Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey

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Dreamfall Chapters:
The Longest Journey
Dreamfall Chapters cover.jpg
Developer(s) Red Thread Games
Blink Studios
Publisher(s) Red Thread Games
Director(s) Ragnar Tørnquist
Producer(s) Rakel Johnsen
Designer(s) Martin Bruusgaard
Quintin Pan
Programmer(s) Audun Tørnquist
Artist(s) Christer Sveen
Sigbjørn Galåen
Writer(s) Ragnar Tørnquist
Dag Scheve
Composer(s) Simon Poole
Engine Unity 4
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation Network
Release date(s) Book One
  • WW 21 October 2014
Book Two
  • WW TBA
Genre(s) Adventure
Mode(s) Single-player
Distribution Download, DVD

Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey (Norwegian: Drømmefall Kapitler: Den lengste reisen) is an on-going episodic 3D adventure game with emphasis on character interaction, exploration of the game world, and puzzle solving. It is a sequel to the adventure games The Longest Journey and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. The first episode was released on 21 October 2014.

The Longest Journey series is set in two parallel universes: Stark, a cyberpunk future Earth, and Arcadia, its magical fantasy counterpart. Chapters takes place in 2220 CE and continues the story of Dreamfall, whose protagonist Zoë Castillo had uncovered a criminal conspiracy that aimed to enslave both Stark and Arcadia by stealing their residents' dreams. Although Zoë managed to disrupt the conspirators' plans, she was betrayed and left for dead in the end of Dreamfall, and has to find her purpose in life again in Chapters. The writers described the narrative theme of the game as "chapters of life".

Dreamfall Chapters is being developed by Red Thread Games, an independent studio founded by Ragnar Tørnquist, who wrote and directed the previous two games, under the license from Funcom, the owners of The Longest Journey IP. Its development was crowd-funded by a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $1.5 million, with additional funding provided by the Norwegian Film Institute.

Gameplay[edit]

Dreamfall Chapters is developed on the Unity 4 game engine,[1] and features large 3D environments, as opposed to 2D backgrounds in The Longest Journey (TLJ) and smaller 3D locations in Dreamfall. While not a completely open world, the game contains several free-roaming exploration levels, such as Europolis and Marcuria,[2] and reward players for exploring the levels and finding secrets.[3] The locations themselves change slightly depending on the season as the story progresses. The players are able to quickly travel from one location to another.[4]

The player steers playable characters from over-the-shoulder third-person view, using the WASD keys and mouselook. Interactive characters and objects are highlighted on the screen, allowing the player to interact with them using the mouse and context menus.[5] While the game supports game controllers, it is being optimized for the PC. The gameplay focus is on the exploration of the environments and the story[6] and on solving puzzles.[7] Dialogue with NPCs and dialogue puzzles comprise about half of the gameplay time.[8] The on-screen interface is hidden by default to improve the immersion.[4] There are no combat or stealth gameplay in Dreamfall Chapters.[9]

Although the game features a linear plot with a set outcome,[10] the players have to make many choices throughout the game that have far-reaching impact on the later story events (but not the ending). An optional, online-only "social" feature allows players to discover (either before, or after making the choice) which options other players (and their Facebook friends in particular[11]) picked in these situations.[12] These statistics are stored in a shared global database for all platforms.[11] The game additionally displays a special "The balance has shifted" icon to warn players before plot-relevant choices, even when playing offline.[8] An in-game journal, akin to April Ryan's diary in TLJ, keeps track of the recent plot developments.[4]

Chapters includes a recap of the previous games to ease the new players into the story. Although it will conclude the story arc that the developers refer to as "the Dreamer Cycle",[7][8] it will not be the last installment of The Longest Journey series.[13]

Plot[edit]

Synopsis[edit]

Concept art for Europolis, a city in Stark, a cyberpunk, 23rd century Earth
The Journeyman's Inn during autumn in the magical fantasy-based world Arcadia
The palette of Stark, a cyberpunk future Earth (above), sharply contrasts that of the fantasy-inspired Arcadia (below)[2]

Like the previous games in the series, Dreamfall Chapters is set in two parallel worlds: Stark, a dystopian vision of the Earth in 2220 CE, and Arcadia, its magical fantasy counterpart. Having suffered the catastrophic Collapse in the aftermath of the original The Longest Journey in 2209, the society in Stark is now crumbling,[14] as billions of people become addicted to "Dreamachines", a lucid dream technology invented by the WatiCorp company. Meanwhile, in Arcadia, the villainous Azadi Empire consolidates its power again, while their tower in Marcuria "continues to harvest dreams".[7]

In the prologue, anti-Azadi guerrillas in Arcadia pay their last respects to their late leader, April Ryan. The scene then cuts to the House of All Worlds, where a woman is giving birth. The baby, revealed to have been named Saga, appears again at the end of Book One, encountering a spirit who calls her "sister-daughter" and promises to watch over her.

