Reposting this review here like some kind of a closure (yeah, I'm a slowpoke, yeah, I was waiting for the 'final' version to get released and yeah, probably nobody's gonna read it anyway).
A forewarning: I straight recommend the game only to the fans of the series.
DFC is a final game of the cult series of TLJ. Perhaps the issue is that after all these years I have experienced some changes myself, but...
The game is not as involving as the first two were. Characters are still good and follow their own logic, but it is obvious the game was made in quiet Scandinavia. Our gamers would probably laugh at the moments envisioned as shocking for West-European audience. Concentration camps? With millions tortured and dead and the war still going on in the East, one is not shocked by these. Corrupted politicians? Compared to ours, politics in the game is child's play. Manipulating public opinion and inciting hatred? We see it firsthand, so a toned-down retelling from a person living in a peaceful city leaves no mark, even if the person is question has Ragnar's talent.
One of the problems worth underlining is this: the characters in challenging situations look stupid and funny. Don't get me wrong, humor is good. Fine humor from Tørnquist is excellent. Yet if a character not being serious is consistent, he becomes difficult to sympathize. And since we view the plot from the perspective of its main characters...
Kian: has ultimately become a semi-comedic character, when where he started from was a zealot assassin. It is interesting to watch him... until the moment the fight erupts and he is required to act as a brutal Apostle he once was. The power of TLJ 1-2 was in 'dark' characters, ones who experienced their world concepts crumbling and tried to find any piece of solid ground to stand on. 'Soft' Kian isn't natural.
The same can be said about Zoe. New Zoe is calm, rational... and boring. She easily walks through personal mistakes and mishaps, and that once again makes her hard to sympathize. Maybe Ragnar was going for an adult person aimed at (now) adult gaming audience... Yet if a gamer's life is all good, if he's emotionally Buddha-level unmoving (like Zoe), he won't get satisfaction from the plot since he shakes down sadness and joy in equal manner. That's why the moment with Baba Yaga triggers a wry smile in addition to a calm nod. Seeing Zoe's journey to this state would be most convincing, it would make the encounter an achievement, a logical conclusion. Instead, since the story is ripped into pieces with lacunas in space and time (Chapters), this journey effectively crumbles before our eyes, and the character feels unchanging through all the game.
Saga triggers mixed feelings. She is without a doubt an interesting character but she obviously is a sketch for The (upcoming one day) Longest Journey Home. She is not the hero of this story (minus the nostalgic fuel).
Secondary characters are more interesting and easily likeable (Enu and Ulvic are wonderful, and not them alone)... but they are, sadly, secondary, and not all of their fates are known to us in the end. Villains on a closer look turn out to be petty when compared to the first two games, although there are several nice plot twists. Using Slavic mythology (in addition to Australian aboriginal) is a nice addition... yet it doesn't feel sufficiently re-imagined. Chapters don't follow 'less is more' principle as sternly (a principle essential to the first TLJ), and philosophical ideas lack former depth. If that's how Ragnar tried to answer the ocean of questions the fans had, it wasn't the best solution. Force-feeding people is a cheap way to convey complex ideas, yet DFC, I feel, tries to do exactly that.
Tech details in short.
Soundtrack: not bad but weaker than in Dreamfall. Europolis fella's guitar songs are... not for everyone. Personally I didn't find them touching. DFC lacks Magnet's songs, the thing that for me did a good work of focusing ambient feeling of this world.
All in all, conclusion to the many plot lines originating in the second game (or, to be more precise, the way to present it) feels like lazy writing. Moreover, some consequences contradict the choices made during the game (YES, Reza, I'm looking at you!). To Ragnar's credit he managed to untangle all these plot lines and finalize them in a (mostly) logical and befitting way. This is probably his primary victory here. Emotionally, though... unfortunately, the most touching scene for me was the final one, the one that, practically speaking, has little more than memories and nostalgia fuel for an old fan.
A shame. Still, my thanks to good ol' Tørnquist for putting a fitting end to the story.
PS. Arcadia has sex!
PPS. Guardian's story is probably one of the few lacking any closure. I suppose it's once again made with TLJH in mind. And, considering the many other things being present, I suppose this one can be excused.
As a final thought: Dreamfall Chapters is not a self-sufficient game. It is more of a debt to the fans, the one Tørnquist returned after years of waiting. Fans of the series, I guess, take this game with relief, as an answer to many questions that tormented them for years. New players... To those I can only wish to start at the original The Longest Journey.
When we meet at the end of it I reckon we'll have things to discuss.