Wot I Think: Dreamfall Chapters – Book One

When you spend so long hoping for the continuation and conclusion of a story that was part of your earlier life, it’s a bittersweet relief to hear that the waiting is finally over. Parting is such sweet sorrow and all that, but it’s beneficial to have some closure. The Longest Journey began a decade and a half ago and Dreamfall Chapters marks the end of that journey.

But not yet. Not quite. Here’s wot I think.

The Chapters are now divided into Books and yesterday saw the release of the first. It’s around five hours long and I’ve written about most of the content already, although there have been some additions and tweaks since the preview build I played. Europolis, the neon hub of marketing and militant police that you’ll spend the majority of this first episode exploring, is more heavily populated and some scenes have been altered to improve the flow of the story, or to provide pointers where objectives weren’t entirely clear.

Minor additions aside, I didn’t play anything in Book One that I hadn’t already seen. The game is attractive – although I sense the bite of the budget or the edges of the engine in the depiction of certain events, particularly a jailbreak in which rioting is kept conspicuously off-screen – and the script is strong.

Anyone going in cold, without knowledge of the previous games, might be slightly baffled, even though there is an attempt to ease into the story. The scale of what is happening, particularly in the opening scenes, is vast – world-ending, myth-shattering, fate-fiddling stuff – and it’s only when the story settles into Zoe’s new life in Europolis that we zoom in and get a read on the purely personal rather than the preternatural level.

Something strange happens when the pace slows. Zoe is in a new place, attempting to kindle the sparks of an old relationship, and without any fanfare Dreamfall Chapters becomes a story about beginnings rather than endings. From lingering at the fringes of bodily existence, she becomes vital again, with no memory of her grander purpose. The workings of fate and the overlap between Dreamfall’s several worlds fade into the background – Zoe’s tasks for the day involve buying lunch from a food stall, visiting her boyfriend and checking in at work, where she will test out the abilities of a confused machine not-so-affectionately known as Shitbot.

Given that there’s a prologue of sorts set in the realm of Dreamtime, where Zoe is a saviour of sorts to those poor souls who have become lost while interfacing with a Dream Machine, 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, given the jail element of the scene.

I’ve always enjoyed the series most when it has managed to walk the line between magic and mundanity, muddying them together like paints on a palette. There’s a (presumably) conscious echo of The Longest Journey’s opening in the beginning of Chapters, with the gesture toward the power of dreams and fate overshadowed by the ordinary trials of life, love and labour. And it works – Zoe is believable in her barely concealed exasperation at the state of her existence. Life, love and labour may not be terrible, but there’s something sad and resigned in her attempts at enthusiasm.

‘Is this all?’, she seems to ask and while we know that it isn’t, we also know that she might soon wish that it were. For the duration of Book One, however, Zoe engages with problems close to home. Given the fairly brief running time of the episode, Red Thread do well to construct and communicate the politics of their dystopia. There’s an election coming and Zoe feels motivated to pick a side, even helping with campaign work, and party politics might well meet with corporate politics to drag her back into the cyber-conspiracies that are tied up with the dangers of the Dream Machines.

What’s strange about this – and it’s four paragraphs back now that I said ‘something strange happens’ – is the sense of beginnings rather than endings. I can only speculate as to what the overall thematic threads of the story will be as it comes toward its climax, but Tornquist and his team seem to be building new worlds rather than putting old ones to bed. Given Zoe’s state at the beginning of the game, I think this might well be a story that is, at least in part, about the difficulty of letting go of stories.

Dreamfall makes me sentimental, brings back memories, and the new chapter is at its best when the characters’ problems are familiar. There’s plenty of that here but it’s a small taste and anyone hoping for any immediate conclusions to the ongoing saga might be slightly frustrated. The wheel is turning again but there are new places to explore before old scores can be settled.

As a story, Book One is a good opening chapter. I was surprised (again) by how witty the script is and had to go back to The Longest Journey to remind myself that, yes, that has always been the case. I enjoyed Shitbot in particular, caught up in the pathos of ineptitude and – yes – thwarted destiny. A machine built to perform but dumped with handlers unsure of its purpose, Shitbot is a metaphor for the whole series – you heard it here first (and possibly last).

