Dreamfall Chapters brings home that classic Secret World feel

With Secret World effectively DIA and Secret World Legends a month out from launch, how do I get that Funcom fix? By going to Dreamfall Chapters, that’s how. Much of the TSW team had formed a new studio (Funcom subsidiary? I’m not quite clear on that) to work on the Longest Journey franchise, resulting in a pretty successful Kickstarter and a five-chapter adventure game.

While The Longest Journey is easily my most favorite adventure game of all time (and Dreamfall a decent follow-up), I was a little slow in playing this game. I’d bought it when the first chapter was released, then just sat on it because I’m allergic to playing episodic adventure games that aren’t yet fully released. Getting a “to be continued…” and then waiting a month or two for the next installment is frustrating and annoying; I’d rather play the whole thing in one go. So now that the game is complete (although they’re working on a final cut with a little bit more content and better graphics) and I’m jonesing for TSW, I figured it would be a good time.

As I mentioned, the DNA between Dreamfall Chapters and The Secret World is so close as to render the two games siblings. Using the same game engine (I assume), playing Simon Poole’s music, and having a semi-contemporary setting was making all of this feel like it was another level or something in TSW. And that’s a good thing! About the worst thing I can say about DC is that the graphics aren’t always the best, particularly on some of the talking heads, but most of the rest of it is as absorbing as Secret World at its best. Really good writing, setting, and characters so far (and some laugh-out-loud moments to boot). Plus, DC is taking a cue from Telltale and Life is Strange by featuring choices that come back to impact you later on, which is a good move.

I actually had to give myself a recap of what the heck happened in Dreamfall, because at this point it’s been about a decade since I played that. As DC opens, April Ryan’s corpse is being floated out into a river, Kian is in prison awaiting execution, and Zoe is in a coma, trapped in Storytime. The twin worlds of Arcadia and Stark are also in dire straits, with the fantasy realm of Arcadia under assault by anti-magic forces and Stark falling into totalitarian dystopia. This cliffhanger led to my dissatisfaction with Dreamfall, so I was hoping for better resolution here.

Oh, also DC has wardrobe tentacle monsters. How can you look at the above picture and not think of the Filth from TSW? Is there a crossover going on here that I’m not totally getting?

Over the weekend, I played through the first chapter and into the second. As with Dreamfall, I was initially put off by the lack of April Ryan as a protagonist. I loved her snark and happy inner commentary, and while Zoe is adequate, she’s no April. Plus, there’s a lot of weirdness going on with Zoe that makes her feel like she’s not all there after waking up from her coma. She’s seeing people that she thinks she recognizes, she talks a little like she’s on drugs, and she’s still with a boyfriend that her coma self instantly recognized as an “imposter.” Suffice to say, I am taking every opportunity to be as rude as possible to the boyfriend.

Definitely enjoying it so far, even though I have a hard time making the mental jump between lead characters. I dislike that in books, too, when there are multiple protagonists and I’m getting into one of their stories and then a new chapter starts and I’m with someone else instead. Zoe and Stark is more interesting to me than Kian and Arcadia, although I’ll give it the benefit of some patience.

So far there have been several very noteworthy moments. The game actually lets you choose to refuse to join up with the rebellion, leading to a second and more final decision that can result in (what I assume is) one of the game’s very rare instant game overs. There’s a crudely named floating robot that spouts some of the most hilarious lines (especially when it realizes how much it loves welding). And these mysterious towers all over the city in Europe have me very much wondering what’s going to happen with them later on. Oh! And we get to return to the House of All Worlds for the first time since The Longest Journey (as a baby, even).

I’ve been needing a good adventure game like this, so I’m savoring it for the duration. I’m worried it won’t be long enough, but if it tells a great story, then I’ll be happy in the end. We’ll see how it goes. At the very least, it should help fill that TSW void for a week or two!

5 thoughts on “Dreamfall Chapters brings home that classic Secret World feel

  1. I’ve thought about picking up this whole saga now that TSW is falling apart, but I’ve never been super big on adventure games, and I feel like I’d just end up tearing my hair out over the puzzles constantly.

    I’m really curious if Miracle is ever going to see the light of day, though. I’m a late-comer to Ragnar Tornquist fandom, and it’s hard to get clear info on it, but from what I can tell it’s both his biggest passion project and perhaps the true conclusion to TSW’s story.

  2. I’m not a fan of adventure games and didn’t play either of the two other story lines BUT I am a big Ragnar fan so I supported this development when it went to Kickstarter. But like Justin did not play it until recently when I was overwhelming sad about TSW. After I got over the annoying puzzles, I did become engrossed in the story telling. For some reason I liked Kian’s story better, go figure. DC is well done and I will actually play it again and adjust some choices to see what happens next time.

  3. For some reason I became invested in Zoe’s relationship with her boyfriend Rezza. Maybe it was her diary entries about him, but I decided to go for it and make it work. Felt really bad about flirting with her therapist. And agonised over making the seemingly benign choice of getting Rezza cheese soup for lunch and having the game remind me at the end of the chapter that it would have consequences. 😜

  4. Red Thread Games has nothing to do with Funcom; it’s Ragnar going out on his own.

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