It’s always interesting to see a passion project come to life. The road to life is often arduous, and in many cases they often don’t reach the end of the rainbow. Dreamfall has had a little spoken, but fiercely loyal fan base since its conclusion eight years ago. In the time since, it was all but agreed that players would have to live with a cliffhanger as the series’ finale. Thankfully, Red Thread Games and Blink Studios had something else in mind with Dreamfall Chapters: Book One: Reborn.
In all honesty, I had never played the original Dreamfall, despite reading high praise as one of the best adventure point-and-click games ever produced. As a fan of King’s Quest, Space Quest, Full Throttle and others, it would seem this was right up my alley. Despite my interest, it was nonetheless difficult to catch up to where Book One begins in terms of character and plot.
The Longest Journey was lauded as a complex narrative reinforced by superbly written characters that struggle with a push-and-pull destiny that refuses to let them stay together or apart. Split into two universes — a futuristic cyberpunk world called Stark and the fantasy world of Arcadia — Book 1 wants to provide both immediate closure on its past journey and enough intrigue to jump-start a new one. It couples a believable, superbly written lead character with complex decisions in a promising start to the next entry of The Longest Journey.
Anyone going in without knowledge of the previous games might be slightly confused (just as I was), even though there is an attempt to ease into the story. The scale of what is happening, particularly in the opening scenes, is vast, and it’s only when the story settles into Zoe’s new life in Europolis that we get closer and get a read on the purely personal rather than the preternatural level.
Dreamfall Chapters makes these details interesting by portraying them as grounded snapshots that reflect Zoe’s character. For each option I hovered over, Zoe would discuss the response internally. It’s an elegant solution to adding weight to every choice and removing the black-and-white nature of decision-based narratives. I could make choices that felt informed, and it was an effective way to shift Zoe while still making her well-defined and believable.
Book One also meshes the style of old point-and-click games with newer mechanics reminiscent of TellTale’s Walking Dead series and even some of Bioware’s Mass Effect. Given the years between Book One and the original Dreamfall, it was a wise move for Red Thread and Blink Studios to evolve an antiquated game genre in ways that breathe new life without completely changing the dynamic entirely, particularly when much of the game’s entertainment comes from the amount of humor brimming behind many dialogue choices.
Given that there’s a prologue of sorts set in the realm of Dreamtime, I was somewhat relieved when I found myself reading journal entries about holidays in the sun and everyday worries. Between the prologue and Europolis, the jail break takes place, introducing swords, sorcery and the fantasy land of Arcadia, although there’s not a great deal of it to see at this point in the story.
Little in the way of action takes place in Dreamfall Chapters: Book One as the game prefers to establish a new foundation for future chapters than rather dazzle the player right out of the gate. This isn’t to say Book One doesn’t make for a fun, witty, intriguing introduction into a new world that still breathes the air of the old. There’s no doubt that future chapters will change things up and bring back the higher level of swords, magic and traditional action most gamers are looking for. But for now I’m far more invested in seeing Zoe and the others develop in their new roles before everything inevitably gets turned on their heads.