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A discussion on Theming of Dreamfall and TLJ

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#1 Fnar777


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Posted 24 September 2014 - 09:30

(Copied from steam to continue this discussion with TLJ fans <3)
The difference between TLJ and Dreamfall has to do with theming I think. In TLJ we not only find out what the enemy is, but what they plan to do. Everything after that is world building. You have to view these new races and play an infinitely important part in their history. It was explained who they were, what they did, how they acted, not long after meeting them. It made the world feel real as we learned, and the more we learned, the more we wanted to know. It felt like a real, living world that we needed to save, and when we finally did, we knew there were some loose ends, but we'd done our part. Not a lot of games can sate someone when they left the main place invaded by the jackass Tyren.
In the end, the theme of TLJ was one of discovery, of a world, and of self.
On the other hand we have Dreamfall. Just starting it drops us in on something that had bugged us for a while. Brian's journey is drawing to a close and he steps on a dais to be teleported across the divide, 
"Sweet! :D Ok now, let’s see Arcadia in its fresh new glory!... That's not Arcadia. Wh-what is this glass-ness? Who is this creeper?... What the hell is that!? Leave me be tentacle thing! D':"
In Dreamfall, all the wonder and fresh-faced naive nature instantly gets crushed by fear, and fear is our new theme. Our new heroine, Zoe is followed by a Ring-girl wanna-be, which scared the crap out of young me, and we're told that we have to save April (who we've come to love since the last game) from an immediate threat. All the while we’re chased by a huge corporation, who market creepy robots and eat people’s dreams. There’s no Sentinel, there’s no comic relief character until Crow shows back up, and most of the characters who had hopes and dreams have been brought to heel. The wonder had been taken away, and that, more than anything, tarnished what could have been an amazing game.
With the Storytime being explained, and Zoe being established, I hope we can make our way back to wonder, but the situation seems to have dug way too far down the fear path to turn back now, what with the Azadi, the Dragons and Sentinal gone, WATI-corp winning, and Reza as a damn dream eaten thingy. While I look forward to this game quite a bit, I take each trailer and scene cautiously. I doubt I'll be outright disappointed, but I feel that the wonder of TLJ is gone forever. It was taken when fear replaced want to discover.

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#2 merryawe


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Posted 24 September 2014 - 11:46

Ah, but fear is such an important part of almost every notable rite of passage.

That is, in part, what I love TLJ and Dreamfall for.

Characters are sucked into this big cosmic whirlwind, they pull you in and nothing is the same anymore.


Without fear the immersion (at least for me) wouldn't be complete bacause the world would lack an important aspect.

It would be all dreamy and sugary. The story (so far) suggests it's not all about escapism and running away from the hardships of life.
This is one of these stories that give you a shield, an armor, whatever you call it, dang, some mental tools to use in a real life.


But, you know. Highly~highly~HIGLY subjectively spoken. :rolleyes:

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#3 trentjaspar


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Posted 24 September 2014 - 16:44

Great post (and welcome Fnar777), but this post should go in the TLJ Saga Story Discussion (Spoiler Warning) forum.  :)


I'm sure a mod can move it.

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#4 khh


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Posted 24 September 2014 - 19:59

That's a very good analysis. Though I think the theme of Dreamfall might be closer to disillusionment than true fear. In TLJ Arcadia seems almost like an idyllic contrast to Stark (despite us being given hints that this isn't so), while in Dreamfall we see that Arcadia is just bad in a different way. April's spirit has been broken, the simplicity and beauty of Marcuria and the Northern Lands has been taken over by the Azadi, and we're left with swamps. Magic is banned, and (dirty) stream technology has taken it's place. I would not be surprised if part of the theme of Chapters is to find out that Stark and Arcadia aren't actually as bad as we've been convinced. To rediscover the magic, as it were.

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April Ryan is my friend,
Every sorrow she can mend.
When I visit her dark realm,
Does it simply overwhelm.

#5 urzagc13


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Posted 24 September 2014 - 21:10

[I must also warn of HEAVY SPOILERS until the thread is moved to the appropriate forum]


Welcome to the forums Fnar777!


