Dreamfall chapters is an episodic 3D adventure game, created by Red Thread Games, and published by Deep Silver. This version includes all 5 episodes and acts as a sequel to the critically acclaimed games The Longest Journey and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. The game was originally released episodically on PC between 21 October 2014 and 17 June 2016 and is finally being given a console version, which will be released on the 5th of May 2017.
The story is the central focus in Dreamfall chapters, taking place after the events of the first game, and continuing forth. It also acts as a relatively good starting point for new players to the series, giving them a relatively fresh base to begin their adventure. The game goes some way to explaining previous events, however, I wouldn't recommend going into the game completely blind. The player takes control of multiple characters over the episodes, but the main bulk of the game takes place through the perspective of Zoë Castillo, the main protagonist who also previously appeared in the last game of the series, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.
The game takes place across 2 parallel worlds, the future cyberpunk version of earth named Stark (shown mostly inside the city of Europolis), and the fantasy world filled with magic and unusual creatures named Arcadia. Without going into too many details, the protagonist Zoë starts the game in a coma, after trying to reveal a conspiracy surrounding the ‘dream machines’ which are heavily featured in ‘Chapters’ also. They are marketed as entertainment systems but are in fact designed to enslave the populous and steal their memories. Zoë must begin her quest to remember the past events and choose the route she wants to go down. I don’t want to go too far into story detail for fear of giving anything away, as each story beat really should be experienced personally, to help determine your choices within the game. One thing I will say though is, the lore and backstory are extensive, and incredibly well fleshed out. I found myself getting engrossed further and further into the internal politics and goings on of these worlds, and I always love when a game can get me so obsessed with its lore.
Some real world issues are also tackled in the story, from race to sexuality, and are executed in a mostly tasteful manner. I always appreciate real world issues being transcended into video games I play, but it can sometimes feel tacked on or forced, and in this case, it doesn't.
Dreamfall is at its core a puzzle game with large explorable areas and hugely consequential choices throughout. The puzzles were very well integrated into the game, with each feeling fluid and acting as a great way to push the story forward. More often than not the puzzles flowed in such a way that it didn’t always feel like I was solving one, and worked very cohesively. Only a few had me stumped for an overly long amount of time, and although some feature heavy amounts of back-tracking, it never became overly excessive. A few of the missions had me laughing out loud, or smiling with glee, while others left me in a state of panic as my choices hadn't worked out the way I had planned, but the puzzles always work to complement these feelings, and never stick out.
However, some of the early puzzles and objectives were made significantly harder by the lack of direction or instruction. The very first section of the game had no guidance as to how the core mechanics worked. Previous fans of the series would probably be alright here, but for newcomers to the series, this could be a bit jarring. I found myself mashing every button on the controller to try and figure out the mechanics and controls. A little hand-holding at the start would have been all the game needed, or at least a line of dialogue explaining how the inventory system works.
Another hindrance was the map, or lack thereof at times. The Arcadian map was fine, as it included markers and location names, however, the city of Europolis’s map had so such markings. It caused me a lot of confusing and at times frustrating moments before I got my bearings. After learning the layout, objectives became much more satisfying and enjoyable and the initial hurdles I encountered were no longer much of an issue.
One thing I didn’t expect was just how in depth the decisions were, and their consequences. Substantial parts of the game were affected by my choices, and even seemingly throwaway lines of dialogue often came back to affect the game in ways I would never have anticipated. Choices and conversation options are presented in the form of floating text, to which the playable character will offer some insight when hovered over. This was a really good way of anticipating the decision ahead of choosing it, as the extra information often helped my judgement. The ability to see what other players decided to do in the larger decisions was also a very nice addition.
Some decisions rely a little on previous knowledge (and sometimes substantially) of the game series, so for any newcomers, I would recommend reading all the unlockable character bio’s and perhaps watch the recently released ‘story recap’ video. Having these decisions actually change things in the game made me really consider every choice I made, and it was nice to see real change in amongst a genre littered with ‘false choices’.
The only other issues I encountered with the gameplay were a few frame rate drops and a couple of fiddly camera situations. Neither were ever drastic or prolonged enough to have a noticeable negative effect on my enjoyment.
Graphics and Audio
Graphically the game is stunning, a high visual quality is maintained across all 5 episodes, with a few visual imperfections in the animations of NPCs and some emotionless faces being the few exceptions. Dreamfall has an almost cartoonish style which helps accentuate the colourful detailing of the worlds and characters and reminded me almost of Kingdoms of Amalur. The game was a little dark, which in itself is fine, but I was a little surprised at a lack of a brightness option, as it is standard in most games. Again it did not bother me, but the option to have the game be a hint lighter would have been nice.
The landscapes are stunning and felt truly lived in. The in-game map (particularly the Europolis one which isn't labelLed) didn't always make it clear where to go, but at least there were always beautiful environments to explore. Both of the main environments contrast beautifully with each other. The cyberpunk streets of Europolis features dark blues, neon signs, and technology and hologram filled streets. This creates a cold futuristic locale, which is the polar opposite to the fantasy land of Arcadia which is designed in warm browns yellows and purples. This worked well in creating a visual divide between worlds and made for 2 highly unique environments to explore.
Character design was another huge positive in my eyes, each character the player encounters is completely unique and memorable. Each with their own charming aesthetics and characteristics. There are of course some repeated background NPC’s, but I don't know a single game to not include these. Even the visual marvel that was The Witcher 3 included repeated background characters. Faces of the characters don’t always emote very well, but the dialogue is written and delivered strongly enough that it wasn’t too noticeable. Each is highly detailed, with fantastically designed outfits, face, and hair and very unique looking races.
I was highly impressed with all elements of the audio in Dreamfall Chapters. The music choices were highly appropriate and well chosen to execute particularly emotional, happy or dramatic scenes. The sound effects across the board were also very well done and added immensely to the atmosphere and immersion; the whirring of the technological city and the ambient noise of the fantasy world really brought them to life.
What I was the most pleased with though was the dialogue. It was all written superbly, and as silly as it sounds, it felt very real and convincing. Characters (especially main character Zoë) speak in a manner in which real people speak, with reactions that often mirrored exactly how I would respond to given situations. The exception to this is, of course, the dialogue associated with the fantasy based characters, but even then it also felt highly appropriate to their environment and surroundings. I felt as though each voice actor involved with the game did a fantastic job, with perhaps the exclusion of the voice for ‘Reza’ however I am unsure if this slightly monotone delivery was deliberate or not. Particular highlights were the always awesome Dave Fennoy who many will know from Telltale’s Walking Dead game series; and the two mains Charlotte Ritchie and Nicholas Boulton, who were also fantastic throughout.
Newcomers to the series may want to do a little research first, but it would be completely worth the effort, as Dreamfall Chapters is a fantastic addition to a truly unique game series. Never before have I played a game quite like Dreamfall, and I think it will be a while until I do again. The complex mix of great puzzles and truly in-depth decision making, along with a selection of beautiful environments to explore thoroughly makes for an incredibly fun and charming experience. The story had me gripped all the way through, and the puzzles left me guessing for just the right amount of time. The game’s pace remained mostly consistent, and although on the PS4 I encountered a couple of minor issues in regard to frame rate and camera, it was never enough to interfere with the overall experience. I would highly recommend Dreamfall Chapters, in particular to fans of the series, but also to newcomers.
|+ Highly unique premise||– Lack of guidance|
|+ Beautiful, fleshed out worlds and environments||– Some technical issues|
|+ Character design|
|+ Writing and Story|
|+ Good value|