The game proper opens several months after the conclusion of Dreamfall, where Zoë Castillo exposed the conspiracy behind the Dreamachines, but failed to prevent their release to the public and was betrayed and left in a coma. Her consciousness and those of the many Dreamachine addicts are now trapped in the otherworldly realm of "Storytime", where Zoë uses her dream-controlling powers to help others escape their nightmares. Recognizing her efforts as insufficient, she resolves to find and confront the cause of the nightmares and manages to awaken herself in the real world, but loses all memories since her first usage of a Dreamachine prototype. Estranged from her father, she moves to Europolis (a dystopian megapolis covering most of Central and Western Europe[2]) to start a new life, rekindling her relationship with Reza Temiz and volunteering as a political activist. She visits a therapist to restore her memories, but to no avail. All the while, shadowy forces observe her from a distance.

Meanwhile in Arcadia, Kian Alvane, an elite Azadi soldier imprisoned for high treason, learns that he is to be summarily executed in a few hours, but the resistance, seeking to recruit him, stages a prison riot and breaks him out. Concerned about this development, Sister Sahya, the Azadi governor of Marcuria, orders Commander Vamon to find and kill him before he can deliver a testimony to an Azadi Empress currently on her way to Marcuria.

Characters[edit]

The game features three playable characters: Zoë Castillo, Kian Alvane[15] (both of them previously playable in Dreamfall), and Saga, a new protagonist who appears as a toddler in the first interlude. April Ryan, the protagonist of TLJ and the third co-protagonist of Dreamfall, died in the previous installment, but her voice actress Sarah Hamilton is involved with the game, although in what role is still undisclosed.[16] Zoë's voice actress, Ellie Conrad-Leigh, has expressed readiness to reprise her role,[17] but RTG have not officially confirmed her return. Gameplay previews thus far have featured Charlotte Ritchie in the role[citation needed]. British actor Nicholas Boulton will voice Kian[citation needed], taking over the role from Gavin O'Connor.

Other returning characters include Crow, Blind Bob, Benrime Salmin, Roper Klacks, Abnaxus,[18] the Vagabond, Brian Westhouse, Emma de Vrijer, and Reza Temiz.[7]

Themes[edit]

The subtitle "Chapters" refers to the theme of the game, which Tørnquist describes as "chapters of life" and "life in chapters", such as birth, life, death.[19] The game's plot covers roughly a year of the protagonists' lives, beginning in spring and ending in winter.[13] The narration is divided into thirteen chapters (like the previous games) or five "books", themed around a particular phase of life, e.g. birth (or rebirth) in the first book. Originally, three books, corresponding to summer, autumn, and winter,[4] were planned, but this number grew to accommodate the expanded story.[20]

Another topic of the game is the stories as such and how they become reality. In the game, the realm of "Storytime" is "the place where every story begins, and where dreams come to life",[7] and the developers cite the Australian Aboriginal mythology as inspiration (see Dreamtime).[21]

The Longest Journey series as a whole is rooted in a predeterministic philosophy, which compares life to a journey with a set destination, wherein a person may choose their course freely but will ultimately arrive to a "predestined place". In Dreamfall Chapters, this philosophy is expressed in the player characters' ability to make story-altering decisions, which, however, have no effect upon the ending.[22]

The megacity of Europolis is presented as "Europe [...] finally paying the price for hundreds of years of imperialism, reactionary politics, wasteful spending and industrialisation". In an interview, Ragnar Tørnquist said that "there's definitely a political element to Dreamfall Chapters, as there was to Dreamfall as well." [2]

Development[edit]

Funcom, the developer of the original The Longest Journey and Dreamfall, first announced Dreamfall Chapters on 1 March 2007.[23] However, while its plot was already written out at that point,[24] the production of the game couldn't begin until 2012 because all of the original creators of Dreamfall (including Tørnquist) were at the time working on Funcom's next MMORPG The Secret World.[25]

