Your character has only two real abilities. The first is singing, which radiates a sound wave proportional to how long you hold down the button — this is used to activate or attract various objects. The second is jumping, which allows you to go sailing through the air — this ability uses energy, which can be replenished by touching the floating bits of cloth you encounter throughout the game. The maximum amount of storable energy, indicated by the length of your character's trailing scarf, can be increased by collecting glowing symbols.
One of the game's main selling points is its unique form of multiplayer. During the game, you may encounter another player, whom you may travel with if you wish. However, unlike most multiplayer games, you can't see the other player's name or other information except for a unique icon that appears above their head when they sing, which is the only real way to communicate. There is no text or voice chat in the game, so you must rely entirely on your in-game abilities to work with your partner.
Decidedly not related to the rock band of the same name, an arcade game based on the band released in 1983, a video game Journey released in 1989 on various home computers or several films named Journey.
Compare and contrast LostWinds, which is practically its WiiWare and iOS equivalent, Star Sky for Wii U and also on iOS, ABZÛ, which was developed by some of the same people who created Journey, and Sky, the next game from thatgamecompany.
Note that the game's story is very much meant to be experienced firsthand rather than read about, so check out the tropes below at your own risk.
This game provides examples of:
- 11th-Hour Superpower: After the Ancestors revive you near the end of chapter 7, you regenerate a maxed out scarf/energy meter. You'll also periodically become bathed in golden light and gain the ability to truly fly during the Summit section.
- Adventure Game: The game is all about how the player chooses to explore while heading towards the distant split peaked mountain.
- After the End: The robed beings' civilization was destroyed in a civil war.
- Alliterative Title: The second area of the game is called the Broken Bridge.
- All the Worlds Are a Stage: The Temple is a Final Exam Stage (sans the death risk) the entire purpose of which is to prep you up for the climax.
- Animate Inanimate Object: Banners and cloth you'll come across largely resemble marine life, with rays, jellyfish, kelp and so on moving like the air was an ocean.
- Ambiguous Gender: The robed beings really don't have any identifiable sexual characteristics.
- And Your Reward Is Clothes:
- The first four times you complete the game, a new line of embroidery is added to the embellishments on your cloak.
- Collecting all the symbols unlocks a white cloak, which starts out with a longer scarf that recharges automatically when you're on the ground.
- Anti-Frustration Features: All sections of the game are playable regardless of the length of your scarf, since you can miss certain opportunities to grow it, can lose pieces of it in certain encounters, or simply hop to that chapter from the Hub Level.
- April Fools' Day: thatgamecompany put up a teaser for a "Rocket Death Match" DLC, which of course goes against the entire point of the game.
- Armless Biped: Your character doesn't have any arms. Word of God is that this is because they didn't want people wondering why you can't climb or pick up things.
- Ascended Glitch: During a phase in which thatgamecompany had trouble getting the ending levels to properly resonate with playtesters, one test ended prematurely when a glitch caused the game to seem like it was over right after you die in the snowstorm. The playtester found this false ending so profoundly moving it brought him to tears; this inspired tgc to put in significant extra effort (see Doing It for the Art) to turn the actual ending into something equally moving.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Your character in the ending, and apparently what happened to the robed beings who survived the civil war and made the journey.
- Beautiful Void: And how. Even the mere sand itself is a thing of beauty.
- Benevolent Architecture: The levels were designed with this in mind: just head toward the most prominent object in the area and you're probably going in the right direction.
- Book-Ends: The last shot of the credits montage is actually the start-of-game screen, complete with "Press Start to begin a new Journey".
- Breather Episode: The temple level offers a much needed break between the stressful underground and the harrowing mountain.
- Broken Bridge: This is the name of the second area of the game, which, appropriately, centers on a long stone bridge which has fallen except for a few remaining sections. Progressing requires freeing scarf creatures, which will repair the bridge using magic fabric. Though there is a trophy for finishing the level without filling in all the bridge sections.
- Civil War: The cutscene murals reveal that the precursor civilization you're exploring the remnants of, fell due to a massive whitecloak-versus-whitecloak war over scarce resources.
- Compilation Re-release: The Journey Collector's Edition, released August 28, 2012, includes Journey, flOw, and Flower, as well as three unreleased mini-games, videos, commentaries, and other fun extras.
