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Written by  :  arensb (7)
Written on  :  May 17, 2006
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars

4 out of 7 people found this review helpful

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Excellent story and characters, but short on gameplay

The Good

The story. This is really a novel in game form, and everything takes a back seat to the story. The game comes on six CDs, probably because it includes so many lengthy cutscenes. The story is long for a game (as was The Longest Journey), and takes the time to build up properly.

The characters. It's rare to see a game with significant character development, but Dreamfall takes the time to do it. There are a few scenes that could have come across as cheesy, but since we've traveled with the characters and sympathize with them, they work.

The scenery. As in the Myst games, many of the game locations are beautiful, and you just want to wander around and gawk (which you're free to do).

The Bad

It's too easy. As I said, everything takes a back seat to the story, and this includes the gameplay: there are precious few puzzles, and none of them are very hard. The only time I had to consult a walkthrough, it turned out that I had the right idea, but wasn't doing it in just the way that the game wanted. In some cases, the "game" consists in nothing more than getting a plot point from one cutscene, then walking across town to watch the next cutscene.

Linearity. The story of Dreamfall is told in one particular way, and the player has to follow along. Consequently, there's only one thing to do at any time. As a corollary, if you get stuck on one task, you're stuck. Unlike a game like The Secret of Monkey Island, there's nothing else to work on.

The interface. Unlike The Longest Journey, Dreamfall is a third-person 3-D environment. This means that you can now look around in all directions, but comes with some problems. The camera tries to be smart, and swivels around the main character rather unpredictably. At the same time, movement is camera-relative, not character-relative, so if you have Zoë walk toward you, and the camera swivels to avoid a wall or something, you'll find that she's now walking at a right angle to the way you want her to go.

Combat. Yes, this is an adventure game that includes some combat scenes, and your character can die. But if he or she does, the game gives you a chance to try again. I'm not a big fan of timed sequences in adventure games (where you have a limited amount of time to complete some action), since I prefer puzzles that make me think, rather than test my agility; and the combat sequences in Dreamfall have all of the disadvantages of timed sequences, doubled.

The graphics. Yes, I know I said the scenery is beautiful. But it's also 3-D, which means that everything has to be rendered in real time as textured polygons. If this had been a node-based game, they could have prerendered the scenes in a lot more detail (compare Myst: Uru to, say, Riven to see what I mean).

The voice acting. Most of the actors give decent performances, but a few were just bad (yeah, I'm talking about you, French magic-user!).

The ending. There's going to be a sequel to Dreamfall, and this couldn't have been more obvious if they'd tacked on "To be continued..." at the end.

The Bottom Line

Well worth playing, IMHO. The story is engaging, and the characters reasonably three-dimensional. The game is long enough to let us know the characters and empathize with them. Just don't expect challenging puzzles, or even a lot of gameplay.