Prepare for a thrilling adventure to take you around the world… Or rather both the worlds
April Ryan might seem like an ordinary girl, but strange things are happening to her. She is having nightmares that seem a bit too real – one of which is the playable prologue. While she starts off in denial about her dreams being more then nightmares, she eventually have to reconsider that after she meets a mysterious, older man that knows that she is having nightmares and seem to know something about what they mean, but without wanting to give away much at a time.
Eventually the story gets to the point when it is revealed that there are two separate worlds. One of them is named Stark, which is the world of technology (aka our world – but in the year 2209) and the other is Arcadia, the world of magic. The two worlds are held apart by the balance, and as April is revealed to be the next guardian of the balance, she has to find four pieces of a disc which is central to the balance, restore the disc and bring it to the guardian's realm. This won't be easy though, because there is an organization called the Vanguards who are both preparing for a war in Arcadia and has taken over the church of Scientology in Stark. Their goal is to reunite the two worlds into a world of both magic and technology.
While the story is a typical case of a normal person having to rise up to be the legendary person she was destined to be, while not being able to comprehend how she of all people could be the chosen one, TLJ doesn't take the usual videogame route of making the normal person bland, and boring with no personality whatsoever – besides being heroic. On the contrary, the first two hours of the game had more character development then I think I have gotten from any other video game I've ever played. Not only is there a lot of character development, it is also really good. It actually makes the characters seem like they could be ordinary people. I particularly enjoy that April has a sense of humour, making it more bearable to examine all objects.
The character development is given mostly through dialogue, and the voice-acting is spot on. While this isn't exactly an example of storytelling through gameplay, it definitely works. In addition to the voice-acting the lines can also be read at the bottom of the screen.
Now, the game is a point-and-click adventure and to say that I'm a big fan of the genre would be a lie. I wouldn't even have bought the game if it wasn't made by a Norwegian company and I really wanted a game to make me proud to be from the same country as the producers, which it definitely achieved. Anyway, here are some of my problems with the genre in general, and how the game dealt with those issues:
A) I don't understand adventure game logic. Many times in adventure games I resort to try everything in my inventory on anything in the world. Now, here the game makes it easy for me. Using the buttons A and S, you can make the cursor change into an item in my inventory. You can point at an object, then scroll through the inventory. If any item is worth using on that object, it will be flashing. So by doing this it took me just five or six seconds to check if any of the items I have are worth using on that thing or person. To see if items can be combined, you right click to enter your inventory, then point at an item and do the same thing.
B) Adventure games usually take for granted that my curiosity is at an extreme level. Here I had more of a problem. While I did examine everything, pick up every item and talk to all the people, I still got stuck very early on. When I eventually resorted to reading a walkthrough, I discovered that the game also expected me to examine everything in my inventory. More specifically, I was supposed to look at my diary and find April's timesheet which she needed to make her boss pay her so she could afford to travel with the public transfer system. While I did learn from that, there were still several times when my lack of understanding adventure game logic meant I had to consult a walkthrough.
C) I have a problem getting immersed by games where you control your characters by clicking on where you want them to go. I still have that problem with TLJ, but at least the story drew me in.
You may ask me why, if I'm a big fan of character development I hadn't already tried examining the diary in hope that I could read it. Well, the answer to that question is that I had discovered that you could access her diary from the menu screen. I will also like to add that it is awesome. It is a great piece of character development and April's tendency to deal with the absurdity of the things happening around her by joking about them makes it really enjoyable. Let me quote her diary for a demonstration.
"Sundays are made for sleeping in. Sundays are made for walking around in baggy clothes, watching movies, nursing headaches and hanging out with your friends at the café. Sundays are NOT made for going to the worst neighborhood in town to find a kid who might be able to give you the information necessary to infiltrate a powerful cult that plans to take over the known universe. That's what Mondays are for."
This game is from 2000, and the nice thing about Adventure game is that since the camera angle in each area never changes, the graphics doesn't suffer as much from the game's age and the budget not being that big. In general the design of everything is really good, particularly in Arcadia, with all the medieval architecture and the magical being and objects. It isn't until the characters start moving that the graphics get hilariously bad. The music is good though. Not in a way that makes me remember any soundtracks afterwards, but it sets the mood very well.
But I can forgive the limitations of the graphics, and I can forgive that the little gameplay there is to the game becomes something I have to get through to get to the good stuff – the story and the dialogue. I can forget all that because the story is amazing. It is a celebration of fairytales and a celebration of art. For instance in a village in Arcadia there are four stories within the story. You have to ask the people there to tell you the tales of the winds, the sea, the stars and homecoming. Those are all good stories, both in their own right and to show the culture of the Alatien people, who have a proud storytelling tradition. The Longest Journey has some really great characters, with April herself being my favourite, along with a talking bird named Crow who spend a lot of the time complaining that he was about to get it on with a hot female bird when you blew the whistle to summon him.
TLJ spans over thirteen chapter, plus prologue and epilogue. It takes about fifty hours to complete. I did have some problem with the disc – possibly because my OS is newer than the game. It didn't take that long to catch up with the lost progress, because you can skip the dialogue with Esc, which is helpful when doing something the second time. Still, I would advice everyone else who considers buying it to get it on Steam. It only costs 9.99 there.