My one complaint about the script is to do with its density and direction rather than the quality of the writing itself. The 3d spaces are well-designed, although Europolis does begin to feel like corridors and rooms while darting back and forth to find points on the map, but character models don’t match the quality of the writing. The characters in The Longest Journey were abtract enough in their presentation to allow imagination to add expression, but there are gaps between script, vocal performance and ‘physical’ entity that occasionally yawn wide.

Most of that is forgotten whenever the music takes control and composer Simon Poole deserves a great deal of credit for the themes that run beneath, over and through the dialogue. Often unashamedly plucking at heart strings, Dreamfall doesn’t shy from big emotional moments and it has a score to back them up. When there are mystical witterings and grave prophesies to be heard, I’m often the first to scoff, but I find it hard to do that when there’s a little tear creeping out of my eye.

As for the density of the episode, I think there’s a distinct possibility that it’s doing too much. There’s foreboding and prefiguring, there’s relationship drama (although it’s admirably and credibly undramatic), there are the seeds of a political thriller, and there is humour. There’s also the not insignificant matter of multiple worlds and the relationships between those worlds – how do they influence their neighbours, and are they neighbours at all or nested dreams and constructs. The game plays with these ideas, while also pointing to the connection that writers have with their own worlds and the words that make them.

That’s a lot of ground to cover in a short period of time. As the game unfolds, all of these things may intertwine, focused on characters and their decisions, but there are tonal shifts in this compact first episode that could cause whiplash. One scene has already sparked heated discussion, and I’m not convinced that it works myself. I think the intent, as Tornquist describes in a forum thread (slight spoilers) and did in conversation when I spoke to him about it, is solid and even admirable. I think the execution sells that intent short and that’s occasionally true of the game as a whole, which doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with what adventure game baggage remains.

The fault isn’t with the script, it’s in that density of ideas, and sometimes uneven performance and direction. Perhaps the episodic nature is to blame as well, to a degree. We have to wait if we’re to see how Mira and Wit develop, and can only judge on what we’ve seen. At the moment, there’s an uncomfortable slice of life that will be lacking context for a while longer.

I see my fidgeting during that scene, and my smiles and sadness during others, as evidence that the game has the ability to get under my skin and into my memories, just as its predecessors did. Whether I’ll still believe that to be the case when Dreamfall Chapters reaches its conclusions (I’m sure there will be several endings, literal and otherwise) is impossible to say, but there are characters and situations here that I want to know more about. There are worlds I want to revisit.

Chapters is positioned somewhere between a more traditional adventure game and the consequence dramas that Telltale have become known for. There are few inventory puzzles and important decisions are marked as such in a way that seems to mimic Telltale a little too closely (THIS CHARACTER WILL REMEMBER THAT), but I’m already fretting about a couple of decisions and how they’re likely to break my resolve further down the line. I particularly enjoy the vague hints as to how and when resolution will arrive.

Most importantly, the story still has intricacies and a powerful emotional core, and after a decade and a half, I’m still happy to wait for an ending, even if this one was a little abrupt. Whatever levity and controversy occurs between now and then, I don’t expect a dry eye in the house when that ending comes because I’m becoming convinced that this is a story about letting go – of life and of creations – and the inevitable consequence of growing up and coming of age.

Dreamfall Chapters Book One is out now.

74 Comments

  1. Morlock says:

    So are you going to disclose that John Walker has been involved in this project? I am the last to shout “gamergate” into people’s (virtual) faces, but in this case there is a conflict of interest.

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      John Walker says:

      I have ended up not doing any work for the game. Obviously because of the connection I’ve had nothing to do with coverage of the game on the site.

      • Morlock says:

        Thanks for clarifying that.

      • Crimsoneer says:

        I hear you slept with Ragnar and he donates to Kieron’s Patreon.

      • Jae Armstrong says:

        Oh, so that’s why you’re not doing the review. A TLJ game without a Walker review, I thought I’d fallen into bizarro world.

