Dreamfall Chapters Reviews

AuthorReview
Slam-Shot-Sam
62,188 (40,740)
Slam-Shot-Sam
TT Score for this game: 1,447
Posted on 06 May 17 at 11:22
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Dreamfall Chapters | PS4 | Review

Funded to the tune of more than $1.5 million by almost 22,000 backers on Kickstarter, Dreamfall Chapters originally released episodically on PC over the course of two years. The console version now bundles these parts into one complete package, reworking them with improved and expanded graphics and sound.

The third game in Funcom’s point-and-click series, which originated back in 1999 with The Longest Journey, Chapters stays true to its roots by providing a traditional, narrative and puzzle-driven adventure, slightly modified for the 21st century gamer.

Set between two parallel universes with a dreamscape that bridges them, there’s a heavy focus on contrasting themes: dreams and reality, magic and science, order and chaos. The choices you make, no matter how seemingly small, affect the balance between these extremes, shaping the world and story around you. While a few outcomes are definite smoke and mirrors, you can often make a tangible difference.

Zoë Castillo - Dreamfall: The Longest Journey’s returning protagonist - begins this game as she ended the last - comatose. While Zoë’s body lies inanimate in a hospital bed, her mind is active, trapped in a lucid dream that it’s your job to draw her out of. That involves, in typical adventure game fashion, inspecting your environment closely to make effective use of the tools at your disposal.

A few simple puzzles later, Zoë wakes to find herself suffering from amnesia, and, as a result, having lost purpose in her life. Vivid, recurring dreams begin to collate memories of the time she spent in a coma, which seem very real, despite being far outside the bounds of reality. This gifts Zoë the meaning she’d so desperately craved, prompting her to dig deeper by exploring the grimy, cyberpunk future she finds herself in - all under the watchful eye of the totalitarian state.

In addition to Zoë, you also control Kian Alvane, a traitor sentenced to death by the corrupt powers that be in a parallel realm of fantasy and magic. Sprung from prison by the resistance movement he once opposed, the parties strike an uneasy alliance for the greater good. With the introduction of Saga (a third protagonist confined to brief interludes), you’d be forgiven for thinking it was all starting to sound a bit confusing, but it isn’t too bad in practice. You never quite know where you’re heading, but, if you pay attention, it shouldn’t lose you along the way.​

Switching character perspective helps keep things varied in the early stages (imagine swapping between Deus Ex and Dragon Age now and then and you’re close), but the game really begins to build steam in the latter half. With the different universes and characters converging, the resulting crossovers are actually quite exciting when you’ve grown attached to a number of cast members. Strong scripting and voiceover contribute to making these connections, but, if you’re unforgiving of dodgy lip sync and facial animations, you might find it hard to do much other than be distracted.

There are some oddities to the game as a whole, which finds it reminiscent of the likes of Fable and Eternal Darkness, in place of anything more modern - that said, a lot of people (ourselves included) still love those games. Chapters isn’t at all focused on mechanics, but weak gameplay can too often feel like a barrier between you and the story.

There’s a lot of backtracking through the same areas, made worse by some vague objectives that lack explicit direction, setting a meandering pace. Puzzles can be time-wasters, too. They’re never illogical, which is a big plus point, but there were numerous occasions where what seemed like an obvious answer just wasn’t an option. Tasked with incapacitating someone in a busy tavern? You can’t accept an invite to join them and ply them with drink. Need to catch a rat? You can’t employ the services of that nearby cat. While these are very likely intentional red herrings, it’s hardly satisfying to discover they don’t work when they arguably should. Chapters is a long game that could easily have been made more concise by trimming unnecessary fat.

Dreamfall Chapters has as many twists and turns as it does ups and downs, helping you stay engaged and justify powering through the sporadic doldrums. Its world, characters and narrative are strong enough to make the game’s weak mechanics worth tackling, even if only as a means to an end. With this in mind, and also accounting for the budget price point (£24.99), Chapters is a game adventure fans should still consider checking out.

Pros

+ Never quite know where it’ll take you next
+ A number of engaging characters
+ Strong central narrative
+ Totally different universes to explore
+ Budget price gets you a lot of game

Cons

- Backtracking & vague objectives can make progress sluggish
- Some obvious puzzle solutions don’t work
- Dated presentation

7/10

Trophies

Most of the game's trophies are unlocked through simple progression, though some require you to make specific choices or perform missable tasks. It's simple stuff, but two playthroughs will be required for 100%. I'd recommend enjoying your first run without worrying about the trophies, then using a guide to mop up on your second.

Originally written for Pass the Controller, a copy was provided for the purpose of this review.

You can check out my Xbox One reviews over at TrueAchievements.

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