By Adam Smith on July 1st, 2014 at 6:00 pm.
Dreamfall Chapters always sounded like an episodic game thanks to the second word in the title right there. ‘Chapters’ are separated from one another in a way that seems more distinct than pages or paragraphs. The use of ‘Chapters’ was, as I understand it, in keeping with an idea of progression and storytelling rather than separation though. Whatever the semantics might be, Dreamfall Chapters will now be released episodically – split into Books – and the trailer for Book One has just arrived. I recognise these places because I’m the sort of person who wanders around in virtual worlds before they’re released.
Here’s my tuppence on the episodic release – it seems sensible given that the reasoning is to ensure that content isn’t cut and that the level of polish is high throughout. There were only a few aspects in the opening hours that I played that didn’t seem complete and some areas that looked impressive were still due for another round of work.
The biggest potential drawback lies in the pacing. I like to consume media at my own pace, whether that means waiting for a TV show box set and binging, or stopping a film mid-way through so I can have a nap. Sometimes I read a book in one night, sometimes one lives with me, unfinished, for months. If I want to play Dreamfall as soon as possible (and I do), there are going to be breaks at various points and those breaks could naturally become cliffhangers or otherwise climactic. Nothing wrong with that unless the switch to episodic breaks shapes the narrative toward unnecessary ends.
That said, the section I’ve played does end with high drama brewing. Contemplative and thoughtful it may be, but Dreamfall has high stakes and tensions aplenty. I guess what I’m really hoping is that the episodic format is used to bring out that tension without chopping up the narrative too sharply. It’s a choice that was made out of necessity but that doesn’t mean it has to be purely a logistical edit.