      • Melody says:

        Why did you deny us the possibility of a #dreamgate?
        I’m so sad.
        A dreamgate would have been awesome.
        Typical Walker, always spoiling all the fun.
        #Rockpaperdreamgate

        (I’m joking of course, before someone mistakes me for somebody else ^_^)

      • amateurviking says:

        That’s a shame John, I was looking forward to seeing your input on the game.

        • Morlock says:

          I’d be happy to hear them, if not here than on his personal website.

          • somnolentsurfer says:

            Seconded. It was John’s writing on TLJ that first brought me to RPS, and I’d love to hear his thought, full disclosure or otherwise.

      • Bassem says:

        I for one would love to hear your opinions on Chapters. I love your TLJ pieces. Perhaps on a personal blog?

      • skalpadda says:

        At least let us know how many times you cried!

    • CannedLizard says:

      For Christ’s sake.

      It’s hobby journalism. Consumer report journalism.

      So before you get all in a tizzy about “conflicts of interest” and corruption, consider whether the situation even merits those words.

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        Adam Smith says:

        It’s totally fair to ask about a conflict of interest. I’d be perfectly happy critiquing something a colleague had worked in but I’d definitely want people to know that it was the case so they could judge for themselves.

        • padger says:

          But if John *didn’t* work on this game there’s literally nothing to declare?

          I am confused.

      • Morlock says:

        CannedLizard, I think that labeling RPS as “hobby journalism” does no one justice. These are opinions from industry professionals on a commercial website.

        • DragonOfTime says:

          I don’t think that’s what was meant with “hobby journalism”. I think that what was meant that this is journalism about a hobby, like say, a fishing magazine, not an implication that running RPS was merely a hobby.

        • CannedLizard says:

          What I meant is gaming is a hobby. Gaming journalism is journalism surrounding said hobby.

          What I’ve gotten tired of with Gamergate is the concern trolls who spin-off from it (perhaps some of them, as I am sure you are, are sincere, but I can’t help but look at it all as concern trolling) who say “Sure, rape/death/terrorist threats are BAD, but isn’t it time games journalism takes a close look at their ethics?” And sure, past cases have shown us that there are flaws in the current institutions (the Jeff Gerstmann case being a great example). But you know what? I don’t actually care if there’s conflicts of interest with small, indie developers.

          I love games journalists, and read gaming blogs like Rock Paper Shotgun for years. There are great writers here. But we’re not talking Edward R. fucking Murrow here. We’re talking Lester Bangs. And I don’t know about you, but I WANT my hobby journalists to be interacting and being friends and, as you put it, having conflicts of interest with smart, interesting video game developers. Hell, I want journalists to become developers and developers to become journalists.

          I just want them to write about the most interesting people they know, and if they work with them, are friends with them, and sleep with them, I trust them to not endorse a piece of shit if they don’t have to.

          • Dances to Podcasts says:

            What you call ‘hobby’ is already described by the word ‘criticism’. After all, music, art or literature would fall under your ‘hobbies’ as well. No need to drag new words into the discussion.

      • tormeh says:

        So you’re saying that games in general and the TLJ series in particular is not art, but just a hobby for consumers? Oh my. Excuse me while I get my pitchfork.

        • CannedLizard says:

          Perhaps hobby journalism wasn’t the best term, but it was the one that came to mind when the red haze descended and I entered internet comment berzerker mode.

          Video games are art, as I hope is beyond debate in this venue now. Appreciating art is a hobby. A high-brow hobby for sure, but “a hobby is a regular activity that is done for pleasure, typically during one’s leisure time” as Wikipedia puts it. Gaming is a hobby.

          • joa says:

            Why is video games being art beyond question? Is chess art? Are video games art because they include elements of other media that are art?

          • CannedLizard says:

            Joa: Well if video games are closer to board games and art, then my statement that video game journalism being hobby journalism is even less controversial. I don’t agree with your view, though.

          • joa says:

            Yes I don’t disagree with your statement. Just the video games are art bit which I find quite pretentious.

            Video games are engineered in order to make the most amount of money possible. That’s not art, that’s a product.

          • Dances to Podcasts says:

            Welcome to the wonderful world of applied art.

