Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dreamfall: The Longest Rollercoaster

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Adventure, PC
Funcom, 2006

A little background detailing my experience with this franchise is in order. I bought The Longest Journey a few years or so after it released. Dabbling in some of the shining gems of Lucasarts' golden years put me on an adventure game high. And suddenly, out comes this critically acclaimed adventure game completely bombing at retail. So perhaps the purchase was motivated by sympathy. Regardless, I brought the game home and used its half a dozen CD's to place its, then rather unwieldy, 1GB girth onto my, then considered small, 20GB hard drive.

I ended up falling in love with the storyline. Now don't get me wrong, the game had its flaws. For one, it had atrocious graphics. It also happened to follow the adventure game nomenclature of oftentimes ridiculous puzzle solutions. Not as bad as the worst in the genre, but enough to give me reason to stop playing the game for short periods. Despite how hard it was on my eyes and mind, I soldiered on and the game found it way into a special soft spot in my heart.

Playing Dreamfall has really convinced me game reviews need to move away from scores. I know that'll probably never happen, considering how much people like immediate satisfaction. People like those numerical symbols that categorize games as either perfect or trash. It really is easier to glance at a score than to read paragraph after paragraph of this... text-stuff.

Despite scoring a "dismal" 75 on Metacritic, I managed to enjoy Dreamfall. Shocking, I know. How can someone enjoy a FLAWED game? As a certain Escapist employed, Australian, comedy internet videogame reviewer put it, "I don't believe in complex opinion being represented numerically."

If I could quantify enjoyment(something I honestly am not going to do here) I'd probably rate this game more than a 75. Maybe an 90 or so(OK, I just did it, sorry). But wait a 90 doesn't reflect the game's flaws at all. I could say that it gets a 60 animation wise. It gets a 40 for its premature action and stealth sequences. But if you want to talk production values, the art direction probably gets an 90 - and so on and so on until we've compiled a big list of numbers. We can then average those numbers into one arbitrary, bigger number everyone can glance at while they ignore everything I'm typing here.

I'm sure I can overlook the fact that they forgot to hire a professional 3D animator if the gameplay is fun. I mean, that's what games are all about. Except the game plays like it's trying to single handedly appeal to both modern gamers with preferences for action games, and console gamers that need simplified controls. Feats that would easily revolutionize the adventure game genre. Unfortunately our friends over at Funcom just don't seem to have the talent.

I've spent a good part of this post bashing the game so let's not forget that I like Dreamfall. At this point I give my friends permission to bash me endlessly for my hypocrisy. I've don't like those JRPG, "SQUEE-NIX" things they worship so much. Stop playing your interactive movie/novels with tacked on turn based combat and convoluted storylines about spikey-haired emo kids saving the world!

I think it's all a misuse of the medium. JRPG's seem to maintain a minimal amount of interaction between the player and the narrative being spewed forth by endless, controller dropping, "let's go make a sandwhich" cinematics.

Yet here we are. You've all caught me red handed playing a game just for the storyline. I admit it. I'm closing my eyes and covering my ears and screaming "lalala" through every stunted action and stealth sequence so I can watch emo girls whine about having no purpose in life. Then save the world.

The storyline really isn't that bad. It's like Sci-Fi and fantasy at the same time. It'll gel with anyone who's ever done some soul searching. The characters are lovable. I just really hope Funcom isn't so occupied with Age of Conan that they forget Dreamfall: Chapters.

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