Better Late Than Never: The Longest Journey

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Ah, the venerable point-and-click adventure genre, the genre that includes such greats as Maniac Mansion, Shadowgate, and King’s Quest, among others. Some of my favorite games on the face of the planet come from this genre, and it is absolutely filled to the brim with nostalgia for me. Like others, I greatly lamented the decline of the genre, both in the number and the quality of games that were released in it, and again, like others, I have become quite excited at the genre’s revival. I eagerly devoured the new Sam & Max games, I have placed The Walking Dead into my queue of games to tackle, and I am quite enthusiastic to see what Double Fine decides to do with their Kickstarter success money.

So, with all of that, I would be remiss if I did not mention another Kickstarter for the continuation of another series that is near and dear to my heart: The Longest Journey. To be more specific, it is a Kickstarter for an episodic sequel to Dreamfall, which is set in the same world as The Longest Journey. It is also, at the time of this writing, completely funded and is 4 days from closing after having met several stretch goals. Now, seeing that Kickstarter made me remember that I never actually played Dreamfall, which is sad because I loved the original game so very,very much. So I set out to remedy that. But first, I thought I would give The Longest Journey another playthrough and see how it’s held up after all these years.

First thing’s first, what is it?: The Longest Journey is, as previously mentioned, a point-and-click adventure game. It is written and directed by Norwegian game developer Ragnar Tørnquist, who has quite possibly the most badass name of any game developer ever. He is also known for cult favorites Broken Sword, Syberia, and the recently-released MMO The Secret World, which I liked a whole bunch.

And what’s it about?: The Longest Journey centers around art student April Ryan, who, when the game begins, is having a series of very vivid dreams about an alternate world. The world of her dreams, Arcadia, is a world of magic and fantastic creatures, a sharp contrast to our own world of science and reason (which the game refers to as Stark). As her dreams start to bleed into reality, April learns that both worlds have been kept separated but in balance with each other for thousands of years, and that certain people, called ‘shifters’ possess the power to travel between them, either at will or by complete accident.

Guess which world has a talking bird.
Guess which world has a talking bird.

That sounds like a really interesting plot!: It is, and this is a good thing, because a graphical adventure game lives and dies by its writing. Thankfully, Tørnquist is brilliantly creative. Each character is very fleshed out and just feels… real. The dialogue is witty and engaging, and I never felt the need to skip any conversations no matter how ‘mundane’ they might seem.

Hate to break it to you, Crow, but human Twitter is not different.
Hate to break it to you, Crow, but human Twitter is not different.

Is it fully voiced?: Absolutely, and this was the part I was most afraid about not standing up to the test of time. Voice acting in video games didn’t really pick up until the late PS2 era, and even then it can still be pretty hit or miss. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the voice acting in The Longest Journey. I mean, it’s not perfect. April, for instance, is a pendulum that swings between complete sarcasm and completely over-exaggerated wonder and amazement. However…most of the time, this actually works because of the setting. Stark  is a world full of jaded individuals, and April is no exception. So when she’s plucked out of the middle of a city and deposited into a world of wizards and mermaids and shit, naturally she’s going to be both amazed and skeptical, probably both at once.

And then there's the part where she's terrified, because MOTHER OF GOD WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT THING.
And then there’s the part where she’s terrified, because MOTHER OF GOD WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT THING.

What about the visuals? It is pretty old, after all.: Not bad, really. I mean, they hold up surprisingly well. Way better than I thought they would, though if you’re expecting something amazing you’ll probably be disappointed. They /are/ very…distinctive, though.

Views like this, however, are still extremely beautiful.
Views like this, however, are still extremely beautiful.

Are the controls fairly adventure-game standard?: You point, you click, you generally have three interaction options (look, talk, touch/take), and, well, there really isn’t much more to it than that. I will point out that you can right click on the dialogue box to quick-skip dialogue, and you can hit ‘esc’ to skip animations. This is most useful when walking from one end of the screen to the other, because otherwise April actually moves pretty slowly.

Is there anything you didn’t like?: Some of the puzzles really give you absolutely no direction whatsoever. Seriously. I don’t know /how/ I beat the game when it came out. I probably used a walkthrough. I know I had to this time in a couple places where the game conveniently forgets to give you any indication of where to go next or what trinket I should have picked up from the completely opposite end of town.

Oh. Well that sounds frustrating.: God damn eyeballs. That’s all I’m saying.

Does it install well on a modern PC?: I have the Steam version and it worked well, with a couple caveats. First of all, it doesn’t have a native windowed mode, so you have to do a couple tricks and .ini file modifications that are well-documented here. Second of all, it doesn’t really work brilliantly with Windows 7, so even in Windowed mode there will be a couple desktop glitches and a forced shift to the Windows 7 Basic color scheme.

But overall you’d recommend it?: Definitely, provided you like point-and-click adventure games. If you don’t, well, the writing is still good enough that I’d suggest at least giving it a try or watching someone else play it.

[This review originally appeared on the gaming website Attack Initiative.]

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