    • Laurentius says:

      Oh ffs, this would be as pointless conflict of interest as possible. Same with Big Robot’s SYABH. This is nothing. Would RPS promoting RPS be a conflict of interest and worth a disclosre ?

  2. brat-sampson says:

    Being the first chapter in five, I had no problems with the length of this, being easily for me double the length of the average Telltale episode. Given this is only 20% of the full thing it could easily become significantly longer than the original Dreamfall (which I recently replayed over about 10 hours) even if it’s still shorter than TLJ (which was seriously, seriously long for an adventure game…)

  3. Crimsoneer says:

    Is the optimisation terrible for anybody else? I’m finding slightly rubbish FPS, and I’ve no idea why. Also, I think they slightly over-used the Unity effects – crazy bloom, god rays and reflections everywhere.

    I LIKE the new Zoe though. Cool, confident, attractive and all around wonderful. Although the voice acting really struggles at the start – I had to pause when she said “fucking tosser” in the prologue.

    Also, this is such an SJW game, and I find it kind of wonderful. Openly discussing sex in a way that’s just normal, manic pixy dream girl references. I like.

    • dsch says:

      It’s socially and politically aware, though I wouldn’t call it a “SJW game.” It’s much too subtle and nuanced for that.

      • Melody says:

        It is a SJW game, in the sense that at its core it shares those values that SJW fight for, but I do agree with you that the term itself is an inappropriate description, especially since it’s mostly used as a pejorative.

        In that sentence, perhaps simply “sex positive” (which is only one of the values that SJW supposedly represents) would have fit better.

        • Crimsoneer says:

          I’ve decided to reclaim that term and be done with it. “Social justice warrior” shouldn’t be something that’s pejorative. I’ll happily claim that title, and I’m not going to let whiny bitches tell me it’s a bad thing. It’s a game that fights for social justice.

          • joa says:

            The pejorative part of SJW is the ‘warrior’ part — it’s the tendency for the left to be demand lockstep adherence to their ideology instead of being more nuanced.

          • dsch says:

            And there’s the attitude that gives “social justice” a bad name, the absolute certainty that what we are doing is a “good thing,” that corrosive positivity, and the us-against-them mentality.

          • jalf says:

            And there’s the attitude that gives “social justice” a bad name, the absolute certainty that what we are doing is a “good thing,” that corrosive positivity, and the us-against-them mentality.

            wat.

          • dsch says:

            Articulate.

          • gmillar says:

            Corrosive positivity… that’s a new one for me.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Heck yes.

      I’m one of the people who’s been quite vocal in the thread Adam linked, and it’s worth pointing out that in every other respect this game is absolutely brilliant.

      The man as background decoration who’s such a clear Anita Sarkeesian tribute.

      Forcing me, a striaght white man, to face up to heckles from total strangers in the street.

      The nuance of allowing Kian to be the ‘good guy’ while still being disturbingly racist.

      Etc.

      Etc.

      • Melody says:

        I don’t agree with a few of your points, but…
        Kian isn’t disturbingly racist. His culture and education are. Isn’t he being imprisoned precisely because he lost faith in that ideology?

    • DrMcCoy says:

      Yes, performance is horrible for me. The intro is really bad, and so is the Europolis area most of the time. It’s also eating RAM like crazy.

      Granted, I do have an old and underpowered system. Still, it’s bad for everyone else as well, if you can believe the Steam forums. And I really would have liked more detailed graphics configuration. Let me switch on/off specific effects, features, etc. instead of just a generic “Quality” setting.

      Also, graphical glitches in the Linux version:
      Black squares abound, seems like they should be some lighting effects. Very bad on this guy in the intro: link to steamcommunity.com

      Black cross that warps around when moving the camera in Reza’s office: link to steamcommunity.com . This looks to me like some vertex coordinates are broken and going off into the wilderness. Among the Sleep had a similar issue on release.

      Other bugs include non-Xbox gamepads not recognized (like my Logitech F510), wonky walkmeshes (I managed to fly once, and sink into the ground), wonky pathfinding (Shitbot loved running into a wall and getting stuck there) and sometimes weird overdone lens-flares.

