Is the adventure game dead and buried? Itíd take a bigger man than I to make that supposition, but if the naysayers are right, Funcom are aiming to pull off a resurrection. Dreamfall has everything going for it right from the off. Itís the sequel to the 1999 adventure game The Longest Journey, one of the most beautiful adventure games Iíve ever seen. It focuses on the story of April Ryan in the two worlds of Arcadia and Stark. Arcadia is a world of magic while Stark is a future version of our planet. Itís a beautifully realised setting that continues into Dreamfall.
The game begins with the new heroine ZoŽ Castillo in a coma explaining how it all began. Looking back, right back to the beginning we take control of ZoŽ (do I have to keep putting the diaeresis above the e?) who is having considerable difficulty finding direction in her life. She bums around Casablanca living with her father who is too busy to spend any time with her. The initial character development is fantastic, I could really feel for ZoŽ as Iím sure weíve all felt like her at some point in our lives.
Before the game had even begun proper I was awed by the production values of this title. The music was moving when it need to be, ambient when it needed to be and mysterious the rest of the time. The voice acting is especially brilliant, ZoŽís dulcet tones became like a known and trusted friend who was in need of help after just a few lines. I would have done anything for her if she had asked nicely. Ellie Conrad-Leigh, who does the voice of ZoŽ, could bring down governments with that voice. Itís lucky really as soon ZoŽ really needs your help, a creepy little girl (what is it with creepy little girls? Iíve only just got over FEARÖ) starts appearing on TV sets all over the city talking directly to her. ďSave her, find herĒ. Itís all very cryptic.
However, the game is not going to ask too much of your grey matter. The levels are as linear as Roman roads but some of them do create an impression of freedom. Itís soon shattered when this freedom has you traipsing backwards and forwards over the same level to get an item to combine with another item to take back to the first place to use on the new item youíve just found to take back to where youíve just come from. At time the game feels like Sim Courier 2006ô and it can wear a bit thin. The same can be said for the combat. At first the simplicity is a plus point, it feels a bit unwieldy but with a block button and 2 attacks it doesnít challenge the fast fingers of a first person shooter player. However the premise falls down when the frantic clicking on the mouse button defeats almost any enemy without challenge. Also donít get me started on the cameraÖ Now look what youíve done! Itís a shambles. Rubbish cameras and adventure games go hand in hand like Kobolds and RPGs. This is no exception. Itís more of a challenge fighting the camera than the in-game baddies.
The story is as all this game has to go on. Itís a game stretched thinly over the finest bit of storytelling Iíve come across in an adventure game for the last few years. Iím looking at you Fahrenheit. However to tell this story the game relies heavily on cut scenes. While not game breaking they do detract from the all important ďgameĒ aspect. Not nearly as much as the death animation that seems to go on for the best part of a lunar cycle; every time itís a drawn out kick in the teeth for being so stupid as to die.
Iíd love to say that the news of the adventure gameís death was greatly exaggerated, but I canít. Only mildly exaggerated. Itís suffering from a coma where it has beautiful, if not particularly lucid, dreamsÖ