Chapter One of Dreamfall Chapters was first released in 2014. Development of the game officially began in 2013, after the developer’s Kickstarter was fully funded, and the story was based on ideas that were first kicking around since the original Dreamfall: The Longest Journey’s 2007 release, or maybe even 1999 when the first game in the series, titled simply The Longest Journey, was first published. And yet, as I replayed the game earlier this month, the game felt very specifically about another year entirely: this one, 2016. While I can say with a fairly high level of confidence that Ragnar Tørnquist and the other fine people at Red Thread Games were not in possession of a time window into this year, and that they were not attempting to write specifically about the latest U.S. presidential election, the game, mixing together cyberpunk (via the future Earth called Stark) and fantasy (in the magical world of Arcadia) invokes the past and future to say a whole lot about now.
Dreamfall Chapters mainly follows two characters, Zoë Castillo and Kian Alvane, who are both on journeys that began during the first Dreamfall. Zoë, from Stark, is a college dropout who is now attempting to put her life back together after she spent a week successfully stopping a corporate conspiracy and getting a year-long coma and amnesia for her trouble. Kian Alvane, from Arcadia, is a former Apostle (read: faith-based assassin) for the Azadi Empire, until a chance encounter led him to doubt his faith and mission, eventually resulting in him defying his masters’ orders and getting branded a traitor and arrested. Also, he is gay, which I mention because it is awesome.
It is through Kian and Zoë’s eyes that we experience two very personal stories about, faith, renewal, acceptance, denial, and talking birds. It is also a story about change, and how it can come about in very sudden, scary—but not necessarily unpredictable or surprising—ways.
Note: Spoilers Below
Dreamfall Chapters is huge. Too huge, really: it’s the finale to a story to a game released ten years ago, dealing with plot points and characters from a game released in 1999, featuring three worlds (or more, depending on how you count), two cities, four protagonists, and the answers (or simply answers) to a million different mysteries. It’s a story about life, death, rebirth, dreams, identity, depression, growing up, relationships, addiction, conquest, colonialism, politics, passion, genocide, racism, complacency, sisterhood, guilt, redemption and whatever other theme you’d care to find. That developer Red Thread’s scant resources are just about enough to give us the stage play version of events, and to do so fairly well, speaks highly of their commitment and passion. And yet, it’s still the stage play version of events: think the original Star Wars, with the camera never leaving the Death Star. While its world is technically larger than its predecessors’ it feels like it should be larger still, and that it isn’t is behind many of its issues.
Warning, there be spoilers ahead. Earlier last month, the forums for the videogame website selectbutton.net hosted a conversation about the one game we would champion, if we could only champion one game for the rest of our lives. While there are lot of vidcons I like, my choice was easy–not because its perfect, but because its flaws don’t stop it from being one of the most affecting pieces of fiction I’ve ever experienced.
The facts are these: released in 2006, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey was the sequel/spinoff to 1999’s The Longest Journey. While the original game was an adventure game in the traditional point-and-click sense, Dreamfall is more actiony; there’s some combat, there are stealth portions and in general, the game seems much more in your face than its predecessor. It’s also a lot more ambitious. Not that ambition helps make it a good videogame–it isn’t. Its action segments require more fluidity than a keyboard can provide, and its various puzzles are brain teasers only in the sense that they suggest a challenge that they don’t deliver. Large stretches of the game consist of walking from cutscene to cutscene, which is as close as you can get to a capital crime in any videogame. And yet…
In its thirty-something year history, videogames have become rather good at telling enjoyable stories. It’s not something everyone can do, but there’s a pretty established template of things to do vs. things to avoid. And thus, we have videogames with fun stories, entertaining stories, exciting stories, and stories that make you go “hell, yeah”. I would say, however, that there are very few stories that could be considered moving–stories that get deep into your soul (assuming you believe in one) and stay with you. Before Dreamfall, I could name two, and they belonged to the same franchise. Leer el resto de esta entrada »