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Let's Play... DREAMFALL (in support of the kickstarter)

posted by Vainamoinen on - last edited - Viewed by 1.4K users

This is a tale of old.

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From 2006, to be precise; and it is retold in honor of Davies' Flight of the Amazon Queen thread. Also, it is supposed to support the crowd funding efforts of a sequel that would wrap the story up. The balance between pictures and text will vary, as I am known to ramble. I will neither shy away from showing and commenting on the beauty of the story and visuals, nor will I spare you the ugly details of Dreamfall's lackluster gameplay.

My comments are in italics and the story progression is told in normal font, which hopefully lets you take exactly what you want out of this Let's play variant.

I hope you will enjoy this, and just comment at will!


Chapter 0: TAINTED

00_02.jpgThere's no intro music, credits or whatever at the beginning. The story just starts.

A monastery. Whereabouts: Unknown, the year: never told.

00_03.jpg00_04.jpg00_05.jpgNote the design of the feather, a patch of orange in bleak surroundings. Also, the character's faces are really well done.

It's Brian Westhouse. That gives Longest Journey veterans lots of clues about what is going on here. The last we saw of him was in the Arcadian city of Marcuria, as an old man, ready to die with rifle in hand battling the half beast invasors. We know that he's originally from the world of technology - our world, Stark - and has only ever traveled between the worlds once, as a young man, shortly before WWII. Are we about to witness this event?

00_06.jpgAnimated details like Brian's bow of obedience here are scarce. Note the application of the chiaroscuro principle in the contrast of bright whites on wall and bed and the framing shaded foreground, which includes the figure of the abbot. As bleak as this cell is - the designers have made the most of it.

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One journey, one destiny, the abbot obviously thinks. From the perspective of The Longest Journey, Westhouse was never really that important. He was just there in Arcadia, a weird hermit to the indigenous population, ready to hand April Ryan whatever McGuffin or piece of information she needed for her own quest, ever not comprehending that he could actually be helpful to her. A fat, sloth- and somewhat lustful - yet still likable - drunkard.

00_08.jpgMan, he's young. And he looks completely different from what I imagined him to look like in TLJ, where the eight and a half polygons of his did spell fat and old. Also, I played the German version of TLJ first, in which Brian is voiced by Joachim Kerzel, German dubbing voice of Jack Nicholson. So, yeah. I had expected Brian Westhouse to look like Jack... at least a bit. The German version of TLJ also showed protagonist April insecurely alternating between formally ("Sie") and personally ("du") addressing Brian - which I thought was a stroke of genius not reproducible in the English variant (yet possibly the Norwegian?!).

00_09.jpgThis first corridor is nothing more than a hose with two turns. Yeah well, Brian, of course you "can only choose one path", but you're NOT "at a crossroads". Indeed not. The hovering 'hotspot indicator' as seen here considerably breaks immersion, especially when the object in question is rather large, like the row of these prayer wheels. This stupid frame thingie would be even more unnerving if there were actually a lot of things to look at in a single room. Which will never happen in the game.

00_10.jpg00_11.jpgThe cinematics love tracking shots; and I love those cinematics! Of course, the player gets an impression of such a wide and beautiful space only to experience afterwards that invisible walls, clunky controls and hotspot famine limit his exploration. Such precious little interactivity in the game, but the cutscenes have their worth without a doubt.

00_12.jpgUsing an especially weird control mechanism, the shamelessly console optimized "focus field" we shift our gaze to the figures at the far end of the room so we are able to eavesdrop on two excitedly whispering monks.

Obviously, Brian wasn't told the whole truth about his impending journey. For the first time, there is mention of the undreaming, a central concept in Ragnar Tørnquist's creation. The word "unleashed" isn't exactly blessed with positive connotations. Chaos and destruction follow in its wake. Are the monks up to no good? Westhouse chooses not to take notice for now. He wants to go, he wants to see a new world.

00_13.jpgDoes the Terminator time travel logic apply here or what? Does he have to step onto that plate naked? I've seen Westhouse's backpack in his cell just two minutes ago. Still here he is, without packed lunch or even shoes, ready for the great unknown. If this indeed is his one and only journey, where did he get the gun he so fondly spoke of when we last saw him in TLJ in the world of inexistent technology!?

00_14.jpg00_15.jpgAh, why do I keep worrying about the Terminator time travel logic? This is obviously a "Doctor Who" Time Lord regeneration sequence we're seeing here. That of course answers all the questions I previously pondered.

00_16.jpgAaaaand they're showing off their sparkling, iridescent ice graphics. Good choice though, because I considered it impressive back then, and still do today.

00_17.jpg00_18.jpgAll right, we've got ice and snow. And Brian Westhouse shows zero remorse about leaving his shoes back in the monastery. He hardly even notices. All right, he's got other problems, I'll give him that.

