In my last blog I listed April Ryan of The Longest Story as a key female character in the point and click genre, and it’s good to know that her story is now set to continue. The enigmatically titled Dreamfall Chapters was announced at the start of this month and is already riding high on the hype meter over at Adventuregamer.com. That’s hardly surprising given the dedicated following the series has, thanks to its incredibly deep narrative. The Longest Journey certainly lives up to its title, offering a lengthy narrative full of twists and turns about a girl who is able to shift between a near future version of our own world and a parallel world of magic that exists alongside it, both of which feel more fleshed out than the average point and click environment. April herself is a deep, believable character who has suffered her fair share of life’s knocks, and anchors the fantastical elements of the story perfectly.
Ragnar Tornquist, the series creator, has now set up his own studio, Red Thread Games, and licensed the IP from Funcom, the company where he has been working for the last few years as the creative director of The Secret World, an ambitious but sadly ill-fated MMO set in the world of secret societies. After so long toiling on such a large project Tornquist is by all accounts looking forward to the freedom of working on his own terms once more and is planning to fund the project on Kickstarter once he has a plan in place (with another chunk of funding purportedly coming from the Norwegian Film Institute). In a lengthy interview conducted with Eurogamer he promises the new project will “evolve the gameplay style we started in Dreamfall… immersing the player in a living world.”
Dreamfall, the sequel to the Longest Journey had a lukewarm reception on its release in 2006. Switching from the prerendered back drops of The Longest Journey to a 3D third person environment, it saw the player take control of a troubled young woman named Zoey Castillo who is haunted by visions, reminiscent of those from The Ring, instructing her to save April Ryan. Dreamfall certainly upped the ante when it came to storytelling, not least in the way it cleverly revisited the themes, characters and locations of the first game, but fell foul of its own ambitions in the area of gameplay.
Although the visual transition was largely successful, mainly due to the cinematic flair with which everything was presented, the inclusion of an unnecessary hacking mini-game and an incredibly clunky combat system, in the place of the brain bending environment and inventory puzzles from the first game, demonstrated a misguided attempt to break away from the traditional tropes of the genre, without having anything necessarily to replace them with. Happily Tornquist has learnt his lesson and, whilst he promises to explore new gameplay mechanics in the forthcoming game, he has also promised to avoid reintroducing combat.
His time working on The Secret World has no doubt given him a lot of experience with what works and what doesn’t, and with this in mind the new project could well find the sweet spot between the traditionalism of The Longest Journey and the overreaching of Dreamfall. As long as the game maintains the high level of storytelling prowess displayed in the series to date, then any innovations to gameplay will simply be the icing on the cake. Although considering Dreamfall was in development for seven years, we may have a bit of a wait before we find out. In the meantime anyone looking for an intelligent, meaningful and emotionally poignant story will be hard pressed to find something better than the first two games.