Dreamfall Chapters: Review

I probably should have played the games that preceded Dreamfall Chapters (The Longest Journey games) because then I might have know what was going on. The game was recommended by a friend of a friend, for its storytelling and writing. While the game’s writing is good, the fact that I hadn’t played the preceding games meant that I did not have a strong emotional connection, or understanding, of the characters. Dreamfall Chapters is said to not require playing The Longest Journey, but I am not so sure about that.

In typical Telltale fashion, the game is an adventure game where you do certain tasks and are presented with choices. It was also released in chapters, although I did not play it until all of the chapters had already been released. In the game, you take control over 2 main characters – Zoe and Kian. Zoe lives in a cyberpunk-ish near future Europolis, the center of some giant European state. Europolis is supposed to be Prague in the future, although there are only a few vague nods towards that. She is a dreamer, able to inhabit a special place between worlds, and the game starts with her in this dream world. In Europolis, she is in a coma and by playing though the beginning dream world, she wakes up with faint memories of what has happened before.

Kian, on the other hand, inhabits a land of magic and fantasy. A former super soldier for an anti-magic creature fascist nation, he is sprung from prison before his execution to join the cause of the resistance. He has already come to terms with the atrocities he may have been a part of, and now he has a chance to stick it to his nation.

As you play through each character’s story, with the point of view switching about halfway of each chapter, you start to notice similarities between them. It is almost as if someone is able to bridge both worlds and is influencing them both.

Hmm…sounds like the world needs saving!

I really liked the environments, which looked and felt great despite the constant indie budget feel. The voice acting is good, the non-English words throw into conversation in a culturally mixed Europolis was done with the kind of care that does not exist in bigger budget games. The first parts of the story were compelling and interesting, and I particularly liked how sometimes mundane choices you made would come back in unexpected but reasonable ways. I had no idea that giving my boyfriend “exotic” sausages made of real meat would come into play much later when talking to an otherworldly being. In contrast with Telltale’s The Walking Dead, the choices here didn’t feel that the writers didn’t trust me to understand what choice I was making. There were no choices where I had to choose who lives and who dies – directly anyway. Instead, the choices unfolded in consequences that were surprising.

The characters in the game are, for the most part, really memorable. Zoe and Kian’s voiced inner monologue when examining the environments are sometimes nice and humorous.

The first few chapters are great – well paced, interesting, and slowly raising the stakes as these two worlds collide. It is the latter half of the game where the magic started to fall apart. Everything feels rushed. The focus of the story shifts from the politics in the two worlds to dreams and metaphysics. In Stark, for example, the politics are wrapped up and discarded because Wati Corp has been funding all political parties for their ends. What happens then is that the story continues, but it is replaced by a rather traditional story with predictable “haha I am the real bad guy!” twists. 

And then there are the confusing story breaks. Maybe I missed these, or I would find the answers in the previous games or in another playthrough, but there were some confusing things that were left completely unanswered. What happened to Nela to make her run at a security point with a bomb? What happened to the Vagabond, or to Hanna Roth? Why am I breaking up with Ezra if I brought him lunch? Whats up with the dragons? The scenes with Saga were great, but I don’t understand who, or what, she is. Why does The Mole say she is the last of the kind, and then she leaves to find others? 

Despite these issues, the game was pretty enjoyable, particularly the first few chapters. I wish the games had focused more on the local stories and the characters, rather than expanding it to a metaphysical and philosophical scale. The environments and characters were endearing and interesting, and the way choices are handled is much better than in the Telltale games I have played. 

But maybe play the previous games first. 

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