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This... this is not Arcadia, this is somewhere else! Had Brian expected to land here, have the monks sent him in a false direction on purpose? The mysterious figure on the hill by the campfire isn't welcoming Brian. The undreaming, he insists, would follow him here. Before Brian even knows what's going on...

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...a slowly moving, yet utterly threatening tentacly-flowery creature appears in the sky. It grabs Brian Westhouse, and it becomes clear that there's no way for him to escape. Thus the prologue endeth; and we're left wondering if this occurrence contradicts the proceedings in The Longest Journey. The old Brian never mentioned this. Has he "forgotten"? Swallowed the experience with too much booze? Is the undreaming now "unleashed" just because it captured Brian Westhouse? If so, why hasn't this powerful beast already affected the proceedings in the prequel?

It's Ragnar's story. It's not the greatest spoiler when I tell you that for every question answered, two new ones will take its place; and the cliffhanger situation at the end of the game will leave you with a lot to still think about.

Until next time,

Vainamoinen

12 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • User Avatar Image
    Jennifer Moderator

    LOL at the Time Lord regeneration bit. :D

  • So it starts without revealing much, and for every question answered, two new ones will take its place. That's going to get dizzying in a hurry!

  • User Avatar Image
    Vainamoinen Moderator

    @Jennifer said: LOL at the Time Lord regeneration bit. :D

    It really IS similar. ;)

    @Jennifer said: So it starts without revealing much, and for every question answered, two new ones will take its place. That's going to get dizzying in a hurry!

    You'll hopefully have yours truly as a commentator who blatantly exposes the questions the game wants to be the answer to!

    edit: By a rough count, I will need about 125 pictures to get Chapter 1 communicated appropriately (there's just 25 for the prologue up there). Most chapters afterwards will be shorter... still I probably won't even be close to chapter five when the kickstarter ends.

    edit2: 1000 views, thank you! Yet more comments are appreciated as well...
    The update with about half of chapter 1 is almost finished. Give me just a bit more time!

  • User Avatar Image
    Vainamoinen Moderator


    Chapter 1: ONE (Part 1)

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    Some 300 years later, we get to know our main heroine, a young girl named Zoë Castillo. The game's structure is circular: We see one of the last scenes first. Zoë is in a coma. Her father Gabriel sits by her bed...

    01_04.jpgAnother tracking shot sets the mood of Zoë's homestead. A better one will follow, so I'll spare you this one.

    Jumping back two weeks of said 300 years, we meet a not-yet-comatose, but still not actually particularly lively Zoë. The place is Casablanca, Jardin de Roses, the rather beautiful flat Zoë grew up in.

    http://s18.postimage.org/yi40czjhl/01_05.jpg
    All right, this shot accidentally looks like she's half asleep. Would you stop blinking, girl?! Still, this is somehow really fitting.

    Two new concepts are flashing beyond Zoë's and the player's consciousness: The Wire and the Static. The Wire seems to be an all encompassing variant of the Internet; the Static some kind of interference that sometimes even causes gruesome accidents.

    01_06.jpg01_07.jpgThis is unfortunately about the maximum of facial expression Zoë is able to deliver. Which is a huge bummer. There are more fortunate examples than this one, but on the whole, the expressions are hardly impressive.

    Something hijacks Zoë's mid air TV set. Some kind of instructions are given to her - but of course she can't make any sense of it. A viral ad, she calls it.

    01_08.jpgRagnar risks a lot here. We are supposed to perceive Zoë as having lost perspective in her life, sitting in front of the TV all day, yet still she jumps from bed in her undies as soon as HER GYM CALLS UP. We will later be told that she is, in fact, a martial arts expert. Is it just me or is this just a tad unbelievable?

    01_09.jpg01_10.jpgWonkers is a crafty little story device. Think of it: It's Zoë's childhood toy, one that actively reminds her that she's not playing with him any more. And with such a solemn, calm voice. I can't think of a more shocking symbol for Zoë's lost childhood.

    Zoë has a toy gorilla - or Watilla, as the production company WATI calls them - called Wonkers, who reminds her of new messages on her mobile. She has to get to the gym pretty quickly now.

    01_11.jpgFinally! Here we are, our very first Dreamfall adventure game puzzle. Open shelf. Grab clothes. Thank you, thank you! We should do this again some time. What about another similarly challenging puzzle in, say, half an hour?

    01_12.jpg01_13.jpg01_14.jpgClosed doors abound: We will only ever see two rooms in the apartment. Granted, Zoë's room is a glass walled beauty, so we don't really miss those other rooms. At other times, the defunct exploration is more evident.

    01_15.jpg01_16.jpg01_17.jpg01_18.jpgHey, here's a little bit of interactivity! Sometimes Zoë can answer in two different ways. This changes what she sais and the immediate reaction of your conversational partner - but very seldom the outcome of the conversation. More a simulation of interactivity than actual interactivity. Nice try though!