I don't fully agree with your analysis, and here's why:


While we all (or better, most of us) agree that Dreamfall seemed to lack some of that sense of wonder that The Longest Journey served us by the bucket, I don't think that the reason you stated (the "theme of fear") is solely responsible for that. It's only a small part of it.


First of all, while Dreamfall is indeed the "dark second part" that is common in trilogies, the Longest Journey had more than its share of "darkness" and fear (lots of it in fact). To me, the whole last part of the game is "depressingly oppressive", as April is constantly on the run, escaping every time at the very last moment, while The Church of Voltec/The Vanguard seem to have agents everywhere and have covered all the bases. Need I remind you of the death of Burn Flippers, the shooting of Emma, Cortez being captured and tortured, the assassination of Vestrum Tobias (that we are told about), April's capture by Jacob McAllen (who unleashes a mutant abomination on her), Cortez's fall to his (apparent) doom, April practically selling herself to slavery (in order to get to the colony station), the Chaos Vortex appearing and chasing us with increased frequency (giving the feeling that "you're never safe" from it), the disturbing psychological trials at the Guardian's Realm, seeing that Gordon followed us to the Tower (and thus all might be lost), etc. and all that was (we thought) just so that April would sacrfice herself, her very life, in order to spend a thousand years as a Guardian and then end up discarded in the streets like Adrian, the previous guardian, who had it so bad that he was actually relieved to be picked up by the Vanguard and imprisoned because at least he had food and shelter then.

I personally spent the last 3rd of the game in a state of constant panic* (as well as sadness/gloominess when appropriate)

*aka fear, for April and the rest of the characters that I had come to care about. In fact, the game was so successful in manipulating my emotions that even though I knew that there is no "timer" (no actuall time pressure) in any scene (like when the guards are trying to enter April's bedroom after shooting Emma) I behaved as if my very own life was depending on escaping as FAST as possible. I actually now realize that Lady Alvane's "intervention" (soon after that event) was more saving ME (giving me a moment to breathe, as well as some "hope" for the continuation) that saving April herself.


So, what is - in my opinion - the "issue" with Dreamfall's "lack of wonder"? I think that it is two things: the general scarcity of (world-building) sidestories and its ending. By world-building sidestories I mean big subplots that contribute less to the main plot, but mostly introduce us to the fantastical (and the sci-fi) elements of the setting. The maerum-alatien segments are a great example of that. Yes, we visit them because we need something plot-specific from them, but it wasn't necessary for the plot to have us go to all this trouble for their pieces of the disk. The Dark People gave us their own part without even solving a puzzle. No, that whole segment was for the benefit of expanding our horizon, showing us how diverse and exciting Arcadia (and its magical races) is. The same (and more) goes for Roper Clacks tower, but also (to not neglect Starke) the Warren Hughes subplot and many more. In Dreamfall, on the other hand, we very rarely got to really explore any location, nor meet "exotic" stuff: the magicals were hunted and/or in the ghetto, technology in Stark had regressed (was less impressive) due to the Collapse, etc. The result is that:

- everything feels more mundane, less special/amazing, less "magical".

- the entirety of Dreamfall is equivalent to TLJ's depressing (and "oppressive"*) 3rd act (that's why you say that "fear" is omnipresent), because Dreamfall's explorative and world-building elements -while existing- are seriously diminished in comparison to TLJ. An easy example of something that Dreamfall could have used in similar way as the Maerum-Alatien stories is the catacombs beneath Marcuria (and the Dream Chamber/Vortex). There's clearly some serious backstory (and potential things to discover) down there, but it is mostly treated as a place we need to "escape"/find our way through it, thus we learn precious few things about it. I really hope that we'll get to return to this place in Chapters, it has fascinating potential.

*oppressive here means "weighing heavily on the spirit".