Pre-production[edit]

On 1 November 2012, it was announced that Ragnar Tørnquist's newly founded studio Red Thread Games began the pre-production for Dreamfall Chapters. Because Funcom's focus has shifted to online games, the company decided to license the rights to The Longest Journey IP to Tørnquist's development studio, who would fund and produce the game independently.[26] Although Tørnquist stated he took no other Funcom employees to Red Thread Games with him,[6] his studio hired many of the original developers of Dreamfall who have since left Funcom, as well as formed a partnership with Blink Studios, which consists of former Funcom employees who worked on Dreamfall[4] and have since developed an expertise with the Unity engine.[14]

Funding[edit]

Following the initial announcement, the Norwegian Film Fund awarded Funcom a grant to "research online-only delivery methods of episodic content", which would have been used to finance the initial development of Dreamfall Chapters;[23] however, after the project was put on hold, the grant was returned to the NFF.[27] The Norwegian Film Institute (the successor to the NFF) provided a new grant of 1 million NOK (ca. $174,000) for Red Thread Games to begin pre-production of Dreamfall Chapters in November 2012.[28] On 30 May 2013, the NFI awarded a second grant of 1.5 million NOK (ca. $257,000) for the purpose of developing the game,[29] followed by another 2 million NOK (ca. $336,000) a year later.[30]

A campaign to crowd-fund the game on Kickstarter began on 8 February 2013, with a minimal goal of $850,000. The developers estimated the necessary budget for the project to be about $1 million (compared to the $5 million budget of Dreamfall and roughly $2–3 million of TLJ) and planned to supplement the Kickstarter money with further grants and personal funds. Prior to starting the campaign, RTG spent months analyzing previous successful Kickstarter campaigns, particularly Project Eternity and Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse, to better plan their own project.[25] Dreamfall Сhapters reached its minimal funding goal on 16 February, much quicker than the developers had anticipated,[31] and concluded on 10 March with $1,538,425 raised, or 180% of the initial goal. Additionally, over $34,000 was raised via PayPal during the Kickstarter campaign, and Red Thread Games continued to collect funds through PayPal until 10 October 2014, when pre-orders for the game were opened.[32]

Upon reaching the initial Kickstarter funding goal, several stretch goals were set to encourage additional funding. The goals achieved included Linux and Mac support, an expanded storyline, several new locations, an improved soundtrack, an interactive comic book, French- and German-language versions, and director's commentary.[33] The ultimate stretch goal, unlocked at $2 million, was the The Longest Journey Home, a traditional 2D point-and-click adventure game starring April Ryan, bridging the ten-year time gap between TLJ and Dreamfall, and extending to after Chapters to conclude her storyline.[34] Had this goal been reached, Red Thread Games would have begun working on TLJH immediately after Chapters,[35] but since it wasn't, the plans for the game have been put on hold.

Production[edit]

The first playable prototype of Dreamfall Chapters had been produced concurrently with the on-going Kickstarter campaign and was used to record in-game footage to attract additional funding. Adoption of a cost-saving third-party engine, Unity, has enabled the developers to iterate much faster on Chapters than on the original Dreamfall, which took six months to produce a prototype. Furthermore, RTG set out to minimize the in-house development costs, producing only a few key game systems (conversations, story flags, decision points, the social feature) and otherwise relying on either the native Unity technology (animation, physics), assets from the Asset Store (foliage, model libraries, shaders, full-screen filters, etc.), or third-party tools (Playmaker, NGUI, Daikon Forge).[36] The resources saved this way were instead invested into the game content, such as levels, character designs, and special effects.[9] Among the biggest challenges faced by the developers was the GUI and control scheme (a pure point-and-click interface was implemented early on but scrapped after the testers found it impractical[8]) and the pathfinding AI for the NPCs.[36]

