ESRB M (US)Original release date:
17 November 2000SoS mission date:
15 June 2007Metascore:
91Where to get it:
The game is available for download from Valve’s Steam digital distribution network. You can also occasionally find a boxed copy in some software shops, sometimes bundled with its sequel Dreamfall.Original Briefing by RampantBicycle and Beige (15/06/2007)
Your attention, please. I know, the usual XO isn't here for the briefing, but someone's gotta do it, so listen up. Today's mission will involve a fair bit of time travel - possibly cross-dimensional travel.
Your target is here: This is the city of Newport. The year shown is 2209. We have had reports of bizarre timespace anomalies occurring in the district known as "Venice" - left unchecked these could have serious implications for the universe as we know it, so your mission today will be to track down and investigate their source.
Presently, the activity seems to center around this girl: Her name is April Ryan, and she is a student at a local art college. Her story sounds normal enough...perpetually broke, estranged from her family...but if our intel is correct, there may be much more to her than we know.
Other factors to look out for when you get to Newport include the Church of Voltec, who own just about everything in the city. Despite the name, they seem to be more of a corporate entity than a spiritual one, and they dominate all space travel, so keep that in mind if for any reason you need to go off-world.
For this mission all cadets will be issued:
• One (1) stanadard - issue pocket chronometer. These are very expensive pieces of equipment, boys; damage them and you'll see it come out of your hazard pay.
• One (1) new Squad notebook with pencil - take good notes, people. A shift in the continuum could happen at any time.
• The equivalent of 100 US dollars in local currency.
• One (1) suit of clothing and appropriate gear for the year 2209. See the quartermaster after this briefing is concluded.
Departures will begin from the space/time transport bay at 0700 hours, dispersed throughout the day.
A note containing your scheduled departure time will be included with your gear. Do not be late. That is all. Move out, and report back when you have some worthwhile information for us, cadets.
Briefing ends. Personal note follows.
The Longest Journey was first introduced to me as "the greatest adventure game you'll never play." At the time, it was available only in Europe, with no plans on the horizon to bring it stateside. However, the subject matter looked intriguing - twin alternate-dimensional worlds? Travel back and forth between them through dreams? A long, complex story? Sure, sign me up!
So I took a gamble, and ordered an English-language copy from Norway. I was not disappointed. The Longest Journey is from what we might consider the Going Into The West of point-and-click adventure games (after all, they are still around, just harder to find, so they're not dead exactly), and the entire work is suffused with a kind of bittersweetness. Part of this is the plot of the game and the lives of the characters, all chock-full of loss and missed opportunities and sacrifice, but I can't pretend that I didn't feel, playing this, a kind of sorrow that this sort of game was becoming an endangered species.
Be prepared: the nature of the point-and-click beast means that there will be some counter-intuitive puzzling (inflatable ducky, anyone?), and the complexity of the story means that there will be some lengthy cutscenes. I clocked one of them at 15 minutes...until Xenosaga came along, The Longest Journey was the winner of the Longest Cutscene I'd Ever Seen prize. However, if the concepts on offer here sound even the tiniest bit interesting to you, don't let long cutscenes and the occasional bizarre puzzle put you off. There's good stuff to be had in The Longest Journey, including some attractive art, a plucky and interesting (and realistically flawed) protagonist, high-quality music (available for download from the game's site, free), and an entertaining story.
It's a long game, and for the most part a leisurely one. The delivery of the Goodness may be a little slow to get rolling, but it's in there - get yourself a beverage, sit back, and savor.
Oh, yes, and that fake leaf you can pick up in the Border House? There IS a use for it. See if you can find out what it is.
---- Beige's note: Those interested in TLJ's awesome soundtrack can download it freely from here
The Longest Journey is available right now over Steam if you don't happen to have the disc sitting around somewhere, and have always wanted to know what the fuss was.Squad Archivist Report
This game represents a fine example of how adventure games used to be made. Forget tacked-on arcade sequences, quick-time events and even 3D “cinematic” camera angles. The Longest Journey will remind you of when it was all about the story (with a few obtuse puzzles along the way).
Featuring one of the most well-realised protagonists of any game ever in the form of April Ryan (so well-realised was she, in fact, that Angry_Jedi made a number of references to “fancying the hell out of her”, much to the amusement of his girlfriend), The Longest Journey takes players on... well... a really long journey. Duh. This journey takes in the dystopian future world of Stark, and the vibrant, magical, colourful world of Arcadia. April’s travels between these two worlds and the reason for their existence makes up the bulk of TLJ’s plot, and by golly if it isn’t a compelling one.
The game is chock-full of literary references. From the Huxleyesque dystopian spires of Stark’s bleak future to the Philip Pullman style dimension-hopping between Stark and Arcadia, it is clear that Ragnar Tørnquist, designer of TLJ and its sequel Dreamfall, is well-read and in love with the worlds he creates. This comes across in everything about the game’s design - the characters, the locales, the dialogue - all of it gels together to create an extremely convincing game world.
A number of us were particularly surprised at how “gritty” the dialogue was. A number of characters drop the F-bomb with a great deal of regularity - but as JayShadow commented, this swearing never felt “forced” - rather, it felt entirely in keeping with the characters in the narrative, and reminded him of some of his friends who spoke in a similar manner. It also highlighted the differences between Stark and Arcadia even more, with Stark’s locales looking like something out of Blade Runner, while Arcadia’s environments wouldn’t have looked out of place in one of Sierra’s King’s Quest titles.
TLJ’s gameplay, too, is mostly streamlined and entertaining. A sleek, elegant interface with an intelligent cursor (as Angry_Jedi points out, “go back and play an old Sierra adventure to remind yourself how hellish life without them was”) allows you to get straight on with what you are doing without getting tied up in controls. Disappointingly, this is one area where TLJ’s sequel Dreamfall fell short. By putting the game into full 3D and giving the player full control of the characters’ actions as opposed to a point and click interface, everything felt somewhat less natural, particularly with the addition of distinctly “tacked on” feeling combat and stealth sections.
The only downside to TLJ’s gameplay is that perennial bugbear of point and clickers - illogical puzzles. In fairness, TLJ’s head-scratcher count isn’t too bad, with only one horrendously insane puzzle involving a rubber ducky springing immediately to mind, the rest feeling more “natural” and sensible. Unfortunately the rubber ducky puzzle falls near the beginning of the game and may well be enough to put less patient gamers off. Fortunately, the Squad soldiered on, many with walkthroughs minimised as they played, because it is almost immediately clear from the opening of TLJ that this is a story worth sitting through, stupid puzzles or no.
TLJ comes highly recommended from the Squad, especially at its knockdown price on Steam. Dreamfall is also worth checking out as a continuation of the story, though as a game its mechanics are somewhat inferior to its predecessors.
The TLJ story will continue at some point in the future with Dreamfall Chapters. For more information, see Ragnar Tørnquist’s blog