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First of all, this game is a sequel to The Longest Journey. Even though it is a completely new story, it shares the same universe, and several of the characters appear from that game, so it is recommended to play that one beforehand. Not to mention the Nostalgia Level, which can really be appreciated if you played TLJ. It is also only half a story, as most plotlines remain open at the end, which are resolved in the sequel, Dreamfall Chapters. As such, while it is a rather short game, it's best played as part of a series, giving quite more playtime for going through all three games.
This game has two parallel plots. In Arcadia, the town of Marcuria is now occupied by the nazi-like Azadi who try to eradicate all magic in the world, and a small group of resistance fighters opposing them. Meanwhile, in Stark, the new main protagonist, Zoë Castillo, goes on a quest to find her missing ex-boyfriend Reza, meanwhile uncovering a conspiracy that the Mega-Corp WATI is trying to control people using their dreams. During her quest, she visits Arcadia in her dream, which turns out to be more than just a dream. These plots are apparently only connected by a mysterious little girl appearing through visions to Zoë, asking her to "save April Ryan". While the identity of the girl is revealed by the end, the real connection between Zoë, the girl, and April, and in general between the conspiracies of WATI and the Azadi, are only revealed in the sequel.
The thing I liked best is the Switching P.O.V.. You control 3 characters: the resistance leader April Ryan, the Villain Protagonist Kian Alvane of the Azadi, and the outsider Zoë. While exploring various places in Arcadia with these characters, you can observe how differently they interpret the same things, giving a unique experience. At one point, there is even a dialogue where two of these characters are having a debate, and you control both when they are having their turns.
The game is a 3D third-person adventure game made in a time when most adventure games were still Point-and-Click. This makes it a bit immature in its genre, making gameplay a bit tedious at times. Most noticeable are the fighting and stealth parts, which are not only out of place, but also poorly done. There are also some hacking minigames, which you might like or not, but I did not. On the bright side, none of these are particularly difficult, and the game doesn't have much Guide Dang It! moments, so it's not that bad, really.
All in all, while the gameplay mechanics have some shortcomings, it's worth a playthrough if you are willing to play two more games among it, one of them an old-school Point-and-Click adventure game.
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is a beautiful experience that instantly became one of my favourite times. It's incredible what a difference the graphics upgrade from The Longest Journey did. The whole world becomes something you want to look at and explore, arriving at each destination is it's own reward. And this of course strengthens the world building immensely, making Stark and particularly Arcadia something I'm interested in and want to know about and see more of. But it goes beyond a graphics upgrade, this game was made in 2006 and it still looks in 2013. Each setting has so much character and is so different from each place. The Cyberpunk of TLJ was interesting, but the Eastern-African-Futuristic blend of Casablanca is so much better when every wall and building is breathing a sense of place.
And the characters are all compelling too, it puts the rest of the industry to shame that someone so effortlessly creates not one by two, completely believable, completely interesting, protagonists who also happen to be female. These aren't generic 'good' heroes and they have problems that are relatable but also admirable and not boring.
I was happy to find the inane puzzles from original are also completely removed, instead almost* Friggin' mulled wine every quest chain is a very believable and simple set of actions, that adds flavour to the story. The combat and the stealth is pretty broken, but it's not hard and there's nothing that quicksaving won't get you through in three minutes, so I couldn't find myself annoyed by it. It still adds a believable texture to the world, it's important that Zöe can and does fight like she does, even more so for April and the Apostle. If you're looking for a hardcore game, I don't know why you thought to look here. Shamus Young described Dreamfall as more akin to reading a book, you can explore and look at the world at your own place and experience what it's like to go through the events.
The actually plot is good too. The ending moment with the little girl is one of the hardest things I could ever imagine someone having to do.
There are missteps, but it would take many more to destroy the magic that is Dreamfall
Keep in mind
I understand the complaints - the story is sort of unintelligible and the cliffhanger is terrible, it's a bastard child of adventure and stealth action, it's quite too short, it's quite too easy...
But for me, it was Love At First Sight. Characters are awesome - ZoÃ« is a lovable main character, in a situation that lots of young people can relate to; April is a Knight In Sour Armor and even if you didn't play TLJ you just have to root for her; Kian is... scary and Badass at the same time. Other people (damn, even the things!) you interact with - Crow, Wonkers, Faith, Na'a'ne and others in the resistance are so... alive. The story gets you in and doesn't leave you until the end and sometimes gets just scary. And then there is the graphic. Say what you wan't about the importance of top-notch graphical gimmics in games - visual part of gaming is important. And Dreamfall is beautiful. It doesn't resemble any other game I know. And even after those four years from it's creation it still looks good, because Zee Rust aside, the design is unique. It's that type of games where Scenery Porn doesn't become ridiculous after the technology becomes obsolete.
Overall, it might be just an escapist fantasy. But it works and won't leave you indifferent. Me, it really didn't - it got promoted to that single-digit group of stories I obsess over, and I'm very picky!
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