The final thing I want to point out is Dreamfall's notorious cliffhanger ending (already mentioned briefly above). While I'm not too critical of it, I recognize that it works less for a video-game than it would for -say- a movie or tv series, mostly because it gives off the feeling that after all the things WE did "nothing was accomplished", the bad guys won, etc. This isn't true of course, but it's easy to feel like that, especially because you are the agent behind Zoe's (and April/Kian's actions) and you feel their "failure" as your own. This in return, colors one's emotions about the game even further into the gloominess and despair.


...and oh my god, sorry for the wall-of-text. lol

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#6 Roxie


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Posted 25 September 2014 - 03:09

For me, the contrast between the wonder of TLJ and the 'starkness' of Dreamfall was magic.  The entire story's about wonder vs anti-wonder, of course, but it's the execution of that conflict that's the true art of the series.  I don't think I could have truly appreciated the 'wonder' side of it without the mundane.  It would have simply been yet another fantasy tale, like so many others.

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#7 magic88889


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Posted 25 September 2014 - 05:25

I feel like the differences were more about the different focus on the main characters.


In TLJ, while we follow April, and she is the center of the story, it's not really about her.  She's a subplot in the story of the balance.  She might be the principal character, but the story is about so much more, and focuses a lot more on the world surrounding her and what is happening there.


In Dreamfall, however, I felt the story was much more personal to Zoe.  She was the center of the story of her life.  There was less about what was happening around her, and thus focused on what she was going through much more than TLJ. 


I feel it's less a difference of tone than a difference of perspective.  Like different directors' takes on the same story.  One takes a broader view (think LoTR the books) while the other takes a more personal view (LoTR movies).  Of course this is going to change how people feel about the story.  In Dreamfall we feel more of Zoe's anxiety and depression (and later drive) than we do of April's emotions, simply because TLJ take a broader view. 

#8 Tina


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Posted 25 September 2014 - 06:18

Whoops, a bit late, but it is now moved to the appropriate spoiler subforum :)


(Everyone, don't hesitate to PM me or something if you think things should be moved. Then I get a mail about it, and I can easily move threads from my phone as well, so I can usually fix it quite quickly. But I'm not always updated on all new forum posts.)

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#9 Pawlo_86


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Posted 02 October 2014 - 08:07

The Longest Journey is epic story with super hero, destiny, mission to save the universe. During task main hero lost some people who loved her but she continues her journey. TLJ is more like Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings. The main plot is finished and there is some sort of happy ending. At the very end we learn that TLJ is just begining and there will be more to the story.

What i pretty like about The Longest Journey is fantasy/magical feeling in Arcadia. 


Dreamfall is completly diffrent. It is the story which ties to our modern times. It is a story about fall of faith, fall of dreams and huge conspiracies, hidden agendas etc. There isn't super hero. There isn't happy ending but remember that Dreamfall is two-parted story. Second part will be Dreamfall Chapters. There are some political references like Azadi-Marcurians relationship which is similair to US-Iraqi or Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I pretty like this. Especially very intense word confrontation between Rebel Leader and Azadi Apostole. Between enemies. Dreamfall is about fall of friendship. Only strong relations can survive. Dreamfall is about lack of sense of life. Dreamfall tell you that super excited entertaiment can has evil purpose. And i like "Crossroads" theme. Zoe, April and Kian journeys crossed at some point. Like always, Episode 2 in trilogy left you with tons of unanswered questions and set up events for epic Episode 3. But Dreamfall is just half of Episode 2 so Chapters will also left tons of questions as well.


What i don't like is that Dreamfall lacks that fantasy/magical feeling about Arcadia. Arcadia is starting to became like Stark. This theme seems to be important for story but i don't like it much. But still Arcadia is more nice place to visit than Stark.

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#10 Fnar777


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Posted 03 October 2014 - 08:45

Ok, where to begin...


Thank you guys sooooo much for sharing your opinions and ideas. The main reason I started this was to hear the differing opinions and experiences we all got out of these fantastic games. Now on to the replies.



You are right, fear is a very important part of any story... in moderation. Fear existed in TLJ, such as the scene with the Gribbler and the mutant. Instead of being overbearing though, it made you think cause there was always a way if you used your head. It was an awesome feeling when you got it right, and a really good moral of mind over matter.

