The Longest Journey

 

Genre:     Adventure

Developer:    FunCom

Publisher:    Empire Interactive

Released:   2000

PC Requirements:    Pentium 166 mmx 32 MB ram, 4x cd-rom Drive, Mouse and Keyboard, 640*480 SVGA high color (16bit) video card with 2 MB ram, Windows compatible sound device, 300 MB free hard drive space.

Walkthrough Walkthrough Walkthrough

 

 

 

by Becky

The Longest Journey (TLJ) starts with a vision and a dream. In the vision the figure of a man is suspended between streams of light. Above him, an ornate disk with carved dragons begins to move, so that one dragon almost consumes the other. There is a closeup of the man's face as his light-infused eyes startle open.
The dream portion begins with the figure of a young woman asleep. She is transported to a remote, ethereal world where she encounters another dragon; and this one is real, or at least as real as such things are in dreams. The young woman is April Ryan, and it is she who will be making the longest journey. More than just a journey across the game's landscape, she will soon be taking you on a journey into self-discovery, sacrifice, mystery and power.

One of the remarkable things about this game is its successful creation of two contrasting worlds: Arcadia and Stark. The sense of authenticity in these worlds is partly a result of the imaginative graphics (especially the unusual, expansive backgrounds) and partly the result of the various characters you can see puttering about, conscientiously minding their own affairs. Both worlds are alive, complex and enduring.

Stark makes TLJ more than just a typical fantasy adventure. The sequences in Stark anchor the story in a realistic framework and provide an interesting version of a possible future society. There is more here than meets the eye, though, and it is fascinating to watch the explosions of magic breaking through the gritty texture of urban life with its broken-down machinery, rusty pipes and cluttered streetscapes.

It seems natural to compare the Arcadia chapters to Sierra's King's Quest series. Like the King's Quest games, Arcadia is a satisfying and entertaining third person "escape", with fantastical environments and characters that are full of personality. TLJ is less cartoon-like than King's Quest, and the heroine is more down-to-earth. There is also a lot more dialogue in TLJ (too much dialogue at times). Still, if you have been thirsting for a King's Quest sequel, this game will certainly slake your thirst for awhile.

Arcadia was my favorite of the two worlds because it was beautiful, quaint and full of surprises. The Gribbler episode in Arcadia has all the best elements of a classic fairy tale -- small fuzzy creatures, an innocent-looking hut deep in the forest, and a heroine whose warm heart overrules her caution, culminating in exquisite moments of sheer terror. My other favorite -- the Roper Klacks episode -- is a self-contained jewel of a chapter. It has everything you could possibly want in an adventure: a terrific villain, dazzling graphics and cutscenes, amusing puzzles, and a strong dose of whimsy.

I liked the pacing of The Longest Journey. You proceed through the game at a comfortable stroll (double-clicking makes April run, and there is the option to eliminate animations that makes her zip even faster). There are some juicy puzzle challenges earlier in the game where you must slow down and take your time to figure out what is going on. (There are no sliding tile puzzles or complex mazes to REALLY slow you down.) The puzzles are usually solvable if you are persistent and thorough. Note: be sure to "look" closely at every item again after it shows up in your inventory.

Late in the game, I thought the puzzles became easier. That, combined with a lot of endgame cutscenes and built-up tension as the many plot threads come together greatly accelerates your progress all the way to the finish. You will find it difficult to tear yourself away from the computer during those last couple of chapters. (Don't become so immersed in the final chapters that you forget to read April's diary. The diary entries add to your understanding of the story.)

The interface is completely mouse-driven and easy to use. There is a keyboard command for showing all exits, which I found to be extremely helpful. Another important feature: the game gives you the option to replay all the video sequences/cutscenes. It's a lot of fun to watch these sequences again, and to relive some of the more exciting moments in the game.

There is more crude and obscene language in TLJ than I expected. Is it gratuitous? In many places, yes. On the other hand, there is a fascinating scene in the game when April confronts her younger, less thoughtful self. In just a brief interchange between the two versions of April, the contrasting language very effectively highlights her developing maturity. In fact, watching April's personality develop during the course of her travels is one of the most appealing aspects of the game.

Some minor quibbles: April moves gracefully and fluidly, but some of the other characters do not. In fact, some of the characters look like Frankenstein's monster when they walk. Although the game is beautiful -- even spectacularly so in places -- I didn't come away from it with the feeling of having been immersed in an environment to the same degree that I did after playing "Riven". I think this has something to do with the game's focus on characters and plot, to the exclusion of lots of detailed closeups of the environment. You visit so many places in the game, though, that it makes up in graphical variety and breadth what it lacks in focused depth.

The only bug I experienced was an occasional slowdown when the game accessed the CD ROM drive. When this happened, the game would repeat the same sound loop four or five times, pause and then go on. Once I realized that the game was not about to crash, I calmed down and managed to ignore the slowdown.

I've seen TLJ criticized for not being sufficiently original. I disagree strongly. It contains an extraordinary amount of plot and character development. It comes closer than any game I've encountered to the feel of actually playing a novel. There are so many elements in this game -- two contrasting worlds, a panoply of non-player characters, an emphasis on character development, a complex plot, entertaining side stories, puzzles, plus movie-quality dialogue. The amazing thing is that it hangs together so well. Just getting everything to work together so seamlessly is a tour de force.

The final chapters of TLJ contain some interesting plot twists, and there is a satisfying conclusion to April's quest. However, the epilogue felt very much as though it was setting up for a sequel, and there were questions left unanswered. Since I can find no indication at the present time that the developers of TLJ are working on a sequel, I feel that the game's end is ultimately unsatisfying. This is a disservice to the player, and a mild disappointment in an otherwise enjoyable experience.

My hope is that, even if The Longest Journey has no sequels, other developers will use the game as a blueprint. I would like to see lots of TLJ clones. The interactive epic novel has been born whole here -- it would be a tremendous shame it if were to die here as well.

Final Grade :  A+

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