- Crossing the Desert: The beginning chapters consist of a desert landscape—one that simply places the player in the middle of nowhere, pointed toward a distant mountain split by a crevice full of light. Your objective, whole and entire, is to reach the mountain. The player characters are completely swathed in robes and don't seem to need supplies, fortunately.
- Darkest Hour: At the end of the penultimate chapter, your character is left without a scarf, the mountain is more distant than it was at the start of the chapter, and it slowly fades away from view as the whiteout intensifies.
- Death Mountain: The seventh chapter sees you climbing the frozen mountain you've been making your way toward. It's by far the most difficult and harrowing level, with new threats like the freezing cold and fierce winds and old ones like the Guardian returning even deadlier.
- Desert Punk: More magic than Sci-fi, but the ruins you come across make the setting feel like this sometimes, especially after finding working War Machines and learning that the deserted lands you have been traveling across are of the After the End variety.
- Determinator: The player character, who relentlessly approaches the distant mountain. Taken to an extreme in chapter 7, when you keep on walking toward the summit even though you're slowly freezing to death.
- Deus ex Machina: The Traveler and any accomanying companion would have frozen to death in the snowstorm, if not for the timely intervention of the six spirits of the Ancestors who give them enough energy to reach the Summit. Before that point, there is no indication that the Ancestors can interact with the Travelers beyond merely showing them images.
- Developers' Foresight: If you play through the game without a companion and then one joins you later, the mural that you see at the end of chapter six will only show one red-cloaked person until it pans to the level where your friend joined, when two will show from there until the endgame. The reverse is also true—if you lose your partner in the Temple (for instance, they go back down for bonuses and you don't), the mural will show you partnered for the sections where you were together ... and facing the winds alone at the end.
- Diegetic Interface: While you're never in any danger of dying, your scarf serves as an indicator of your overall energy, determining both how long you're able to glide and your health; It decreases in length when you suffer through the blizzard (which ultimately kills you) and whenever you're mauled by the guardians.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?:
- For most of the game the peak of the High Mountain looks a bit like an upside down camel toe. The theme of rebirth and walking through the peak at the end of the game reinforce the yonic imagery.
- On a less sexual note, the ancient civilization's dependency on the red cloth mirroring modern society's dependency on petroleum. Doesn't help that you're in a desert.
- Dramatic Thunder: This can be heard near the end of the penultimate chapter.
- Drop-In-Drop-Out Multiplayer: Sometimes you might not even realize that someone else is around until you see your screen glow because of their singing, and it can be easy to leave another player's game by accident. Even if both players exit a level together, that isn't a total guarantee that you'll be with the same person on the other side.
- Dying Dream: A possible interpretation of the events that occur at the end of the game.
- Easter Egg: There's a very special flower hidden in the pink desert in the third stage of the game, and a creature from flOw in the Temple level. Finding them nets you trophies.
- Eye Lights Out: Your character's Glowing Eyes fade as they freeze to death.
- Fade to Black: Happens at the end of the fourth and fifth chapters, as you're walking through whatever gate has just opened up before you.
- Fade to White: Happens at the end of every chapter except the fourth and fifth ones.
- Fatal Forced March: The penultimate level sends the protagonist on a desperate attempt to climb the mountain seen throughout the game: it's a long, brutal slog disrupted by strong gusts of wind and patrolled by hostile Magitek, and it's made all the more arduous by the fact that your usual gliding powers are disabled by the cold. Worse still, the final leg of the journey takes you through a blizzard, and with the storm surrounding you, your only choice is to continue walking. It ends with you freezing to death ... only to be brought back to life and allowed to continue the journey with your powers enhanced.
- Five-Second Foreshadowing: Looking to the right as you enter the second part of the Underground Passage, you can see a huge, moving machine through a latticework. Something is still working down here. Then you come across a still-flickering War Machine head. A few hundred feet later, a Guardian jumps out of the sand at a ribbon creature.
- You know those comets you can see periodically throughout the game? Those are other travelers who have reached the end of the game. All of the ones you see are scripted, but you see them at the same points where it shows a "player" during the end credits.
- Similarly, the Ancestors that appear to you in the game's cutscenes are just telling you a story with pictures, until you get to the penultimate level. The cutscene is you looking at a panorama of all the places you've been so far—then the camera holds for a long, lingering shot of what looks like you (and your travel companion, if you have one) attempting to scale the mountain you've been walking towards... and failing. Oh, and speaking of things you see throughout the game, all those stone markers are probably graves.
- Game-Breaking Bug: It's possible for the game to simply crash at certain points, and given the short nature of the game, you'll likely have to simply start over.
