Inside Pulse 12

Review: Dreamfall Chapters – Book Five: Redux (PC)

Dreamfall Chapters – Book Five: Redux
Developer: Red Thread Games
Publisher: Red Thread Games
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 06/17/2016

Here we are at last, the end of this long journey. The Longest Journey came out in 1999, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey came out in 2006, and then we didn’t see another entry in this series until book 1 of Dreamfall Chapters came out in 2014. It truly has been the longest journey, and this book promises to wrap up everything introduced in previous books and the aforementioned games.

(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.)

Given this is the climax, it’s a bit hard to go too much into the plot without spoilers, but I’ll still try to keep spoilers to a minimum. More old faces show up again, with one who previously seemed like a comic relief character get a more important role. Most of Kian’s side involves leading the resistance army to stop the Azadi’s plan to kill all magicals, while Zoe contends with revelations regarding her origins. Parallels between Arcadia and Stark more apparent, and the line between the two worlds even blurs. While there was an emphasis on choices in first few books, in this one you’re mostly along for the ride, as, to quote the game, “the story is already written”. While some of the choices you’ve made along the way affect the fates of some side characters, they don’t impact the overarching plot so much, which is a bit of a disappointment given how heavily the consequences from choices theme featured in the earlier books. You do get one choice to make, but you see the results right away since there’s no more books to wait for.

The conclusion wraps up loose ends neatly enough for you to walk away feeling as though things were resolved (no giant cliffhanger like the end of Dreamfall). However, this final book emphasizes the strong recommendation – dare I say, need – to play through the first two games first (or at minimum watch a Let’s Play). There’s lots of callbacks to those games which lose poignance if you’re not familiar with the context and characters involved. The final scene in particular loops in with The Longest Journey. I do wish there was a chance of The Longest Journey Home being made (as the final scene seemed like a potential lead-in), but even without it the ending did feel like a proper conclusion.

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).

While the bulk of this book is watching events unfold, there are a few puzzles to get through before the end. One puzzle has a solution that seems glaringly obvious, but turns out to be a red herring if you try to use it (you can, however, use the contents for amusing results). There’s also another listening puzzle, and it’s trickier than the one in the last book (at least for me), as it requires listening to pitch, then replicating the pattern. It could be just because I’m more tone deaf than I thought, but no matter how closely I listened and tried to repeat the pattern, I eventually ended up needing to look up a Youtube video to get past that part. The other puzzles were generally doable without help as long as you paid attention. Though I will say being the type to examine things multiple times until the comments started to repeat helped me in one puzzle in particular, though there could’ve been more of a nudge. There’s also a stealth section, as well as a return (albeit an all too short one) of the powers Zoe used in Dreamtime way back in book 1. Overall, though, gameplay takes a backseat to story in this book, which is understandable given how it feels like wraps up not just Dreamfall Chapters, but the Dreamfall series as a whole.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Dreamfall Chapters – Book Five: Redux is a culmination of not only the events in the game, but also the series. The primary focus is on story and wrapping up all the loose plot threads, so there’s fewer puzzles and choices to make. Looking back at how consequences from choices played out, it didn’t feel like they played as big a role as the game emphasized in earlier books. Still, I walked away from the ending satisfied with how things ended up. It’s disappointing The Longest Journey Home is unlikely to materialize anytime soon, as I would’ve liked to see more of April. But I am glad the series did get a proper conclusion.