but was there ever a moment where a character you connected with, and you had been through the best and the worst together, had something happened to them? Most people would gawk at the idea, and this is warranted. The idea of someone crying at the end of Halo 2 or Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas might sound silly, and I do agree with Mr. Spielberg that most games are not at that emotional level, but there are exceptions to the rule. The one situation that most gamers can think of where this might happen was when Aires died at the end of Final Fantasy VII (Is this really a spoiler anymore?). It may not be that big of a deal now, but in 1997, when me and millions of other gamers played this for the first time, that was truly heart wrenching and emotional. There are other exceptions (The ending to Metal Gear Solid 3 was very emotional), but that moment is what stands out to me as the moment that gaming changed. I'm not even really the biggest fan of that game, but I can still respect what that game did to this industry.
The Longest Journey is one of those exceptions.
In the game, you play as April Ryan, a young art student in the futuristic world of Stark. The game opens with April having a dream (She states it as a dream since apparently she's had this dream before), but she quickly wakes up, and you're ready to explore. One of the interesting things about the game is that is takes a while to get going, but in a good way. The first couple of chapters involve April going to work, going to school, working on her art project, and talking to her friends. But in this time, you learn much about the women you'll be spending the next 60 hours with. It's this early emotional connection with April that will keep you playing. It's not long before you meet a mysterious man named Cortez, and he starts to let you in on the bigger picture.
The great thing about the story of The Longest Journey is that it is absolutely grips you from beginning to end. There is no downtime, and even when your frustration is at a fevered pitch from the mind-boggling puzzles, you go through it because you just wanna see what happens next in the story. This is in no small thanks to the wonderful cast of characters. There's over 50 major characters in the game, and they all have their own style, and they are all very well written. Burns Flipper has to be my favorite character of all time, and everyone from Roeper Klax to Crow to Jacobn McAllen are all well developed, and nobody feels out of place or fake. The writing is strong, witty, and well paced the whole way through, and the exotic locales and well documented back stories are all very absorbing.
However, all this wonderful writing would have been in vein if the voice actors weren't up to par. Thankfully all of the actors brought their A game into the recording studio, and the result is truly fantastic. There might be a couple of moments where a character might sound alot alike another character, but for the most part the performances are varied and superb. The woman who plays April does a great job, and that is a very good thing. While the voices are great, the music is outstanding. Being surreal when it needs to, and being sweeping when it needs to. You'll hear everything from instrumental to techno, and it's all very well done. The sound effects are also quite good, with ambient noises and loud bangs when warranted.
Graphically, the game looks beautiful for it's time. The game looks like an adventure from this era with modeled characters walking over pre rendered backgrounds. The level of detail is amazing with vast urban landscapes and lush forests. The game's oblique look adds to the immersion factor. And while the character models looked good for the year 2000, they haven't aged well, and there were better looking games that year. Also, some of the games animations aren't very good, and when a character hands something to another character, the actual item isn't seen being exchanged, so it looks like you're shaking hands with the bad guys. This made me chuckle a bit. Also, while the regular game looks fine, the CGI cutscenes look quite bad. The character models are horrible, and April has the bewildered look on her face the whole scene, and she looks nothing like the actual model you play in the game. But for the year 2000, this is a pretty good looking game.
But while everything else about this game is so different and revolutionary, the gameplay is suprisingly rudimentary. It's a classic adventure game where you collect items, combine them with other items, solve puzzles, fiddle with objects until you get them just right, etc. etc. The gameplay actually reminds me a lot of Grim Fandango with it's interface and how it plays. Nothing about the gameplay really stands out other then the fact that the game is actually more difficult then your average adventure game. Part of this is because some of the puzzles are challenging and fun to figure out while other parts of the game has puzzles that are highly illogical and extremely frustrating. There are a few puzzles where you'll find the solution out of pure luck, and you just sit there puzzled at how someone actually thought that up. But the gameplay really isn't the focus, and the amount of time you'll spend talking to people and discovering the story greatly overpowers the time you spend solving the games puzzles.
And while on the subject of actually playing the game, it's good to know that you'll be spending a lot of time with it. I beat this game back in 2000 when I was 12 years old (I don't know how I solved some of those crazy puzzles at that tender age), and it must've took me upwards of 60 hours to beat it. I just recently went through it again to prepare myself for Dreamfall, and it took me close to 35 hours and a solid 3 weeks of playing near every night. And that's not 35 hours of being frustrated, that's near 35 hours of content. Even with a guide, if you listened to most of the conversations in this game, I can't see you beating it in under 25 hours your fist time through. It's also worth mentioning that I played this game on windows XP, and with the most recent patches, it ran without a Hitch.
So, after 40 hours with April Ryan, going through dungeons, fighting off witches, alchemists, and doing some things I won't mention here because that would ruin the fun of this game, at the end of the game, a tear was shed. It was the same tear I shed after I finished reading The Return Of The King after my grandfather gave me his first edition collection of Tolkien's novels. I realized it was over. The threat was over, all the loose ends had been tied up, all the characters went their separate ways, and it was over. It was a tear of relief mostly. Because even after it was over, I wasn't mad that it was over, and I had to do something else. No, I was and am privileged to have been able to experience a story unlike any other, and while The Longest Journey isn't a perfect game, The Longest Journey is the perfect experience, and it will always hold a special place in my heart as one of the greatest, and most imaginative works of fiction of our time, and that is no exaggeration.
+One of the greatest storylines of all time
+fantastic voice acting
+beautifully realized world(s)
+Great graphics for their time
+There are some great puzzles
+It's called The Longest Journey for a reason
+a real example of mature gaming
-For the most part, the gameplay is derivative, and occasionally illogical and frustrating
-the FMV sequences aren't that great
-graphics haven't aged well
Will Dreamfall uphold the legacy of it's predecessor?
10 Out Of 10
Bottom Line: You are not a true gamer unless you have played this game.
We should be able to use images...