Dreamfall: The Longest Journey E3 2005 Impressions

We revisit the successor to Funcom's acclaimed adventure game The Longest Journey at E3 2005.

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We had the opportunity to take an updated look at Dreamfall: The Longest Journey from Funcom at this year's E3. The game seems to be shaping up extremely well and looks even better than it did the last time we saw it back in March. Back then, voice-over had not been added to the game. But this time around, the game had both full speech and text dialogue at the bottom of the screen, similar to The Longest Journey.

Game director Ragnar Tornquist walked us through the early scenes in the game that introduce the first of its three protagonists, Zoe Castillo. Unfortunately for Zoe, she has suffered some sort of trauma and has lapsed into a coma as a result. Her only surviving relative, her father, sits and watches her for any signs of life as Zoe begins a disembodied narration into the events that led up to her condition. We then skipped ahead to the next scene, which happened a few weeks before the opening sequence, in which our heroine is still able to freely walk the streets of Casablanca, the wealthy and powerful African cape town. According to the alternate future suggested by Dreamfall, the entire continent of Africa has become one of the richest and most influential in the world, while both Europe and America have fallen on hard times. Zoe gets out of bed and is greeted by her personal assistant, a talking robot that looks much like a purple stuffed animal gorilla (and voiced by actor Jack Angel, whose quiet, soothing delivery will be something of an homage to his role as Teddy in the film A.I.).

After getting out of bed, our heroine begins to run through the streets of the city, stopping briefly to have a conversation with one of her friends along the way by using the game's streamlined dialogue system, which clearly indicates your choices onscreen as abbreviated text cues. We then followed her on her current quest--to meet us with her ex-boyfriend Reza, a daring investigative reporter who asked for her help, only to end up missing. Zoe's investigation takes her to Reza's apartment, which was locked. She had to use the hacking function added to her mobile phone by a hacker friend to break the lock. Hacking was done by solving a simple puzzle game that required matching four patterns from a board full of symbols (the hacking puzzles will be faster paced and more challenging later on).

Zoe entered to find that the apartment had been torn apart and was being guarded by a small guardian robot with motion and sound detectors that fried Zoe's gentle gorilla assistant as soon as she entered. She needed to enter the apartment to investigate, but also had to disable the robot. As Tornquist explained, this sequence could be resolved with a classic "adventure game-style" approach: using the game's innovative focus-field interface to examine the robot and notice that it bears a distinctive corporate logo. After observing the logo, Zoe could then leave the apartment and visit a hacker friend of hers who could research the make and model of the robot and come up with a countermeasure. We instead watched Tornquist take more of an action-game approach by slowly creeping past the robot to the bathroom and turning on the shower-mounted radio, which brought the robot running to her. As soon as the robot scuttled into the shower, Tornquist pressed the automatic shower button, which sealed the door and turned on the water, causing the robot to short out and malfunction.

We then skipped ahead to a much later part of the game in which Zoe ends up visiting a township called Venice outside of the metropolis of Newport. Fans of The Longest Journey will recognize the names of the towns (this was the same area from which April Ryan, the protagonist of the original game, began her first adventure), as well as the general neighborhood (including the walkway around the clock tower). Although, they may have trouble recognizing the rest of the city, which has become a filthy, run-down slum. She ran past homeless folks trying to warm themselves next to burning oil barrels and entered April's old apartment building to see a trail of blood along the ground. The blood led to a control room with TV monitors that showed the mysterious little girl (who will appear at various times in front of Zoe) standing in room 201 (which, incidentally, was the same room April Ryan roomed in during her days as an art student).

Zoe attempted to climb the stairs to get to room 201, but found that the door was locked. In order to get there, she ended up climbing to the third floor, so she could attempt to shimmy down the fire escape into a nearby room. As she did, she encountered several tenants who seemed to be walking about in a daze. According to Tornquist, the apartment building is a front for a much more sinister operation, and the tenants are actually test subjects in some kind of experiment. This was about all the designer would reveal.

Dreamfall looked even better than ever, and its highly distinctive hybrid gameplay and complex story definitely seem like they'll add a great deal to the game. Dreamfall is scheduled for release later this year.

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