Beautiful 'Dream' Worlds
Six years ago Funcom introduced us to the "Longest Journey" adventure game. We followed the plight of April Ryan, a seemingly normal art school student who started to shift between a future Earth known as Stark and a magical world called Arcadia.
Set 10 years later, "Dreamfall" focuses on a new character named Zoe Castillo, who has recently dropped out of college and is trying to find herself in the technological maze that is modern Stark. When she starts receiving strange messages over televisions and a reporter friend disappears while working on a big story, her seemingly dull life is turned upside down.
Whether in Stark or Arcadia, the worlds you visit are some of the best looking to grace a game. The beauty is enhanced with a minimalist user interface that lets you explore your surroundings and only occasionally requires you to pick something up or use an object to solve a puzzle. Coupled with some of the best voice acting I've heard and a haunting soundtrack, "Dreamfall" feels more like a feature film than a standard adventure game.
You don't need to have played the original title to enjoy this one, but because you are visiting some of the same locations (albeit ones that have changed a lot in 10 years -- mostly for the worse), you will enjoy it more if you are familiar with them. In addition to playing Zoe, you also get to see April again, although she is more of a fallen, depressed hero these days. There is a new character, Kian, a disciple and assassin for the religious rulers of Arcadia. Kian begins to question his masters and will probably have a much bigger role in a sequel.
There is even a combat interface, which, though extremely basic, adds a dimension that the original lacked.
Not to offer spoilers, but I am saddened by "Dreamfall's" ending. Major and minor characters' fates are left open with some apparently dead, arrested, in comas or simply missing. I had to turn away from the screen to keep from getting emotional more than once. "Dreamfall" is obviously meant to be the middle part of a larger story, so let's hope it doesn't take another six years for the tale to finish.
-- John Breeden II
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey Mature, PC Windows XP, Xbox ($40) Funcom