The start of an epic tale that would span the distance between our world and our wildest dreams.
Let's begin with the main character. Female protagonists are, unfortunately, all too rare in the gaming world unless they kick a lot of ass, have a chest that would make Pam Anderson blush, or both. April Ryan, thankfully, is neither and if she had been this game would be far less of a storytelling triumph.
April is a tall, lanky, dark haired young woman in her early twenties. The game world is set a fair way into the future and starts in a fictional American coastal city called Newport. Throughout the opening hours of the game, April begins to form a relationship with the player using her life and friends as a medium. She is a student at a fine arts college, trying to make enough money to get by with a less-than-desirable job. She is stressed out over a project she can't seem to get the inspiration to start - much less finish, her past is troubled, her friends are the kind of unique characters you might expect to run across in an artist community, and amidst all this is the undertone that she's becoming detached from the world around her and can't seem to find her place.
While I get the impression that female players might relate to April Ryan better than I could, there were still enough elements there for me to form a connection, or at the very least, sympathize with her situation.
After a series of strange events and repeated encounters with a mysterious shaman-like man named Cortez, April is transported to the fantastical world of Arcadia. In the game's lore, there was once a singular Earth where both science and magic existed and worked together to create an unparalleled civilization. However, through the hubris of human ambition, this Earth was sundered into two parts, each occupying the same space but now on different planes of existence.
Ragnar Tørnquist, the game's designer, is easily one of the best interactive storytellers of our age as the delivery of the plot is done masterfully throughout the entire game. The voice acting is spot-on perfect for the individual characters and adds life and depth to their personalities. The musical score ranges from epic, to whimsical, to humorous, to dark and is implemented appropriately. Visually, the game uses mostly pre-drawn backgrounds. Though that is nothing to complain about as each background has been done in fantastic detail and serves to make each area all the more immersive.
The actual gameplay itself is relatively simple. It follows the old formula of a point-and-click adventure with an inventory system and such. There may be the odd time where you can't figure out what to do next or where to go without running back and forth and trying things at random. Whether this is because the hints were too subtle or require knowledge not given to you by the game (such as scientific principals) is hard to say. Though I find that an adventure game is better off with a few really hard puzzles rather than make it so easy that you become bored with just going through the motions.
All in all, The Longest Journey sets itself apart from others in its genre through a deeply compelling story, great characters, and visual splendour that surpasses the age of its technology.
**DISCLAIMER: This review was originally posted on 1 September 2007 under the user name TheSergeant. I have since closed that account in favour of my current one and re-posted my earlier contributions with minor spelling and informational edits.**