Storytelling games, as a whole, offer a lot in the way of exposition. It allows players to grow into more detailed and dynamic worlds, as well as become engulfed in them as a result. Dreamfall Chapters is no exception to exposition, offering narrative building blocks and well-presented information to describe its two merging tales seamlessly. However, while the story may be seamless, the game itself is not.
Dreamfall Chapters is, to be quite blunt, on the better side of story-based video games. I found myself very much engaged from start to finish, wondering what was going to occur next. Although there were a couple of nitpicky things here and there, the game does an excellent job of wrapping things up in a neat, tidy bow. On top of the plot being well done, the characters are also quite intriguing. The two main protagonists are interesting in the sense that they come across as very human. The dialogue, the actions, the decisions, it all works well without having to sacrifice any characteristics or personality. For example, a decision may pop up for you to kill a certain individual, when selecting the option, the character themselves are still very much involved with the choice overall. They’ll think about why they would potentially make one of the decisions with a brief thought piece. This adds a nice level of understanding between the player and character, allowing the player to know what ramifications a certain option might have, while also giving the protagonist a chance to flesh out more of their personality.
Of the two characters that you’ll be playing (the first one being Zoë Castillo, the second Kian Alvane) I have to say I enjoyed Kian more out of the two. Zoë was incredibly detailed story wise, but it felt like she was there solely to move the story along. She does have a purpose throughout the game and has featured gameplay sections as well, but just not to the extent of Kian. Instead, she ends up being a more ‘finale’ based character. Frankly, Kian just felt more involved gameplay wise, whereas Zoë leaned further towards a narrative based individual. Which makes sense in theory, meaning there’ll be two different characters covering the spectrum of story and gameplay. In practice, however, it means subtracting personality from at least one of the protagonists.
The gameplay, in this case, is very puzzle focused. I’ll say right off the bat, some of the puzzles in this game are ridiculous. Solvable, but ridiculous. Solving them does encourage exploration, however, so it’s more of a coin flip in terms of where one's particular tastes lie. Do you enjoy a difficult challenge set within a given area? Or do you enjoy exploring larger areas for the solution? I personally like the exploration aspect in Dreamfall Chapters, especially considering that the environments are expansive enough so that there’s a lot to check out. I understand where it can get frustrating, though, when one is just trying to finish within a certain timeframe. Solving puzzles isn’t all you’ll be doing, though. There are brief stealth levels during the nighttime segments that break up things a bit. I say a bit, ‘cause when you're done, it’s straight back to more puzzles. Not that it’s a negative, but a few different mission types would’ve been welcome.
Actually, with stealth missions in mind, I did encounter a bit of a bug during my playthrough. During a section where I was to infiltrate a camp filled with enemy soldiers, I had gotten to a point where I was in a tower with a locked door. A guard had come out from another door, but he didn’t register that I was there. Since the alert didn’t sound, I was able to sneak past him and, eventually, through the castle wall itself. I found myself outside the game world, where I ran around and into the area behind the locked door. Now, game breaking glitches are all well and good, but the game isn’t going to get points for it.
What Dreamfall Chapters will get points for is the environments; this game has some really beautiful settings . Although overshadowed a bit during the nighttime levels due to the dark, the daytime segments really bring colour and life into the world. Storytime (one of the locations in-game) especially takes the cake for this. The excellent use of style and design really did wonders in making it seem like a thriving area. The other areas were still solid, but Storytime just reached a new level. The sound, however, was hit-and-miss. It was overall well-paced, but didn’t really try to make an impact until near the end of the game. That being said, it did succeed in bringing emotion across, but there was a squandered opportunity there. Perhaps a more big budget soundtrack, or more sounds that bring in the ambiance of the levels would've had more of an affect.
I can’t give Dreamfall Chapters too much fault, overall. It succeeds where it sets out and comes up short where it doesn’t. The feeling, the story, the characters, they all have significant purpose together. They’re smaller pieces that make up a larger, well told story. A story that fans of the series will really appreciate. Despite some hiccups with puzzles and a few design errors, I can definitely recommend Dreamfall Chapters.
Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Although Dreamfall Chapters fills in the checklist for an adventure story game, it still leaves some room for improvement. The game is good overall, but just don't expect it to be a dream come true.