  4. Eight Rooks says:

    Glad to hear it’s working out well so far. Haven’t bought it yet, and can’t afford to right now, but it’s definitely on my radar – I might go back to TLJ and Dreamfall in the meantime…

    Uh, that “controversy”, though. Uh. Obviously, again, I haven’t played the game, but that first post on that forum thread sounds dangerously close to “No decent human being creating something should ever write any character who says these bad words for any reason ever again!” which I… yeah. Really, really don’t like it when people talk like that. It is heartening to see the first few replies politely saying this is nonsense, kindly calm down.

    • Not Marvelous says:

      I don’t think it’s ever like that. No one is trying to “ban” the use of one word or another. It is typically not about rights, artistic or other ones, but rather about responsibility.

      Discriminatory language is seen as unjustified if it is a means to an end – in this case, showcasing a fictional character’s vileness. If the language does not seem to serve any other purpose, then the writers are seen as acting in bad faith, using the discriminatory language’s status to provide character, edge, or some other narrative purpose.

      Just to clarify, I haven’t played the game, so I can’t fully comment on this example, but this is how it usually works. No one is going to “call out” anyone just for using certain language, but someone will if they feel like the language was exploited for minor / cheap narrative gains.

      • Melody says:

        You can watch the video that is linked in that thread and see for yourself, there really isn’t any spoiler in it.

        To quote Ragnar, always from that thread, who decides what is a cheap narrative gain? Language in particular is vital to a character’s life and personality. If it wasn’t, we’d have random punks speaking in Queen’s English.

        I think the issue is very complex, and I do agree that in certain instances it’s just cheap “edginess”, but I can’t deny that sometimes it does feel like people want to be offended by slurs, no matter the context, even if it comes out of fictional characters. People even got offended that a fictional character in a Christine Love game killed herself, because that wasn’t the proper answer and it was supposedly instigation to suicide, even though that character said a lot of wrong stuff and held sexist and offensive views throughout the entire game on everything.

      • Eight Rooks says:

        I agree that people rarely, if ever, phrase their complaints in those terms, but I don’t agree that’s not what they’re asking for. I hope that makes sense. I do think that some people are all too happy to take common consent that such-and-such a word is hurtful or discriminatory or whatever as evidence that everyone should refrain from using it, period.

        That’s not a cool word to use. I don’t care if it goes with the tone of the character, because this is the first time we meet her and there’s no context to her relationship with Wit. Insulting someone based on their mental facilities is just gross.

        I struggle to interpret this any other way, basically. The N-word isn’t a cool thing to say (certainly not if you’re not black/you’re using it as a pejorative), and insulting someone based on the colour of their skin is just gross, sure. So what? “I don’t care if it goes with the tone of the character”? Really? You can’t accept any kind of contentious language without half an hour of careful foreshadowing? Do you honestly not see how disturbing that sounds? And does anyone seriously think it’s stretching too far to assume the poster in question would prefer no-one ever use the word, period? After a statement like that?

        It’s probably a good thing I’m not a writer in constant contact with the public because I’m pretty sure I couldn’t respond to these things this diplomatically. I applaud Ragnar for taking the time to do so, and there’s nothing wrong with saying “I’m sorry you found this upsetting”, but sometimes the fault is – at least in part – with the person who’s upset. “Fault” is the wrong word, obviously, but seriously – if you’ve suffered some kind of trauma that means you really find this kind of language deeply distressing, that’s terrible and I hope you find some measure of closure, but does that really mean every creative work needs to provide a trigger warning at the start for every last word that might cause somebody some grief? I’m not convinced it does.

      • somnolentsurfer says:

        This. Absolutely this.

        A lot of it just comes down to how much you trust the writer in question, I guess. I had a copy of Kerion’s Uber out in my living room one day when my German neighbour came round. She saw the imagery and was appalled that I’d be reading it. It was ‘racist’. Knowing nothing about the writer, and in her context, it’s a perfectly natural concern to have.