- Glowing Eyes: Your character has these, as do the Ancestors, though yours are white and the white figures' are blue.
- Go into the Light: The game ends with the player character(s) walking into a bright light, possibly to be reincarnated or join the afterlife.
- Green Aesop: According to the historical murals you are shown, the precursor civilization exploited the natural resource available to them (the cloth), replacing some kind of bushes with cityscapes, until there was so little remaining that it caused a civil war which toppled their society, and the land turned to desert.
- Gusty Glade: Much of the mountain area is crisscrossed with strong winds that will blow your character either back or to the side, depending on the level.
- Hell Is That Noise: A Guardian on the hunt for you sounds like some mechanical hybrid of an attack sub, a 747, and an angry whale. The absolute worst thing is that you often can't see it, because you're busy hiding.
- Here We Go Again!: Implied in the ending, when the ascended player character returns to the desert where the game began. Also Book-Ends.
- Heroic Mime: The characters are speechless, apart from their various chirps.
- The Hero's Journey: Perfect evocation of this story structure. The song titles on the soundtrack even coincide with steps in the Hero's Journey.
- Hub Level: In the tutorial level, the six alcoves contain teleporters to the six chapters which will unlock once you've beaten the game once.
- Invisible Wall: While later stages take place in confined areas, the beginning areas seem like a never-ending desert. Players are kept inside the boundaries by wind picking up the closer to the edge they get, first slowing them down, then blowing them back across the invisible boundary.
- It's the Journey That Counts: Perhaps a main theme of the game, appropriate considering its title and implicit in the ending.
- Jump Scare: Each of the two War Machines awakened in the Underground Passage suddenly roars to life when you get close. It's especially unexpected the first time, when its appearance shatters the subterranean calm of the preceding section.
- Light Is Good: The mountain you're heading toward has a glowing peak, and the energy you use to fly sends off light.
- Light Is Not Good: On the other hand, in the underground level it becomes essential to stay out of the War Machines' searchlights to keep them from spotting you.
- Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!: The ruins and trapped cloth creatures you find throughout the game are the result of the fall of the advanced ancient White Cloak civilization after they wiped themselves out during a war over the red cloth they grew dependent on.
- Lost Superweapon: The Guardians which destroyed the civilization. Some are still active.
- Lost Technology: The harnessing of energy through the cloth creatures, which the precursors had mastered and which your character rediscovers throughout the game.
- Minimalism: Part of what makes this game so beautiful and helps make finding anything (like easter eggs, cloth creatures, or another player to journey with) feel so rewarding.
- Moment of Silence: The end of the penultimate chapter slowly turns silent as your own life fades away.
- Mood Motif: Certain musical instruments heard in the game are associated with various events, with the cello mainly representing the player character. For an example, bass flute is for the white figure seen at the end of most chapters. Certain instruments play only when you are with a companion.
- Multilingual Song: The One-Woman Wail credits song, "I Was Born For This", consists of lyrics not only from many different languages but derived from several classic sources:Stat sua cuique dies
To each his day is given (Latin, The Aeneid)Mæl is me to feran
Time is it for me to go (Old English, Beowulf)Aleto men moi nostos
Lost is my homecoming (Greek, The Iliad)Cest pour cela que je suis née
I was born for this (French, Joan of Arc)Kono michi ya, Yuku hito nashininote
Kono michi ya, Aki no kure
Along this road, goes no one
Along this road, this Autumn eve (Japanese, Matsuo Basho)Cest pour cela que je suis née, ne me plaignez pas
Cest pour cela que je suis née
I was born for this, do not pity me
I was born for this (French, Joan of Arc)
- Mr. Exposition: When you activate the shrine at the end of each level, an Ancestor will show you a visual representation of historical events.
- New Game+: Starting a new game with the White Robe.
- No Antagonist: The only enemies you can find are the Guardians, and even they can't really qualify as antagonists.
- Not Quite Flight: The character's scarf power (when charged) allows them to flap upward several times, after which they can glide.
- Off-into-the-Distance Ending: The game ends with the player character (and any companions) walking slowly away from you until they disappear into a bright, blinding light.
- One-Woman Wail: The credits music, provided by Lisbeth Scott.
- One-Word Title: In keeping with the game's general minimalism.
- Oppose What You Suffered: The various cloth creatures you encounter used to be used to power the machinery and engines of war of the Ancients. When you free some of these creatures from the machinery they are trapped in, they will insist on leading you to other entrapped cloth creatures so you can free them as well.
