Dreamfall Chapters (Book One: Reborn)
Dev/Pub Red Thread Games
Dreamfall Chapters is the (hopefully) final part in a story that began more than a decade ago with The Longest Journey. It allows the players to experience life through the eyes of Zoë Maya Castillo, protagonist and world-saver from the previous games. Please, don’t be put off by this being the third game in a narrative rich adventure series, there’s more than enough here to introduce any newcomer and immerse them in the world.
OK, so you start off in a coma. Not the best start, but hey, beggars (and coma sufferers) can’t be choosers. Poor Zoë is stuck in a sort of dreamworld – one that heavily features the colour blue – that serves as a jumping off point for the story and a tutorial for the games’ control system. It’s pretty straight forward, move around with WASD and click on things with the mouse. Clicking gives you the option to interact in a non-specific way, or you can interface with things using your mind. You can also slow down time. Seems pretty odd, but actually it’s mechanically straightforward and the puzzles you come across are simple enough to be an easy gateway to the world.
You will quickly find that our heroine is called upon to make choices in the form of dialogue options, either with others or as part of an internal monologue. These choices are going to form the basis of how the narrative thread develops as it progresses through multiple chapters, so it may be some time until you see the blossoming of ideas you planted during book one. However, the rationalisation for the choices you make are explained to you at the time, so you can pick whichever one sits most comfortably with you – or choose the exact opposite, it’s up to you, I’m not your mom.
Zoë realises that there’s some screwed up shenanigans going on in the waking world and decides it’s probably time to stop being in a coma and do something about it. A couple of puzzles later and whoomp…
OK, so you start off in a jail cell. Not the best start, by hey, beggars (and prisoners awaiting execution) can’t be choosers. Poor Kian Alvade is stuck in a dank prison cell – with his head chained to his stomach for some reason – which serves as a jumping off point for the story and first level proper.
It’s OK, you haven’t experienced some sort of temporal lapse. Dreamfall Chapters does indeed start off with two beginnings, one for each main character. While Zoë’s story is set in a not-too-distant dystopian future, Kian’s looks more like a traditional fantasy setting, although some of the uniforms worn by the characters reminded me of Dishonored’s in style. Kian gets some help in breaking free of the prison and has some interesting interactions with his gaoler whom, apart from being multidimensional and interesting, sports the largest conk I’ve ever seen on a videogame character bar none. It’s so impressive, it makes Cyrano de Bergerac look like Daniella Westbrook*. Truly prodigious.
Anyhoo, once you’ve recovered from the whole schnozz thing, you’re perhaps in a position to take a look at the game from its aesthetic perspective in a little more detail. Dreamfall Chapters is beautiful, make no mistake about it. One of the hallmarks of the series has been its high degree of graphical fidelity and the latest game is no different. Not only are the assets strong in and of themselves, but when put together to form – for example – the mega city of Europolis where Zoë, her therapist and boyfriend all hang out and eat sausage surprise, they are truly beautiful. Beautiful to the point where the framerate stuttering probably won’t bother you too much unless you like looking for that sort of thing.
I’m determined not to give away too much in the course of this review, since the Dreamfall Chapters experience is all about the development of the story. If you have any interest in the title at all, do yourself a favour and don’t watch any ‘Let’s Play’ style content until after you’ve played it through. That way you get to experience the game unfolding before you without ruining the fairly moderate interactivity and puzzles that there are. The game is simple to play and uses an elegant interface that makes the otherwise relatively mundane task of clicking on stuff a gentle joy to play. Be warned though, Dreamfall as whole does not have a reputation for giving its players an easy ride when it comes to narrative conclusion, either by not providing one at all or killing off central characters. If you’re not prepared for an adult adventure (sophisticated, not XXX, you heathen), you should probably turn your attention to the new CoD, which I understand is super good now and has double jumping and everything.
Before I go, I’ll clarify something I wasn’t sure about when I first started playing. The cost of Dreamfall Chapters is the price for the whole series of new games, of which there are set to be 5 in total. They’ll effectively be DLC for this base game and you will get to play them as they go live. There currently is no clear timeframe on when these parts will be released but given how long we’ve taken to get to this point, I wouldn’t imagine you’re in too much of a rush. So if you want to go back and check out the first couple of games in the series, you have plenty of time to develop your point and clicking skills.
Dreamfall Chapters (Book One: Reborn) is out now for PC £23.99
*Daniella Westbrook is a British actress who is infamous for having destroyed the inside of her nose through cocaine abuse. I think she solved it through plastic surgery though, so all’s well that ends well.