        This is similar. Becuase the Wit character isn’t that fleshed out yet, it’s difficult to read that scene alone as anything other than what you describe – using the language as means to describing another character’s personality. But because I trust Ragnar and his team, I’ll give them a pass this once. :-)

        • Melody says:

          To me that notion is extremely problematic. Either something is ok to write about or it’s not. Being ok only if you have a proven track record of being a nice person and therefore being given a pass is… problematic. If a random writer with no past experience wrote the same thing, it wouldn’t be ok?

          • somnolentsurfer says:

            It’s not the proven track record that makes it OK to write about. (And the idea of something being OK or not OK to write about is clearly nonsense.) It’s how you write about it. The issue here is that so far they haven’t written about it, they’ve just used it as a term of abuse to illustrate the personality of another character. The pass is because this is only part one of a five part series, and I trust them enough to reserve judgement on what otherwise looks like quite a problematic element.

            And yes, of course any writer will be judged by their work and back catalogue. It’d be absurd to suggest anything else were possible.

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            gritz says:

            “Either something is ok to write about or it’s not.”

            Fortunately the world is a little more nuanced than that.

    • Geebs says:

      People who identify with a diagnosis on the Internet getting upset on behalf of other people who identify with the diagnosis while paying no mind to people who actually have the diagnosis. Sounds like an average day on the Internet to me, Marla.

      I suppose one interesting thing that could come out of this is: can one really ever get away with writing authentic between-friends banter in games? It seems to be acceptable in writing, it’s a bit more touch-and-go in movies and it seems that unless you keep things pretty tame in video game dialogue, your characters quickly start to sound unpleasant rather than playful.

      Meh, it probably has to do more with the generally poor standard of writing in games than differences in media.

    • MykulJaxin says:

      I was also perplexed by their comment. Obviously, racism/ableism/being-a-nasty-human-ism is alive and well, but I feel like the internet has turned my generation into a group of entitled, overly-sensitive whiners. Is that okay to say? I think we’re finding beef where there really shouldn’t be any. When I played Telltale’s Walking Dead, it offended me greatly. I found the language extremely strong and the violence hard to watch. But it was also exactly what the game needed to gain a harshness and realism that made the game so meaningful. Is all of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction to be dismissed because the author was a racist? Are we to never drive Ford vehicles because Henry sponsored an anti-Semitic newspaper? Can someone help me know how to feel? How do we know when to stand and fight, and when to let stuff slide?

      EDIT: I changed “Have” to “Has” in an attempt to communicate more effectively.

  5. Melody says:

    I’m so happy about Ragnar’s response in that thread. I’m all for people being nicer to each other in real life, but sometimes it gets too far, into an uncomfortable territory in which everything has to be sanitized. The omnipresence of content warnings for things that are often very mild is another sign of that.

    I’m very happy he stood by his decisions, without being offensive to the person who raised the issue, and without underestimating the issue, but also without backing off of it and giving it up. It’s not that you shouldn’t listen to complaints and think carefully about them, but often people go to one or the other extreme
    (Hotline Miami 2’s rape scene, if it truly was part of their artistic vision for the game they should have kept it despite the backlash. If they removed it, it says to me that either a) they put it there without thinking, so they didn’t have a strong artistic vision in the first place; or b) they didn’t have the courage to stand by their ideas, so they sold their artistic vision in the name of pleasing the public)

    To sum it up: Ragnar please marry me.

    • jezcentral says:

      @Melody:

      If they removed it, it says to me that either a) they put it there without thinking, so they didn’t have a strong artistic vision in the first place; or b) they didn’t have the courage to stand by their ideas, so they sold their artistic vision in the name of pleasing the public)

      FALSE DICHOTOMY ALERT! Or c), they put it in there without thinking so they didn’t have a strong artistic vision ABOUT THAT BIT OF THE GAME. I don’t see how that invalidates the whole game.

      • Melody says:

        Sure, it’s acceptable to restrict my whole argument to “that bit of the game”, but a rape scene is not something that just slips in like a word used out of character that escaped editing. It’s a deliberate choice.

        And it doesn’t invalidate anything, the “message” will probably still be conveyed through other means, perhaps worse, perhaps even better than before, but it definitely makes me lose respect for the artist/writer and their creation.