- The Phoenix: A possible interpretation of the characters is that they are a reference to the mythical bird, considering the cycle of rebirth they seem to undergo every time you beat the game, not to mention that their clothes are red or white with yellow designs. This may be reinforced by the fact that red is the "coldest" color of natural fire while white is the "hottest", which fits with how White Robes have more energy than red robes.
- Platform Game: Has some elements of this. Gameplay often involves using your fleeting scarf powers and the fabric around you to progress steadily higher.
- Player Data Sharing: Subverted. The glowing symbols that can be seen floating above the environments look like previous players' souls/symbols returning to the beginning from the top of the mountain, as happens to your own at the end of the game, especially since other players can actually accompany you if you play online, but careful observation reveals that those symbols are always the same and are essentially static features of the respective levels.
- Power Glows: The energy used to fly seems to be made of light, as is the liquid version you fill the temple up with (which later reappears in pools and "waterfalls" at the summit).
- Precursors: The White Robes are implied to be this to the Red Robes, which according to the murals were created after the fall of the White Robes. They're named "Ancestors" by the art book.
- Pride Before a Fall: The murals show the white robed ancestors mastering their scarf-based technology and rising to the top of the natural order ... before the tragic fall of their civilization.
- Progressive Instrumentation: The Temple level is a tower, which you ascend by activating light emitters at its core, one floor at a time. Each time you light up a floor, additional instruments join the background music, starting from complete silence at the start of the level and going to the full orchestra by the time you reach the top.
- Ragnarök Proofing: Mostly averted. The vast majority of the buildings encountered in the game are in a visible state of disrepair. The still-active Guardians are the exception to this rule.
- Recurring Riff: A certain motif is played throughout the game.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: How you can tell you're about to be viciously savaged by a Guardian. Their searchlight beams turn red (and inescapable) when they spot you.
- Reincarnation: Implied. After you finish the game and fly back over all the areas you've explored while the credits roll, your star alights on the first hill you climbed, and you're given the option to start the game again. This could just be another wayfarer making their way to the mountain, but the extra line of embroidery adorning your cloak the second, third, and fourth times through suggests that you're still the same being.
- Sand Is Water: Played around with. Sometimes, the sand acts like sand. At other times, you can surf across it like water as it glistens and ripples, and in the second and third levels it streams over cliffs exactly like waterfalls. The use of marine animal styles—schools of fish, dolphins, jellyfish, and whales—for the cloth creatures reinforces this, with the "dolphins" frequently jumping in and out of the sand like ocean waves. All this is particularly evident in the underground level, where greenish-blue lighting filters in from above, and dust motes float through the light like tiny bubbles. Your character's flight abilities look more like swimming in this environment.
- Scare Chord: When you encounter the first Guardian that comes to life.
- Scarf of Asskicking: No violence so not asskicking, but it can grow to roughly four times the length of the character and it lets you glide for massive amounts of space. This also depends on if you chose to begin your journey with a White Robe. At a certain point (just after you are revived by the Ancestors), you are given the power to fly, and turn into pure light .
- Scenery Porn: Massive desert with gorgeous ruins and realistic cloth, sand and lighting effects? Yes please. The cutscenes and pathways are carefully arranged to make sure you're treated to a variety of vistas.
- Science Fantasy: Besides the beautiful sand that submerged the world, glyphs, magical cloth, and the impaired buildings, technology is uncommon at most. You glide using the energy bundled in your scarf, and singing near large pieces of cloth can release "cloth creatures" from the machines'/Guardians' remnants. Glyphs and confluences teach you the history of a civilization started by your ancestors. The reason the game takes place after the apocalypse is the machines powered by energy from red cloth were used in a massive civil war.
- Screw Destiny: If you haven't found a partner or lost them before the end of the 5th level the cutscene will show you braving the blizzard alone (again), but you can still find a new partner in the next level.
- Sentient Phlebotinum: The cloth creatures you use to progress through the game behave like animals.
- Sequence Breaking:
- If you have enough cloth power, there are a few sections you can bypass without dealing with the puzzles. Of particular note is the broken bridge early in the game, which normally requires releasing enough cloth creatures to form a bridge between the sections. If you have the white cape, you can simply fly between the sections. This gets you an achievement.