In Dreamfall though, it's different. Fear is everywhere, thee's a feeling that everything is out to get you, and a lot of enemies you can't even outsmart. In bits like the raid on Reza's apartment this is fine, as it's a plot point, but the caves section was an example of this at it's worst. If you were even spotted the little blue dude ran off to grab his big ass brother, but that's not the bad part. The bad part was that instead of allowing you to run, if the thing caught you, you got locked in the combat pose, and were mercilessly mauled. Nothing you could do. Not only does this feel helpless, it also seems out of character for April. There are numerous other parts where you get an instant game over if you get caught, and all these bits make you feel so weak and helpless.


I agree that fear is needed, but for and rite of passage, you have to be able to pass it, not run away from it.

Thank you for your opinion. :3



Thank you for the welcome. So happy to be here

and sorry about the mispost T.T



Thank you very much.

I never felt that either Stark or Arcadia were ideal. They felt real to me, with ups and downs. Stark didn't seem so bad in the beginning of TLJ even if it was a bit mundane. You had a place with a few friends, going to school. It was all nice and normal. Arcadia was the same, starting off all exotic and nice. Both take a more sinister turn near the second act, when the plot's antagonists get introduced. You find out about many of the darker points at this point of the game there: Slavery in Stark disguised as "colonizing", Nutty Ghouls in Arcadia, cooking and eating people. Neither place was sunshine and roses, and that's perfectly fine. Much to the games credit, for all it's talk of balance, it maintains a very healthy balance of light and dark.

Dreamfall on the other hand is all dark. I honestly can't think of a single point in that game where I went "Oh that's a relief." or "I can get out of this if I think it through!". It was always "Oh God, please don't see me." and "Oh good, now what.". The Azadi taking Mercura, and WATI-Corp having eyes everywhere made every second feel like you were being watched and expecting attack. Newport being a ghetto and Charlie giving up his dreams, along with the lack of color and diversity in Arcadia wasn't disillusionment, it was corruption of what was, at one time, hopeful. Never perfect, but hopeful. And when you watch all you cared about being corrupted, it makes you feel all the more alone, and scared. That's my opinion, and thank you for sharing yours :3



Oh my good golly gosh, at the text. Right then...

As I said above, while fear is a thing in TLJ, and there are definitely a fair share of moments when you are about panicky as you flee or try to think, but there's always the knowledge that if you use your head you'll make it through. It was terrifying, and maybe it would have been worse if I thought April was actually gonna sacrifice herself (as I played Dreamfall first, I knew about Gordon... my bad x.x), but there were never moments when I was like, "Well all hope is lost."

The timing of the Alvane break was indeed perfectly placed, and even later when you head into space and sell yourself into slavery the little comedic bits were still there, and that made me feel better. I did get a little panicky when crow didn't show back up after the bridge thing (but once again I played Dreamfall first like a derp) but I always had this feeling things were going to be fine, and to an extent they were.


Now in Dreamfall, not only did we have a rather terrifying scene with Brian to start us of, but with Zoe we began with the heroine in a coma, which is never a good sign for a happy ending. The game starts with a news story about a exploding cow, which is interrupted by a terrifying little girl calling Zoe's name. This sets a rather tense theme for the first part, but that slides back a bit as we go to the gym, but even then there are little hints that things are not all good like the fact that people need to be invisible to the EYE via cloakers on phones. It escalates from there and never stops. Reza vanishes, Cops swarm us with no hope of escape, Newport is completely trashed, Charlie gave up on his dreams and possibly is involved in seedy dealings, Arcadia is under occupation by Catholic-esque crusaders, Magicals are being rounded up and killed, etc. It just goes on and on and on and gets all the more oppressive and hopeless, making you feel alone and afraid throughout.

You are right that fear isn't the whole theme, but it was the best word I could use to sum it up. Fear, oppression, hopelessness, and corruption are our new themes. There was never a bright moment, and even Crow lacks his usual lightheartedness, instead telling us stories of how he left his wife (and I think he said eggs but I don't recall.) and I get what it was supposed to be, I really do, but its the little things that make the mood. April had just lost all hope, and that was absolutely a nightmare for me. This cosmic storm of hopeless depression goes on and on, even draining away the magical feel of Arcadia, and how does this all end?

