Dreamfall Chapters review

Over the past weekend, I finished up the fifth and final book of Dreamfall Chapters, putting a cap on the most recent entry in The Longest Journey saga. It feels more or less like the end of the series, although I could point out enough loose threads that a new game could be made if there was enough demand and desire to do one.

So what did I think? The Longest Journey remains one of my all-time favorite adventure games, although Dreamfall was a let-down in comparison. Dreamfall Chapters is somewhat more interesting than Dreamfall, although now that I’m done and can step back and look at the game as a whole, I have to say that it, too, is a slight disappointment in storytelling, gameplay, and world-building. It’s not a terrible game by any stretch, but for this series and this dev team, I really expected so much more.

Someone asked on Twitter if they could just jump into this game, not having played the first two. Honestly? I don’t think you really can. You need all of the background from the first two games, since this is a direct sequel, so in my opinion Dreamfall Chapters doesn’t stand well on its own. As a continuation and culmination of the story, it does answer a few questions and give some resolution, but not always in a satisfactory way.

Let’s run down the pros and cons, just in case you were thinking of giving this a try.

Pros:

  • Very good and funny voice acting for the most part
  • Slow burning story that has some captivating moments and kept me playing
  • Choice and consequences, both big and small, sometimes felt like things mattered
  • Felt more like Longest Journey than Dreamfall, with Crow, House of All Worlds, etc.
  • Some great secondary characters, like S***bot, Bip, and Enu
  • Enu’s verbal torrents were flat-out hilarious and made me love her
  • Enu, Shepherd, and Zoe’s character models were well-done
  • A few gut-punching moments
  • Hanging out with Crow again was awesome, he definitely was a highlight here
  • The oppressive regimes in both worlds lent a great dystopic feeling
  • The epilogue was really great and again hinted at what this game could have been.
  • Team is working on a final cut of the game with more polish and some more gameplay, so some of the criticisms I have might be addressed.

Cons:

  • Way too much backtracking and being confined to the same city maps. You want adventure games to GO places, not to stay put. For the most part, you’ll be going through the same two city maps over and over again.
  • Lead characters seem half-asleep and inexpressive during most dialogue scenes
  • No easy-to-access map for navigation
  • Some character faces are decent while others are PlayStation 2-levels of bad. I mean, really, really bad. Super-stiff and ugly with little expression.
  • Animations, especially during cut scenes, are stiff and incredibly awkward. Again, the art and animation is all over the place — sometimes good, sometimes bad, but it’s like they had no one coordinating the art effort to make it all sync up.
  • Still no April Ryan as a main playable character
  • The warden’s nose was cartoonishly big (I know, petty detail, but it is INCREDIBLY distracting). Some characters (like Hannah) were just visually off-putting and didn’t look like real people at all.
  • Dialogue scenes offered too little in the way of speech prompts, so mostly you’re just standing there watching two people stiffly talk for a long time with little to do.
  • Puzzles seemed half-hearted and random. Didn’t feel like the game’s team really wanted puzzles but straddled the line between the old style of adventure games and the newer Telltale style of interactive storytelling.
  • The story fell apart toward the end and started making less and less sense.
  • Zoe’s dream powers kind of came and went depending on if the devs wanted her to have them for a puzzle.
  • I played though this game for 20 hours and still didn’t get answers to some of the mysteries that were dangled. That really felt cheap.
  • Both worlds weren’t that fun to explore, which was part of what made TLJ so enjoyable.
  • Huge inconsistencies in character development, especially with Kian. Again, felt like different writers were working on the project without coordinating efforts.
  • The end hour was so boring that I kept trying to skip through all of the cutscenes.
  • Feels like the creators wanted to make political statements, but these were undermined by the convoluted storyline and hamhanded approaches. Coming away from the game, I don’t even know what these statements are supposed to be. Marxism is good? Racism is bad? Corporations want to control your dreams? I dunno.
  • So many tropes and bad stereotypes. “IT WAS ALL A DREAM” yeah expect that a few times.

The real shame here is that the game’s most captivating character and best sequences all starred Saga, who gets the least screen time of them all. It seems obvious to me that the whole game should have been about her instead of dull Zoe and dull Kian doing mostly dull things.

Would I recommend it? Maybe if you’ve played the series and wait for the final edition to come out. But my gut says that this Kickstarter-backed game was made on a shoestring budget and under the gun, and it shows at times. I was really let down here and all it made me want to do was play the first game again and forget this happened.

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One thought on “Dreamfall Chapters review

  1. Brazen Bondar June 7, 2017 / 12:01 pm

    Interesting take. I didn’t play either of the first two games and I didn’t feel disadvantaged by that. The story was understandable even without the past history. In fact, it might have helped me that I didn’t know the earlier stories. I didn’t have any preset expectations, which left me free just to play and enjoy the story that it was. I really loved Kian’s story and didn’t find him dull at all. Zoe’s was OK, but again I wasn’t wed to her from the stories before. At times, I just wanted to strangle her. The end of her story did seem a little contrived, perhaps because it seemed that the introduction of the mother and her “project” seemed rushed and not fully integrated. I have recommended the game to others who did not play the first two. And I would enjoy seeing more of Kian’s adventures 🙂

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