    • joa says:

      Bit demanding isn’t it. Maybe some video game makers do have an artistic reason for including a scene, but would rather not endure the endless internet haranguing they would get as a result of keeping it in. Can’t blame them for that.

  6. theblackw0lf says:

    If you make a different choice during one part of the early game, you don’t meet Shitbot or work for Mira, instead you go down a different path.

    Very cool

  7. somnolentsurfer says:

    Just looked at this again, and realised I meant to say earlier:

    I never got the sense of ‘corridors’ from running around Europolis. It’s easily the most expansive, immersive, closest to an open world environment I’ve ever seen in an adventure game. Going from place to place you will almost always stumble upon a conversation or street musician worth stopping and listening to, and there are plenty of unused locations that may or may not become of greater relevance in future instalments about which Zoe has witty things to say. Just exploring the environment was pretty fun.

  8. jalf says:

    Been playing this for a couple of hours now, and honestly, this is really good. I’m really enjoying it.

    I never enjoyed playing either TLJ or Dreamfall. I loved both games to death, but it was the story and the characters I liked, not the game. The gameplay wasn’t amazing in and the UI was pretty terrible in both of them.

    Playing this feels great though. The UI is simple and intuitive and doesn’t get in my way, the writing is (so far) top notch, and I’m just having a blast, getting sucked into the story.

    There was never any doubt that I’d play this, because, well, duh, I want to follow the story to its conclusion, but I hadn’t expected it to be as good as it is.

    The voice acting is a bit wonky at times, but that’s really the biggest criticism I have so far.

  9. shadow9d9 says:

    Where was the review of the actual GAME part of it? Only one brief mention of the puzzles…

  10. JiminyJickers says:

    I’m tired of episodic games, I now will only play them once all the episodes are released. The down time between episodes makes me lose complete interest.

  11. Bodylotion says:

    Really looking forward playing this game with Dreamfall leaving me with like 10+ questions after I finished it. Possibly my favourite adventure series; The beautiful world of Arcadia and the futuristic city of Stark really made me want to be there.

  12. heretic says:

    Adam mentioned it might be a bit overwhelming for newcomers, any tips on how to get up to speed on the story so far? Wikipedia plot description any good? Any good YouTube summaries?

    Any tips appreciated, always wanted to follow this series but only remember the launch of the second game and the less than stellar reviews kinda put me off. Would like to give this another go.

    Also wouldn’t it be better for Red Thread to price the game completely differently? Like pay per episode? The current model doesn’t make me want to give it a go just yet, also if the next chapters turn out to be rubbish I wouldn’t feel good. Whereas if it was just a fiver or a tenner I wouldn’t mind jumping in. Applies to all episodic games not just this one :) not sure I understand the rationale on that decision apart from locking people in!

    • Melody says:

      I don’t know about any good summaries, but I can tell you this: this game is all about the story. There’s nothing but the story, and the story is very very complex and nuanced, I doubt any summary would do it justice. If you’re not willing to play through TLJ and Dreamfall, I suggest you watch an integral let’s play instead of a summary.

      Alternatively, you can try jumping directly into Chapters. It is overwhelming for newcomers at first *because* it’s trying to get you up to speed, and of course you’re not going to get every single reference, but it’s been designed to be played by people who haven’t played the other games.

      (That said, I’d suggest waiting for another episode or two to be released, simply because, if you don’t already love the characters there isn’t much going on, so you may be disappointed by the lack of end-of-episode climax)

      As for Dreamfall receiving mixed reviews, it’s true, some game mechanics were less than optimal, but again, this series shines for the story, it puts a lot of emphasis on it, and everything else is secondary. And the story in Dreamfall is still great, despite the defects the game undoubtedly has.

      • heretic says:

        Thanks for this, makes sense – I will wait a bit more and in the meantime try to catch some let’s play of the original games.

  13. kdz says:

    So how do I go about playing the previous games? Any high-res mods for TLJ or something?

    • Fenix says:

      Why in the world would you need a hi-res mod? I played TLJ just last year and never for a second felt the need for “updated graphics”.

