Dreamfall Chapters: Review - Games Weekly

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Dreamfall Chapters: Review

The post Telltale episodic game that drives the player's experience by presenting them with choices that affect how the story plays out finds itself in vogue at the moment.

Dreamfall Chapters clearly takes influence from the Telltale stable in that regard, though it’s worth mentioning that The Longest Journey , the series in which Chapters is an entry, started long before Telltale came into being. We say that because, early on, the game struggles somewhat with that history; faced with the difficult choice of overloading the player with exposition, or leaving newcomers a bit bemused when it comes to the world’s lore and the characters’ histories. Dreamfall tends towards the latter, leaving those unfamiliar with the series feeling as if they’re lacking context for some of the choices they make in the opening stages.


Once it gets that baggage off its shoulders and opens itself up for exploration, however, concerns about not being in the loop when it comes to the series’ narrative fade into the periphery. There’s something compelling about the cyberpunk city of Europolis in which the majority of the game is set and, though the citizens roaming its streets seem a bit aimless, it has a real sense of place.

There’s a distinct European flavour to the city, reflected in the political context forming the backdrop to Dreamfall’s story. Its subject matter is the troubling rise of the anti-immigrant right, lending it a prescience that’s rare in the medium and catching your attention for that reason.

However, its framing of the issues at hand is far too predictable and tepid, with the game showing a boring disdain for radical politics that means it doesn’t deal with its subject matter in quite as sophisticated a way as it could, placing itself firmly in the middle of the political culture with which it takes issue. This is the first episode, of course, so we see plenty of room for more nuance as the game progresses.

There are some good ideas in Dreamfall. We particularly like the fact that characters’ thoughts are vocalised when you hover over a dialogue option. Not only does this give you insight into the game’s protagonists, it helps swerve a common problem with dialogue trees, whereby your character spouts something entirely at odds with what you intended. As to what we’re thinking, it’s impossible to definitively evaluate the merit of Chapters as a series after one episode, as we’ve yet to see the impact of choices we’ve made so far. Nevertheless, we’re left finding ourselves wanting to play more and that can only be a good sign.

7/10

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