Your character has only two real abilities: singing, which radiates a sound wave whose size is proportional to how long you hold down the button — this is used to activate or attract various objects; and 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 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:
- Adventure Game: This 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.
- 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. And so is the very last level, commonly known as Apotheosis, as well as a walk down Muscle Memory Lane.
- 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 section is added to the pattern on your cape.
- Collecting all the symbols unlocks a white cape, which starts with a longer scarf that recharges automatically when you're on the ground.
- 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 towards the most prominent object in the area and you're probably going in the right direction.
- Bilingual Bonus: 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)C’est 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 haiku.)C’est pour cela que je suis née, ne me plaignez pas
C’est pour cela que je suis née
I was born for this, do not pity me
I was born for this (French, Joan of Arc)
- 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".
- Border Patrol: 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.
- 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.
- 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: You, in chapter 7, when you keep on walking toward the summit even though you're slowly freezing to death. Which then turns into a Tearjerker when you finally do freeze to death just as you're reaching the summit. Even worse if you have a partner because you watch them die alongside you.
- Deus ex Machina: The Traveler and the 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. Until that point, there was 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.
- Being caught by a Guardian results in getting your scarf torn. You certainly won't be able to restore its proper length again, but fortunately, the subsequent levels of the game are still playable even if your scarf is short.
- 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 (that 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. Walking through the peak at the end of the game, and the theme of rebirth, reinforce the vaginal 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.
- 11th-Hour Superpower: After the Ancestors revive you near the end of chapter 7, you'll have a maxed out scarf/energy meter. You'll also periodically become bathed in golden light and gain the ability to truly fly.
- Easter Egg: There's a 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.
- Fade to White: Happens in every chapter except the fourth and fifth ones.
- 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: Another interpretation of the ending of the game and a strong contributing factor to the Rule of Symbolism and emotional impact.
- Gusty Glade: At one of the later chapters. Crosses with Death Mountain and Slippy-Slidey Ice World.
- It's the Journey That Counts: Perhaps a main theme of the game, appropriate considering its title and implicit in the ending.
- 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: It's not only you can't speak...
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: At the end of the penultimate chapter, it slowly turns very silent as your own life fades away.
- Mind Screw: In the last chapter, just after exiting the Temple, going over the top of the archway/corridor that leads into the snow takes you into some pretty weird places otherwise inaccessible, including long patches of dark nothingness and the top of the cliff where the silhouettes of cloth creatures are spawning.
- 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 being with a companion.
- Multilingual Song: The ending theme, "I Was Born For This", has verses in Latin, Old English, Classical Greek, French, and Japanese, in that order.
- 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 gliding ability.
- One-Woman Wail: The credits music, provided by Lisbeth Scott.
- The Phoenix: A possible interpretation of the characters. Considering the cycle of re-birth they undergo every time you beat the game, not to mention their clothes are red or white with yellow designs. This may be enforced 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.
- 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.
- Precursors: The White Robes are implied to be this to the Red Robes. They're named 'Ancestors' by the art book.
- 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.
- Sand Is Water: Played around with.
- Sometimes, the sand acts like sand. At other times, you can surf through it like water, and watch it glisten and ripple like water as well.
- The use of marine animal styles for the "cloth creatures" makes the parallel even stronger.
- 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. Can double as a Jump Scare as the level has been nothing but calm up to this point.
- 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 New Game+ 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. Not to mention some of the views that you're able to see throughout the game.
- Scenery Gorn: These are the crumbling remains of your main character's once great civilization you're going through.
- 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 although there exists an ancient language you can't seem to talk at all, even the game hardly shows any text beside from the logo and closing credits. 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 why the game takes place after the apocalypse is the machines powered by energy from red cloth destroyed the world in a war against the ancestor characters.
- 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 (and achieve your own Crowning Moment of Heartwarming).
- Shout-Out: There are hidden references to the other games developed by thatgamecompany, and encountering them nets you trophies.
- Sentient Phlebotinum: The cloth creatures.
- 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.
- 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 also makes some stages easier, since you can endlessly replenish each other's energy--but not your own.
- Spiritual Successor: The minimalist adventure style seems similar to ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. Then Journey got its own in ABZÛ.
- Super Not-Drowning Skills: Though in truth, it is debatable whether the substances one "swims" in qualify as water in the first place.
- Terminally Dependent Society: The scarcity of red banners, which were used as an energy source, started the civilization-ending war.
- Turned Against Their Masters: Implied with the Guardians.
- 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.
- Of course, you can go offline and get the achievement by yourself if other players continue to rebuild the bridge.
- Some more experienced players, upon observing they've been paired with a less experienced player, can be a little forceful, not giving the new player a chance to be the one to "sing" to release flags, flying carpets and reveal glyphs, rushing straight to the "solutions" to the puzzles and the locations of items rather than taking the back seat and allowing the newer player to work at their own pace.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Wandering You: Played with. Mostly due to the fact that your character(s) always know where to travel during each journey, or end up there. The characters you play as are sometimes referred to as journeymen, wanderers, or travelers since they don't have a name and the game is spent wandering from the desert to the mountain.
- 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.