We get to watch a child die. We get to go and find a little girl who was experimented on all her life, and watch her die.

I think that accurately sums up the main difference right there. In TLJ April leaves on a slightly optimistic note, having defeated the baddies, even with her losses. In Dreamfall Zoe gets to watch her sister die and slips into a coma. It feels not only sad, but it leave you a bit empty. Everything's lost. You did your best, and worked your hardest, but you failed. Like you said, this is way different than the same ending in a movie, as you are the lead here, and this failure leaves you with a big hopeless feeling that rivals the one the game conveys throughout.

And I won't say it was a bad game, because even now I get worked up thinking of it, and that level of pathos is hard to achieve. They executed the theme perfectly. It just wasn't a theme I enjoyed as much

That's my opinion, thank you so much for yours. :)



First off, excellent pun

Secondly, you are right. If something is next to it's contrast both are going to look exponentially more intense. The wonder and surprising realness of TLJ was amazing, and even alone it still was one of my favorite games, but when compared to Dreamfall, where all the happiness and magic gets drained away, it shines like a star. On the other hand the tragic tale of Zoe Castillo gets all the more tragic when we recall the hope of bygone days. Very well put Roxie, thank you for your opinion. :3



There was a very broad difference there, that's true.

As April we were explorers, but as Zoe we were investigators. With April her ties were all backstory (Save Charlie and... uh... girl whose name I can't recall. Help please ;3;). She had family, but they were far away, and we were free to explore the world with no ties, on a grand journey to gather the stones and discover new things about the world and ourselves. With Zoe her father was there, and her mother was too kinda. Her sister and best friend are victims. She has a life that is interrupted by the events. Because of this she has people to worry about and protect

But, and I've been waiting for a good chance to say this... I don't like Zoe very much. I just can't relate to her. She rich, good-looking, dropped out of school because she just couldn't be bothered any more, and knows effing karate. She's got like the most perfect life ever til all hell breaks loose and was still unhappy. April was a sarcastic girl who worked a crap job to make ends meet while going to collage for her dream, and while thankfully not everyone has the family problems she did, she was easy to relate to. The fact that there was so much more focus on a character so unrelatable kinda soured it for me all the more.

Also adding combat to the game changed it massively. It meant you no longer only had your mind to rely on. This affected the tone quite a bit, and made the bit like running from the Hi Hi Puffy Karate twins all the more tense ("If I can't even use my black belt skills on them, how could I ever beat them?") and I'm forced to bring up the unbeatable fat troll thing that would lock you in combat if it caught you, instead of allowing you to run, and beat you to death.

Thank you for your opinion :3



Very sorry ;3;



I wouldn't call April a super hero, but you are right about it following a basic three part structure. We meet the protagonist, send them on their journey, and watch her grow as it goes, learning more about her and the world as it goes on.

Dreamfall's ties to it's time were, if anything, a bit weaker than it's predecessor. TLJ featured things like drug addiction, following your dreams, normal gay couples, sex shops, dehumanizing jobs, slavery, poverty, kids losing their parents and ending up in gangs, sacrifice, bravery, the fact that we must all come to terms with dark truths about ourselves, mind over matter, and never lose hope.

Dreamfall had very few real world ties, besides the Azadi slightly what you said, but I still am reminded more of the Crusades. There was of course poverty, police corruption, and blind faith is wrong, but the higher fantasy/sci-fi feel they went for separated them from the real world feel of TLJ, and that would've worked... had they not outlawed magic, and collapsed the science. It feels like they tried to turn one dial up and one down, trying t focus more on magic and science stuff, but lessening its presence in the world.

I do look forward to part 2 as well as TLJ: Home. Hopefully they will rediscover what was lost.

Thank you for your opinion :3




Holy crap everyone, thank you so much for your opinions and thoughts. You made me see things I hadn't even thought about, and I hope to read even more.

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