    We meet Zoë's father just downstairs. His recent promotion takes its toll. Less lab work for the bioengineer, more travelling and contract signing. So it's off to Bombay for the poor guy. He knows well the slump Zoë is in since she dropped out of university. She had even chosen his very own faculty - bioengineering. But he's not reprimanding her for it. He just wants to help…

    01_19.jpg01_20.jpg01_21.jpg01_22.jpg01_23.jpg01_24.jpgAnother awesome tracking shot sets the mood for our little part of the world.

    01_25.jpgThankfully, the game doesn't scream "future" most of the time. Changes are told in details, such as the little post boxes here.

    01_26.jpgPolygon count is of course limited, but the places feel quite real. One of the things that add to the sense of place is the 'above and below' architecture. Jardin des Roses is full of stairs - and a rather lively place too. Getting those walking characters to utter a sentence however is a pain in the butt with the given controls. They will just walk away while you're battling with the menu.

    01_27.jpg01_28.jpgZoë's best friend Olivia wants to show her something important. But, hey, I'm late for the gym! I'm trying to be the new, reformed and motivated Zoë, so I'm catching that scene later. Goodbye Liv!

    01_29.jpgSo I am stopped on the street by a jogger friend who tells me to hurry. Great. That gym lady is a fitness nazi. Now I want to go back to Liv, she seems nicer!

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    Large screens in the city tell us of a fabulous new something called Project Alcera. But as the advertisement tells us nothing about what the frick it's supposed to be, it doesn't hold up Zoë for long.

    01_31.jpg01_32.jpgSo it's the future, and caffeine addiction is still a reality. Bummer.

    01_33.jpg01_34.jpgWe're an advanced society. So that's not sexism, it's, like, something else. For sure.

    01_35.jpg01_36.jpg01_37.jpgIt's an invisible wall. Great. Then again, if you ever wanted an invisible wall in a game, it was probably right there to keep you walking onto the highway.

    01_38.jpgEVERY DAY?! Zoë, you're about the worst wannabe university drop out sloth I have ever encountered.

    01_39.jpgThe gym's pretty empty, but it's beautiful, don't you think?

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    Weeeeell, so much for multiple solutions. I leave my best friend in the lurch just to be reprimanded by Jama here, who keeps repeating that Zoë's her best student ever.

    http://s18.postimage.org/s3513up9l/01_42.jpg
    Oh lord, now I remember why I hated the battle sequences in this game. There's quick jabs, long/ranged/powerful attacks and some kind of defense. The defense doesn't make much sense, the quick jabs won't even hit most of the time and the powerful attacks take far too long to execute. If your opponent even walks one step left or right, you will attack thin air. I'm not against fighting sequences in adventure games in principle, but this is about the worst example of the last decade. I'm giving up this shit quickly...

    01_43.jpg...yet that arrogant asshole student who just watched from the sideline insults me for it. So, what can I do besides going right back to Jama and beat the living shit out of her?

    01_44.jpgAhaaaaaa... that is better.

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    Our martial arts teacher is Jama MBaye. She, too, is a dropout of some sorts. Essentially, she was with some kind of police force, the EYE or, less commonly, the Eye in the Sky. When she found out that the EYE is essentially commanded by corporations, and had done quite a few things she "wasn't proud of", she left her job.

    01_48.jpg01_49.jpg

    When Zoë leaves the gym, another screen calls out to her, in the very same way the one at home does.

  • For some reason, I'm not sure what, that last "...Zoë..." scene reminds me of Puzzle Agent, like there are Hidden People watching.

    Also, on that coffee price board, it looks like some blends are $0. That definitely encourages a caffeinated society!

  • @WarpSpeed said: Also, on that coffee price board, it looks like some blends are $0. That definitely encourages a caffeinated society!

    They're 20, not $0. There's no currency specified. Easy mistake to make!

    This Let's Play doesn't has nearly enough snarky comments for my tastes. But then again, I guess that's because everyone else's have been more silly. (Mine included) Oh well. :p

  • User Avatar Image
    Vainamoinen Moderator

    @Darth Marsden said: This Let's Play doesn't has nearly enough snarky comments for my tastes. But then again, I guess that's because everyone else's have been more silly.

    Yes and no. The balance might also different because Dreamfall has more to show and less to do. S3D and FotAQ were mostly traditional adventure games. Snarky comments come from the things you have tried and failed. Dreamfall just has nowhere near the same puzzle density as these games. Leading a lot of people to reject playing it altogether; and I'd like these people to experience the beauty of the game here nonetheless. There'll be more snarky stuff, promise, but we'll have to get quite detailed with the story too later on. All provided comments catch up a bit and views still indicate interest in the continuation of this Let's Play.

  • I'm not complaining - far from it. Just teasing you, that's all. :D

  • I love Dreamfall despite its shortcomings.

  • 'Dreamfall'; a superb film. Shame they forgot about the gameplay!

    Still, it speaks volumes for the quality of the story that in spite of a distinct lack of gameplay, the game still comes highly recommended.

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