Dreamfall Chapters – Book Four: Revelations
Developer: Red Thread Games
Publisher: Red Thread Games
Release Date: 12/04/2015
With this penultimate chapter comes some answers, though naturally the rest will come in the final book. Like any good penultimate chapter, it progresses and ties up some of the plot threads woven by the previous books while setting the way for the conclusion.
(While the plot will be different in each book, the gameplay, graphics, and sound are essentially the same. Sections from my review of Book 1 will be in italics.)
The implications from decisions made in previous books are revealed (get it?) in this episode, some in unexpected ways. There’s scenes in which you simply watch a scene without making any choices or interacting with anything. There’s references to events in The Longest Journey, with old characters and places making appearances. The extent of their roles will likely be more apparent in the final episode. Both protagonists step foot into new places, in contrast to exploring only Propast or Arcadia like in previous books (which is a welcome change in environments). Zoe in particular covers a lot of ground, venturing into old places previously visited by April, such as the now empty bandu camp. Kian infiltrates what’s essentially a magical concentration camp, which serves to further disillusion him of the beliefs he once upheld. Depending on the choice you made at the end of the third book, there’s also the possibility of beginning to reconcile with someone who’d been so antagonistic towards him. There’s even another interlude into Saga’s saga, with her now a teenager and chafing under the isolation and house confinement her father imposes on her.
The environments are varied and rendered with plenty of details. Storytime feels surreal with sundry things floating in the sky. Europolis looks and feels like a bustling city. Since you only see one place in Stark, it’s a bit harder to talk much about that world, though I’m sure there’ll be a lot more to see there in later chapters. The character models mostly look and move fine, and Zoe had different outfits for Storytime and Stark (the latter depends on the career path she’s on). I found Europolis a bit difficult to navigate initially, but I got used to the locations of different places as I walked around more. While the game ran fine on my computer (I left everything at the default settings), there’s been reports of lack of optimization and the game lagging, especially in Europolis. Red Thread Games has been patching the game with more graphics settings and fixes to memory management and frame rates, so hopefully those should allow more people to run the game smoothly.
The game plays somewhat like a Telltale game (complete with the “This person will remember that”-type notifications), though there’s no QTEs or combat. You can reconfigure the controls, but by default WASD moves, holding down shift at the same time runs, and the mouse cursor looks around and, depending on context and where it hovers, clicking interacts with an object or triggers commentary from the character you’re controlling. There’s a few inventory puzzles, but since you can only carry a maximum of five items at a time (and usually you don’t even accumulate that much at once), there’s less guesswork involved in figuring out what to do next. The emphasis is on wandering around inspecting your surroundings and picking up objects, though you can’t actually enter many places unless specific plot reasons call for it. During major decisions you can see what other players chose before selecting an option (unless you choose to play offline). There was one choice I found particularly hard to make, and ultimately I ended up choosing the one I didn’t think I would but was drawn to after hearing the arguments for both (and I also ended up in the majority).
All of the episodes were ported into Unity 5, which delayed the release of this episode. The game already ran smoothly for me, but for those who’ve had performance issues on their machines, this update might help on that front. The overall visuals do look nice, though some places (like the rebel base) seem somewhat more foggy than before. One character looked as though he’d spent way too much time in a tanning booth (seriously, look at this). This seemed particularly odd as that character hadn’t stood out like that in previous books. I had to replay last part of the third book for it to record the final decision, which was a small unexpected delay in starting the newest episode, but it didn’t take long so it wasn’t a big deal.
There’s still some lines that vary slightly between the subtitles and what’s spoken aloud (e.g. “Innocence, age, decay” spoken, but subtitle saying “youth, age, decay”), but not enough to drastically change the meaning of those lines. There’s differing volumes between voices, as some characters were a bit harder to hear in comparison to others. I’d turn up the volume a bit to hear the former, only to lower it again when the latter started speaking. The lip syncing issues I’d previously noticed in earlier books seem to have been resolved by this update.
The puzzles are relatively straightforward, with no loss in progress even if you fumble. There’s enough context clues to deduce a solution, but you still need to be observant. After doing it in the last book, I was a little surprised at not being able to sneak up behind a guard and knock them out during the stealth sections, but those sections were still mostly easy to get past (though watching for the door code did require really paying attention and entering it quickly before a guard came back around). One particular puzzle at the end was a clever one. Not only did it require really listening to each memory and sussing out a common theme thread among the different memories, it also imparted backstory into Saga’s life without being a huge exposition dump. It was a good integration of gameplay and story.
Short Attention Span Summary:
As the penultimate book of the series, Dreamfall Chapters – Book Four: Revelations paves the way for the climax of the story to come in the next and final book. There’s less interactive parts and more story scenes, which I didn’t mind (also understandable since more of the big choices were made in previous books). The final puzzle of the book provided background while also requiring the player to engage and listen to the exposition to arrive at the correct solutions. I look forward to seeing how everything wraps up in the final book.