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#1 Nodachi

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 03:55

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.
Graphics: sufficient.

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.

 


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#2 ct2651

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 17:02

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 very fitting review, I admit I only read your conclusion, but that conclusion of review is so great that I don't even need to read the rest. You explain quite well what you thought of the game.

 

Thank you then.


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#3 IorekB

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 18:26

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).
 

If you're a slowpoke, I wouldn't know what I am :rolleyes: :D  - still some way to go, though I think we're closing in to completion with our playthrough (waited for 'final' version and finishing beforehand a playthrough of TLJ and Dreamfall)... OK, so this is just me assuring you that at least somebody's gonna read your review - though admittedly not right now, but I will return when ready in a few weeks' time! ;) Maybe we can do a LTTP exchange then! B)


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#4 Nodachi

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 20:38

Quite frankly, seeing as the forum is mostly in limbo I wasn't expecting any replies. Those came as a pleasant surprise.

Maybe we can do a LTTP exchange then! B)

Define LTTP please.

You can find me on Discourse these days if you feel like it.


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#5 IorekB

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 17:53

Quite frankly, seeing as the forum is mostly in limbo I wasn't expecting any replies. Those came as a pleasant surprise.

Define LTTP please.

You can find me on Discourse these days if you feel like it.

Regarding the forum: Yeah, it's quite a bit of a pity, what better place could one imagine than Red Thread's very own forums for fans of narrative-driven games to chat and exchange?  :)  I was actually hoping for Draugen release to boost forum activities a bit. Sadly, the forums do not feature prominently on Red Thread's homepage...

 

When it comes to LTTP, I'm sorry, I picked that up on another forum as an abbreviation for "late to the party", which I think might be an appropriate term in our case... ;) B) Me and family are bound for three weeks' holidays come end of this week though, so I fear we'll only be finishing chapters some time in September! Being then relieved of spoiler anxiety, I'll happily discuss anything Chapters! And anything other narrative driven games up to then... :D



#6 IorekB

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Posted 24 October 2019 - 18:46

Whew, took us another while to finish the game, but here I am back as promised!  ;)  Having read through your review, I tried to ponder what aspects resonate with me, adding a bit of my own musings in the process:

 

Regarding the characters, beginning with Kian: Well, I already had some trouble warming up with him as a warrior zealot assassin kind of guy back in the Dreamfall days – April in TLJ was somehow way more approachable from the onset. With Chapters, I initially again had some trouble to empathize with him, while his situation in life surely delivers an interesting proposition. I think given the fact that we all somehow went through the process of growing up and trying to find purpose in life like April did, it’s harder to relate with Kian since fewer of us might grapple with the challenge of a hardened warrior fundamentally putting the system of beliefs they grew up with into question.

But in principle, I found it hard to truly make an objective distinction regarding character development between games of the series – to some extent, Zoë’s journey in Dreamfall neither saw that much of fundamental development, she already was to some extent “Buddha-level unmoved” (as you put it) most of the time back then (even moreso given the much less energetic portrayal of her former voice actor, expressing emotions in a rather subdued way), rather evidencing quiet persistence in uncovering the story’s mysteries than deep emotional upheaval. Oh, and the change in voice actor was quite jarring at the beginning since we seamlessly dove into Chapters coming from a replay of Dreamfall. But having accustomed myself to the new Zoë (to quite some extent integrating a bit of the sass of April, I felt), I really came to appreciate the rich portrayal of the character by Charlotte Ritchie – quite a feat, among many quality performances of the other voice actors in the cast!

So in total, while I certainly noticed different levels of engagement in my emotional response to the characters, I very much appreciate the amount of effort that went into nuanced and layered portrayal of both primary and secondary characters, both in Chapters as well as in the other games of the series. In total, I think what was achieved here by the team around Ragnar is still way above the average found in the medium which cannot be lauded enough.

 

And regarding the decision system which apparently triggered mixed responses, I think it very well fulfils the purpose of having the player ponder about life choices in a gripping way – how to react to conflict in relationships (Zoë-Reza), how to value loyalty to friends vs. securely righting wrongs (Baruti vs. The Hand that Feeds), what about employing violence to possibly protect the innocent (interrogation in Marcuria). Specifically given the scope of the team, they managed to implement branching pathways to some remarkable extent, judging by all the alternate developments I will easily admit I snooped around for a bit in forum threads… Oh, and if by “some consequences contradict the choices made during the game (YES, Reza, I'm looking at you!).”, you’re alluding to

Spoiler

So all in all, I am very much satisfied regarding character depiction.

 

Oh, Saga: I very much liked her addition, it was a great thing to periodically return to the happenings in her life on repeated occasions, like an overarching red thread (pun intended… B)) to follow. At the end of the game, I almost felt like a distant relative having been let in on witnessing episodes of her life on a few occasions, essentially feeling like “knowing her all her life”. The house between worlds specifically deserves all sorts of praise, it felt like a safe haven we could regularily return to as a player to spend some chill time between all the serious ongoings “out there”. Adult Saga specifically made a very interesting character – I’m longing to know what she experienced on her travels (partly alluded to in the final scenes) which heavily sold me on the idea of “The Longest Journey Home”, purportedly elucidating her character arc quite some more (Please, RTG, make it happen some day!).

