Dreamfall Chapters – Review

Dreamfall chapters is the sequel to ‘Dreamfall’ and the third game in the Longest Journey saga. Continuing the story of Zoe, the popular adventure game returns in this episodic release, The Xbox One version covers all 5 chapters (books) and continues pretty close to where Dreamfall finished.

Fans of the franchise will immediately feel at home, mixed somewhere between adventure, puzzle and interactive story the game begins with Zoe in a coma, as a dreamer. These early sections don’t do much to explain the controls, but thankfully they’re pretty easy to get to grips with, you do however get a good overview of the story and before long you feel up to speed and players who didn’t get their hands on the prequel Dreamfall won’t feel like they’re missing too much as chapters does a good job of containing itself without making you wish you’d played the original for days on end.

Your first quest is exploring dreams, visiting dreams and nightmares, the first major interaction is the nightmare of a young girl, sat on her bed crying as tentacles emerge from a nearby wardrobe, it’s a pretty bizarre setting that set’s the tone for some of the weirder things, but this does a good job of explaining about the dream machines that everyone seems to be using, and also using exploration and item management to solve puzzles as well as conversation helping to shape your characters personality and attitude.

Soon enough you jump to the second character, again returning from Dreamfall, Kian is in a cell with his execution looming, this second section (part two of the first book) cover’s Kian’s rescue and escape and further explains about the two worlds, which soon turn to quite a stark contrast between Zoe’s science bound neo-tokyo setting and Kian’s magical fantasy realm.

Initially it seems quite a strange link between the two worlds, and for the first hour or so you’re going to feel like you’re playing two completely separate games, joined together by the play style and puzzle system, but thankfully as hard as the story line might be to grasp,  the puzzles and conversations are more than enough to keep you intrigued past the first book.

Moving onto book 2 and the story starts to unfold, you’ll be introduced to the whole new area of the corporation ruled neo-tokyo setting,  and while your first task is to grab some food for your fella, you’re free to explore the area and start to get familiar with your surroundings, soon enough you’ll find the helpful map systems which will point you in the right direction and there’s also the in-game map on the back-button in case you get lost, but the self-narration from Zoe does a great job of keeping the player informed.

There’s a wealth of characters that you’ll meet, and most a very well made, with distinguishable personalities, you’ll already have made a few big decisions by the time you reach the end of book two, and the storytelling, characters and the world(s) around you do a great job of making these tough decisions a little more thought provoking.

Graphically Dreamfall Chapters was mostly very positive, many adventure games shy away from quality graphics, and I’ve never been a fan of flashing objects to catch your eye, instead Dreamfall Chapters uses an icon system where an on-screen icon highlights people and items you can interact with, there’s a wealth of information and detail which makes exploration more enjoyable, and while not groundbreaking, it’s certainly not a bad performance, there are however a handful of complaints, some details, specifically the wardens nose, just seem unrealistic and out of sorts (literally) many of these small details are easily overlooked, but sometimes you’ll have two characters, and there’s such a drastic difference in animation and quality between the main characters, and the bit-part NPC’s, that you’ll wonder if they’re even from the same game. Then there’s some poor collision detection both with handled items and surroundings, but mostly the graphical performance is above par for what is essentially an indie title.

It’s a pretty small complaint, when both the futuristic and fantasy worlds are otherwise very well made, but the eagle eyed among you will no doubt notice a few cut corners, there’s also a few awkward camera moments, and not everyone will be a fan of the icon selection meaning you screen needs to be centralised on what you want to do, but I still feel the positives outweigh the negatives.

Sound produces an even better performance and while it doesn’t really raise the bar, it does hit the mark with some great voice acting, good atmospheric background music that’s discreet but present, and world ambience that helps to make your surroundings feel more real and welcoming especially when exploring and listening in on the conversations of those around you. It’s hardly GTA style free-roaming depth of conversation, but it does mean that the added interaction lets you absorb your surroundings and environment a little easier,

I found this more with Zoe and the futuristic setting, but that was more personal preference for the character and world rather than any downfall in presentation of detail.

As you progress through the game, you’re enjoyment is ultimately decided by the way you play, rush through performing the specifics and pushing through the story will leave you with little to do after an evening or two, but take your time exploring the world, meeting the various characters and getting all available intelligence before making decisions and you’re going to find Dreamfall Chapters lasts you much longer, while it’s a slow start, if you allow yourself to get engrossed in the world and story, then it’s a thoroughly enjoyable game that seems to improve with each chapter.

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