- If you know the trick, it's actually possible to ascend out of the ceiling of the underground passage and walk along the top of the level. That's right, it has a roof. You can drop back through the roof at another point at the end of the level, without once encountering a single War Machine. The same is true of level seven, where you can climb over the top of the mountain range and bypass the level (and the Guardians) almost all the way to the beginning of the death march to the Mountain itself.
- Shifting Sand Land: The first four levels all take place in a variation on this setting, albeit less generic than most examples, since it's the main setting for the game: a hot, vast desert full of dunes and ancient ruins.
- Shadowed Face, Glowing Eyes: The main character wears red robes and has glowing white eyes underneath them.
- Shout-Out: There are hidden references to the other games developed by thatgamecompany, and encountering them nets you trophies.
- Silence Is Golden: No spoken dialogue ever occurs. It just isn't needed. The only words in the entire game are written the options menu, the title screen, and the ending credits, while the only spoken words are part of the ending song "I Was Born for This", which is in multiple languages and hard to decipher or understand without knowing the lyrics and sources.
- Slide Level: "The Descent" level sees you dropped onto a mountain slope to sand-surf to the bottom at high speed (with a short break in the middle). If you manage to find a flat surface, you'll discover that said speed is actually artificially boosted, as the devs surreptitiously apply constant forward force to your character's physics model so you keep sliding forward and downward.
- Socialization Bonus: It is possible to complete the game on your own but the entire game is obviously designed to be played with an anonymous Companion over the net. Sticking together makes many stages easier, since you can endlessly replenish each other's energy, especially the final trek up the mountain, where your scarf gradually loses power in the cold without a companion to cuddle with.
- Spiritual Successor: The minimalist adventure style seems similar to ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. Then Journey got its own in ABZÛ.
- Temple of Doom: Averted. The Temple level is a totally safe Breather Level between the dangerous Underground Passage and Mountain.
- Terminally Dependent Society: The scarcity of red banners, which were used as an energy source, started the civilization-ending war.
- The Tower: One of the murals shows an Ancestor atop a tall tower, representing the hubris of the white-robe civilization before their decline.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: Part of chapter 5 consists of a Stealth-Based Mission in which you have to sneak through a tunnel being patrolled by Guardians. You'll repeat this exercise in chapter 7, this time hiding in the husks of dead Guardians as live ones pass overhead. If one sees you, it'll grab and toss you a long ways and tear off part of your scarf, reducing your energy meter.
- Unwanted Assistance: An interesting example, in that it's not only perpetrated by other players but is almost certainly done without malice: the second chapter features a bridge which, if crossed without repairing it completely, will reward a trophy. Unfortunately some nice person will often see you 'struggling' and take pity on you by fixing the bridge section you obviously didn't see, undermining the whole endeavour.
- Variable Mix: A few musical instruments are added to some of the songs when playing with another player.
- Video Game Caring Potential:
- You can fill your partner's energy gauge by singing or by walking very close to them. In chapter 7, when the extreme cold constantly drains your energy, you can still replenish it by the latter method, like you're huddling together for warmth. How sweet!
- At the end of the game, the usernames of your companions are listed, and it's become common for players to send messages of thanks to their companions after playing the game. Players on Steam even started a thread on the game's forums to do just that.
- Some clever gamers have devised another method of communication besides singing. It involves tracing in the bit of snow just before the end of the journey. The most common symbol? A heart.
- As in many MMOs, even without chat, players commonly jump up and down, run in circles and have their characters vocalize to indicate the presence of collectible items for others who may still be searching for them. It's also par to show off tricks used to get certain ultra-rare achievements.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: Or, of course, you can just desert them in a ditch somewhere. Your choice. The physical and communicative abilities of the players were also deliberately limited to avoid the kind of griefing that's usually associated with online multiplayer. In fact, Word of God (by Jenova Chen himself) stated that Griefing is exactly the last thing he want to see in the game. The experience that taught him this? Playing World of Warcraft for years.
- War Is Hell: Played with. After a long and quite literal descent you're informed of your ancestors' apocalyptic conflict by the gloomy and oppressive subterranean level, which also contains the first appearance of the guardians, the game's only source of the scary.
- World of Symbolism: Yes, you're allowed to interpret the story. Unfortunately, many interpretations are bleak, leading most gamers to think that the primary symbols allude to our own real-life Crapsack World, and our dependence on natural resources.
- The World Is Just Awesome: Many areas in the game appear to exist solely to make you sit back in your chair with your mouth hanging open.