Greetings Fellow BookNerds,
So, I just got the news that the next installment of Dreamfall Chapters is set to come out this Thursday, and I could not be more excited… well, I suppose I could be, but only if the new Star Wars movie were to come out on the same day. Still, I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep too well for the next few nights, as my mind will be too focused on the next chapter of Zoe Castillo’s journey.
Actually, ever since I began playing this series, I found myself thinking a lot about how videogames have changed over the course of the past fifteen years or so, not just visually, but in the stories they have to tell, and the kind of thoughts and emotions those stories provoke in us.
For those of you unfamiliar with Dreamfall Chapters, it is the third in a series of games that began with The Longest Journey in 1999, a game which was both simple and complex at the same time. It told the story of two worlds; the one of science and logic known as Stark, and the other of magic and chaos known as Arcadia. The two worlds were once one and the same, but it became evident that magic and science could not co-exist peacefully, and hence they were divided, watched over by the Guardian who maintained the Balance between them.
In the game, you play as April Ryan, an art student with no real direction in life. She has been having very strange dreams, in which she travels to an unknown world and meets a beautiful white dragon who refers to April as her daughter. She tries to dismiss them at first, but when the world of Arcadia begins to leak into Stark, she cannot ignore them any longer. With the help of a mysterious man named Cortez, who seems to know a great deal about Arcadia, April soon discovers that she is a shifter, meaning that she has the ability to move between the two worlds.
Unsure where this journey will take her, April travels to Arcadia, where she meets all sorts of colourful characters, and learns more about this mysterious world and how she may be the only one who can restore the upset Balance between both worlds. It’s an older game, and as a result it doesn’t have the greatest visuals, nor the most exciting gameplay, but the story, dialogue and characters make it well worth your time, I assure you.
After I finished playing the first one, which to my surprise only took me a few days – my gaming is a lot like my reading, slow but determined, hence my surprise – I thirsted for more. When I discovered that a sequel had been made about eight years later called Dreamfall, I thought I might cry with happiness as I immediately got on my computer and bought the game.
I was so happy to see that they managed to keep all of the charm and wonder of the first one, while having created a gaming environment that was more suitable for modern gamers. They brought back much of the old, but also included a few new things for us to discover, which only added to the already amazing story. Of course, like any game, there are always things they could have done better, but overall, I was satisfied, and once again I fell into despair when the game ended, thus ending the journey… until I made yet another discovery!
In 2014, the game was reborn yet again with Dreamfall Chapters, taking the story to a whole new level that I couldn’t have even imagined being possible. Red Thread Games, who bought the rights to the game from Funcom, added an element to the game which was met with mixed results. Similar to games like Knights of the Old Republic and Witcher 3, Dreamfall Chapters includes various dialogue options which can alter the path your story takes. In other words, your choices have actual consequences, and honestly, I think that was a brilliant move on their part.
Games used to be designed in a way where there was only one outcome, and it was just a matter of making your way towards that outcome, which remained unchanging no matter how many times you play it. This is all well and good, except that there are no consequences for the actions you take along the way, and when there are no consequences, then all we’re teaching young gamers is that you can get away with anything so long as you know how to shoot a gun or go into stealth mode.
I love games that make you think, as opposed to shoot first and ask questions later. In Dreamfall Chapters, when you get to a point where you have to decide how to respond to what someone else has said, or you have to make a choice between two courses of action, the game pauses to give you time to reflect on those choices, allowing you to place yourself and their shoes and consider what you would do if placed in that very same situation. What’s more, each option provides a glimpse into your characters mind, so you can see the thought process they’re going through, not unlike what authors do with their characters. In other words, the characters begin to seem more like actual people, adding a whole new dimension to video gaming.
And with this new dimension, the stories that video game designers create can become even more complex, sometimes to the point where it literally feels like you’re actively participating in a novel. Dreamfall Chapters does this really well by dividing the game into different chapters, each one with its own plot twists and character perspectives, sometimes even ending on a cliff hanger to be picked up in the next couple of chapters. It’s a really creative and imaginative way to design a game, and I truly hope that the future will show us even more games following a similar path.
If any of you BookNerds out their are fans of this, or similar games, I would love to hear what you have to say about them and your opinion on the future of story driven games. Leave your thoughts in the comments below or on my blogs Facebook page, and until next time, keep on reading!