      • kdz says:

        I barely know anything about the game and was worried that since it’s from 2000 it would not work well on modern (24″) screens.

        Thanks for answering my question, though :) I’ll grab the TLJ when it’s on sale on GOG.

  14. Sjatplat says:

    I love the story, the mythology, the dialogue and the characters in this saga. I admire it. But Gone Home, The vanishing of Ethan Carter etc. has shown us that it is possible to tell a story without the feeling that the game stops “the playing” of the game even if those games has very little game mechanics. Dreamfall: chapters still uses forced unskippable, static dialogue conversations that takes a long time. It´s the one thing that irritates me the most today with adventure games. I don´t mind the lack of game mechanics if you´re still active.

    The dialogue in dreamfall chapters as in the other games are very good written and voice-acted, but the presentation of it is still locked inside the old way of doing it. Actually, I forgive it in the first game because the graphics is 2d static. As soon as you move to 3d it actually feels even more forced. Yes, you can skip a lot of the dialogue with space, but this feels wrong since there is so much of it and by giving us the option to skip, red thread, in a way, admits that it can be too long for some. I want the dialgue because it´s so well written and essential to the story, but I don´t like the way they do it.

    I´ve just tried the development demo of “The return of obra Dinn” and Lucas Pope really seems to know what his doing in this regard. There is almost no gameplay mechanic (only one) so far but oh my, I really want to explore further and hear more of the story.

    Tørnquist can really write fantastic stories, but as always, the gameplay, I´m sorry to say, does not have the same level of dedication.

  15. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Chapters is positioned somewhere between a more traditional adventure game and the consequence dramas that Telltale have become known for. There are few inventory puzzles and important decisions are marked as such in a way that seems to mimic Telltale a little too closely (THIS CHARACTER WILL REMEMBER THAT), but I’m already fretting about a couple of decisions and how they’re likely to break my resolve further down the line.

    Huh thanks for the warning, I was mildly interested there for a second.

  16. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    I’m not feeling it.

    -The production values don’t seem to have advanced much in the last 8 years. The characters are wooden and unexpressive- major emotional beats are missed because the actors are incapable of conveying anything ranging from subtle to obvious. Lip sync is laughable- sometimes they even do the old Spaghetti-western trick of showing the back of the speaker’s head. Kian’s gunshots looked more like someone was smearing faint grapejuice on him. Occasionally inspired art design shines through, but for the most part it’s copy-pasted dungeons and non-descript dreamscapes.

    -Zoey’s powers are based on a context menu, that’s great. Except the icons in the context menu are baffling. Luckily it doesn’t matter if you do the wrong thing, ever.

    -Adventure gamey puzzles are straightforward, single screen affairs, with almost zero stakes. The first several are basically separate missions that don’t really build into a real plot, aside from hitting the player over the head that there’s something ambiguously wrong.

    -Speaking of hitting the player over the head, you can’t do anything without getting XXX WILL REMEMBER THIS or THE BALANCE HAS SHIFTED thrown in your face. I get that The Walking Dead is a huge influence, but it’s silly and intrusive. And besides, TWD gets shit on for creating this “illusion of choice” with less than half as many decision points. I have a feeling this series is going to crank those critics up to 11.

    -The save checkpoints are in ridiculous spots. Did you decide to stop playing after Zoey wakes up, aka the end of chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 2? Well, you get to replay that puzzle since we didn’t bother making a checkpoint between chapters and you can’t manually save.

    -Kian and Zoey are so much worse than April was. Sure, April was Generic Sassy Adventure Game White Girl, but she was at least a fun and interesting for a trope. These two were cardboard cutouts in DreamfallTLJ, and 8 years has not made a huge difference. Zoey coming to terms with her past self is a nice character improvement, but there’s so little action going on in her scenes that I can’t make myself care.

    -Kian is just dreadful. Going back to The Walking Dead comparison. Lee was a great “strong silent type” character because he had a great ensemble cast to play off of. Kian, on the other hand, is just quiet all the time because it’s hard to talk while flexing your sick abs.

    Pretty disappointed as both a fan of the series and a kickstarter contributor.