RTG showcased a working build of the game on 22 June 2013 at the Rezzed expo in Birmingham, presenting their concept of "game spaces" and approach to story-relevant choices, including the social feature that allows online players to learn about others' decisions. The level demonstrated was an area of Europolis corresponding to modern-day Prague.[12] By late September 2013, RTG completed the vertical slice of the game, implementing all of its core features in a 20–30 minutes-long demo,[15] which was shown to public at Journeycon, a fan convention taking place in Oslo on 23 November 2013. The demo covered a single level, Friar's Keep, and Kian Alvane's escape from it. Also at Journeycon, Red Thread Games announced that the game's soundtrack is composed by Simon Poole, the lead sound designer of Dreamfall.[37] The pre-alpha milestone was reached on 6 December 2013, with the alpha and beta stages planned for spring and late summer 2014, respectively.[38] In March 2014 (at the Game Developers Conference[8] and the EGX Rezzed expo[39]), RTG revealed a new level from the alpha version, showing Zoë Castillo in Storytime at the very start of the game.[40] Work on the beta version began in May 2014,[41] and the first "book" (prologue, two chapters, and an interlude) was feature complete by mid-June.[20]

On 26 August 2014, RTG announced a musical competition among Kickstarter backers and other fans, who were asked to submit soundtrack pieces to be included in the finished game. This announcement sparked a controversy regarding "exploiting unpaid [fan] labor", and the contest was canceled the next day by the developers.[42]

Porting[edit]

The primary target platforms are Microsoft Windows, OS X and Linux,[3] because the developers believe "that's where [...] The Longest Journey fans are".[19] At Gamescom 2014, RTG announced that the PlayStation 4 port will be the first console version to be released and will remain a PS4 exclusive for some time (the PC versions are not affected by the announcement and will still be released first).[43] DFC will be playable on PlayStation Vita through the Remote Play functionality of PS4, but its RAM requirements make a direct Vita port impossible. Tørnquist has commented that RTG is working on an Xbox One port, as well, but the current Microsoft policy prevents them from publishing previously PS4-exclusive games on that console.[11]

Nintendo approached Red Thread Games about a possible port of Dreamfall Chapters to Wii U immediately after the preproduction began, but it wasn't until July 2013 that the studio requested and received a dev kit to start working on the Wii U version.[44] The developers consider the Wii U port "secondary" to the main target platforms.[22] Porting the game to iOS and Android devices was one of the Kickstarter stretch goals that wasn't reached.[7] Additional platforms, such as tablet computers[19] and SteamOS,[22] were also under consideration.

Localization[edit]

The game is originally written in English,[9] with the Norwegian, German, and French translations confirmed.[18] The Polish translation is to be released by cdp.pl.[45]

Release[edit]

Dreamfall Chapters was initially announced as an episodic video game,[23] but this idea was scrapped in favor of a full-length game when the pre-production started in 2012,[19] because the developers felt that extended breaks between chapters would have negatively affected the story flow and pacing.[22] However, faced with mounting production costs, RTG decided in June 2014 to return to the episodic format. The first "book", subtitled Reborn, was released on 21 October 2014,[46] and the remaining four are to be delivered at later, unannounced dates.[47] The subtitle of Book Two, Rebels, but not its release date, was announced on 26 November 2014.[48]

List of books/episodes in Dreamfall Chapters
# Title Release date Contents
1 Reborn 21 October 2014[46] The prologue, chapters one and two, and an interlude[20]
2 Rebels TBA TBA
3 TBA TBA TBA
4 TBA TBA TBA
5 TBA TBA TBA

Although DRM-free digital distribution is the default distribution model, several limited boxed editions were offered as incentives to the supporters on Kickstarter. These range from the simple Collector's Edition to the expansive "Draic Kin Edition", containing a variety of digital and physical bonus materials.[7][49] The physical backer rewards are to ship after the (digital) release of all five "books".[47] On 17 April 2013, Dreamfall Chapters was cleared on the Steam Greenlight process, allowing the game to be distributed via this platform when released.[50]

Reception[edit]

Aggregate review scores
As of 9 December 2014.
Game GameRankings Metacritic
Book One: Reborn (PC) 73.89%[51] (PC) 72[52]
Book Two: Rebels N/A N/A

Critical reception of Book One: Reborn was mixed.[51][52]

References[edit]

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  48. ^ Farokhmanesh, Megan (26 November 2014). "Dreamfall Chapters devs tease Book 2: Rebels, coming 'soon'". Polygon. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  49. ^ Red Thread Games (12 February 2013). "Update #3: Boxes & surprises". Kickstarter. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  50. ^ Kroll, Alden (17 April 2013). "Sixth Set of Titles Greenlit Today". Valve Corporation. Retrieved 17 April 2013. 
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External links[edit]