Original Release: April 17, 2006
Publishers: Aspyr (North America), Empire Interactive (EU)
Platforms: PC, Xbox
Played on: Xbox
I didn’t know about Dreamfall until a couple of months ago. I wandered into one of my local retro game stores (I do that a lot, apparently) and saw a game called Dreamfall: The Longest Journey sitting on the shelf. I got curious, so I looked it up and it was a fairly well-rated adventure game. Part of the reason behind my starting this project was to look through my library for hidden gems. Diamonds in the rough, if you will. I didn’t know at the time, but apparently it’s part of a larger series that started with The Longest Journey in either 1999.
I don’t really know how to talk about Dreamfall without mentioning the story or at least giving away part of it. You are a 20 year-old woman named Zoë Castillo living in Casablanca in the year 2219. Things start off pretty simple: Wish your father a safe trip for his latest bit of work and invite a few friends of yours over for a party. That’s about as simple as it gets though. Once you meet up with your ex-boyfriend Reza, Zoë’s life takes a nosedive into a conspiracy involving something known only as Project Alchera. You’ll literally travel the world in search of answers and uncover something that really fits a sci-fi story.
And that’s the story. At least a good chunk of it. Intermittently, you’ll take control of two other characters in another world entirely: one known as Raven, the other Kian. Both of them have their own stories, but their importance is secondary to Zoë’s in this case. Zoë herself will occasionally make her way between her world, Stark, and this second world, Arcadia, but never for very long.
If I’m being honest, I found myself way less invested in the Arcadia segments than the Stark portions. A big part of it was because I wanted to fully explore the conspiracy on the Stark side of things, but the other part of it was because Arcadia’s puzzles were…weird.
Here’s an example: In chapter 4, you come across a wall with three glyphs on it, each of which produces a unique tone when you poke it. You need to combine these tones in such a way that four specific notes are played. You get a hint in the form of a musical jingle that people more familiar with Zelda (hi) would mistake for a puzzle solve tune when you activate a nearby water wheel. This is the one puzzle I had to look for online and a lot of people had the same struggle. I mean you could brute force your way through, but there are eighty one possible combinations, so it would be a while before you solved it. I don’t know if it’s because Arcadia is so radically different from Stark or what, but some of the puzzles took more time to click than they did if they involved technology.
That said, I had a lot of fun with Dreamfall. It’s the kind of different I was looking for, kept me thinking between play sessions, and I got invested in the world. At least partly. Like I said, I would have much preferred a straight sci-fi adventure like Omikron: The Nomad’s Soul (at least from what I’ve seen of it), but I know that The Longest Journey also involved switching between Stark and Arcadia. That’s okay though! It was a neat experience and I’m so glad I gave it a shot!
Obviously, I recommend Dreamfall if you’re curious. You can find it on Steam alongside its sequel: Dreamfall Chapters (which apparently resolves A LOT of the loose ends left unaddressed at the end of Dreamfall) as well as The Longest Journey. Give it a look and see if it’s your cup of tea!