 

As to the resolution of most of the mysteries, I think it was quite a challenging thing to begin with, finding satisfying answers to the ongoings evidenced in Dreamfall and even before in TLJ. While there certainly was quite an amount of direct exposition in Chapter 5, I think as a denouement, Team Ragnar pulled off quite a remarkable job – specifically in direct comparison across media, where I have no trouble coming up with quite a few heavy disappointments regarding wrapping up stories deeply steeped in mystery (Lost, I am looking at you! :rolleyes:).

 

When it comes to the soundtrack, I indeed somehow felt the ones of the two previous games a bit more, but the dip is barely noticeable.

 

Finally, an important asset of the game, IMHO: the settings! I immensely enjoyed exploring Propast, it really felt like a convincing vision of a future. With all the dialogue going on, the small details like the ads all around, the cultural touches and so on, it really came to life! Which can be said about the Arcadia counterpart as well, making a nice contrast in comparison. Again, a great testament to the world building capacities of RTG, I marvel at the idea of how they were able to pull off integrating that much detail with such a small team.

 

Regarding the game standing on its own in the context of the series: I think while fans having played the previous entries of the saga might of course draw quite some additional enjoyment out of it, I think the quality of character depiction, storytelling and world building still makes it an easy recommendation for people appreciating narrative-driven games – it’s hard to come up with something much better nuanced and multi-layered as Chapters!


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#7 Nodachi

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Posted 07 November 2019 - 13:38

it’s harder to relate with Kian since fewer of us might grapple with the challenge of a hardened warrior fundamentally putting the system of beliefs they grew up with into question

Not a hardened warrior myself but I've been through a similar experience so I can relate. In my case, redefining myself took several years and resulted in me being more harsh, not less. Shit happening tends to do that to people.
 

Zoë’s journey in Dreamfall neither saw that much of fundamental development, she already was to some extent “Buddha-level unmoved”

Well... Maybe. Maybe that's my baby duck syndrome, but I see it that way:
Zoë in Dreamfall: "Ohmygosh, a dead girl in Reza's room!"
Zoë in DFC: "That's a rip in reality threatening to destroy it. How peculiar. Also, my ma is a fucked up woman who tried to kill me. Oh, and hi Crow."
Even when there's an option to

Spoiler
, it looks like an obvious attempt at emotional manipulation because it came out of nowhere. There was no emotional turmoil prior to this so it feels forced.

 

you’re alluding to

Yep, although I believe there was a text or a hint or a scene of sorts telling that

Spoiler
.
Maybe I'm confusing something. It was a while ago. Yet I'm definitely under the impression that it did happen.

 

how to value loyalty to friends vs. securely righting wrongs

Yeah. Funny thing is, I don't know what message this arc was intended to convey but what I got from it was "If your friends tell you they know what they're doing and they are adult persons capable to make adult decisions, in reality they are about to fuck up royally and you shouldn't trust them with anything".
 

what about employing violence to possibly protect the innocent

...and that one felt somewhat hardcoded because

Spoiler
.

 

The house between worlds specifically deserves all sorts of praise

Btw, that's probably one of the few cases of "Mystery is important" concept still working. While the general storyline exposes and explains everything, the house pours down a bunch of unexplained things serving more to tease us than to actually tell something.


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I want to believe :crow:


#8 IorekB

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Posted 07 November 2019 - 21:55

Well, maybe you're right that one should expect more emotional upheaval from Zoë when confronted to some of the various things happening. It's hard for me to remember how exactly her reactions felt to me depending on scenes, specifically in comparison with Dreamfall, even though we played the latter again this year so I might be supposed to be able to remember... :rolleyes: Might be a thing that when writing a character, it's very hard to have him/her react like if she/he would be confronted with stuff without prior knowledge, while you, as a writer, of course are familiar with the whole world and the impending events and have rolled everything over and over again in your mind to finetune it. Maybe this wears off a bit the emotional impact you might end up instilling into your character. Might be like a picture hanging on your wall for so long you don't even notice it's there. On the other hand, it might have been an artist's decision - maybe Zoë's been through so much stuff (even counting Dreamfall only!) and has afterwards been tending to people's dreams (and nightmares!), that she ended up with something like the "how peculiar/so what" attitude you wrote about, shrugging off even the most surreal/weird/shocking stuff... Still, I bought Kian being emotionally engaged with the fate of the magicals, so there's that... ;) Enu was great, and Likho as well... And, at least that's how I feel, there have been quite a few other well-developed scenes with deep character emotions.
 
Regarding the implementation of the two decisions you commented on, I think that it's not necessary the outcome the writers came up with regarding your choices that's most important, but the fact that you're led to ponder the pros and cons of a possibly difficult decision you wouldn't necessarily be confronted with in your life. Maybe that's very much of a pretty lenient perspective when it comes to reviewing :D , but I can't help but feel that given the budget and staff constraints, it's quite remarkable that they pulled off branching decisions at all at quite some quality level, implying the need to record tons of additional dialogue lines at that.

Spoiler

 
Oh, regarding decisions (or the lack thereof!), a brief mention of the fate reserved to Hileriss...
Spoiler
. And regarding the final chapter,
Spoiler

 
Great that we agree regarding the House of all Worlds, though! :D Might be interesting to replay all games in a row yet again, equipped with the new background knowledge and see how everything including character arcs falls into place...






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