The Longest Journey Review

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Publisher: Funcom
Developer: Funcom

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 166 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 2 MB video card, 220 MB HD space

The Longest Journey is the story of April Ryan, a young art student recently arrived at the vast metropolis of Newport. Having fled a troubled family life, April is living and studying in Venice, an anachronistic neighborhood of Newport mostly inhabited by students and the homeless, and characterized by sludge-filled canals. Initially, April's greatest concerns are the occasional nightmare and an art assignment for an upcoming exhibition. Her life quickly gets out of hand.

As events overtake her, April discovers that the Earth was split into two parts in the distant past. One world, April's world, was left to pursue science, while the other followed a course of magic. These worlds are held in harmony by an ancient Balance, protected by a Guardian. Each Guardian watches the balance for one thousand years from an inaccessible tower. When the current Guardian's replacement failed to materialize, he was forced to abandon his post, lest he lose his soul. Without a Guardian, both worlds are rapidly falling out of Balance, and into a state of Chaos.

April is a Shifter – a rare individual with the talent to pass between Stark (the Earth of science) and Arcadia (the Earth of magic). She must reconstruct the magical key that opens the Guardian's tower, and restore the Balance to all things.

Kyle Ackerman

Even nine months after this game was first released in the United States, and nearly twenty-one months since this game was released in Norway, The Longest Journey is one of the most engrossing adventure games to be released.

Adventure games are often difficult to recommend, not because of the quality of the games, but because of the divergent preferences of fans. Some players prefer games with little dialogue such as the Myst series; others prefer humor in the style of the LucasArts games; and others prefer isolated puzzles and brainteasers. The Longest Journey is a dialogue-heavy, largely serious game with an epic plot and environments ranging from an undersea merfolk city to a deep-space port. There are some inventory-heavy sequences, but with the exception of a few puzzles, the inventory is kept manageable. Puzzles are often, but not always, kept contained to a limited area, reducing the frustration that occurs when there are seemingly limitless options and no obvious solutions. There are very few sequences that require timing, and the game never seems to put the player into a situation where the tools necessary to solve a puzzle cannot be found.

The backgrounds that form April's worlds are well drawn, and capture an otherworldly feel – either that of a magical realm, or the technology of the not-too-distant future. The characters themselves are the only component of the game's graphics that have aged. The characters are three-dimensional, polygon rendered figures that inhabit the two-dimensional landscape. The three-dimensional characters would have been more impressive at the time of the game's Norwegian release, but even now add to the game experience. Dialogue is voluminous and usually well written, and the voice acting is above the usual fare for computer games. The background music is adequate, sometimes interesting, and usually harmless.

The game exhibits a European sensibility. While not at all central to the plot, the dialogue contains a much more casual attitude towards sex and language than that with which American audiences are accustomed. At the same time, violence is rarely seen during the game. While American parents might appreciate the attitude towards violence, the sexual content might give more conservative individuals pause. As an example, rather than physically incapacitating a guard in a late-game sequence, April dissolves several pills in his coffee that enhance "male vigor." The guard, in a state of advanced enthusiasm, deserts his post to look for action of a different kind, leaving April to access the security systems.

I enjoyed The Longest Journey thoroughly, but the game's greatest weakness by far is its beginning. Clearly, the game's designers intended it to immerse you in April's normal life, so that the player could discover the peril facing Stark and Arcadia and take up April's heroic quest. Early on, several cut-scenes are played, seemingly intended to create some suspense, but remain thoroughly befuddling until information is later uncovered. The opening sequence involving a man in a column of light is bewildering until late in the game when the role of the Guardian is explained in more detail. An old woman telling stories comprises a long opening cut-scene using the game engine, intended to bracket the game's plot, and is, at best, long. Then a prologue occurs in which April meets the White Dragon, starting the player off with the hokiest moment of the game. Once all of these somewhat awkward moments are complete, the player must explore April's normal life, going through considerable dialogue to learn more about her background and life in Newport. If that's not enough, the most contrived puzzle of the game (involving a rubber duck, a mysterious machine, sparks in the subway and a clothesline) must be solved early on before April can begin to explore and learn about Arcadia, magic, and the Chaos that may overwhelm her two worlds. All of these issues at the beginning of the game can serve to discourage players from enjoying an otherwise very worthwhile game.

Get the game, grit your teeth past the slow opening, and then enjoy a game that drags you (willingly) through an epic tale of the convergence of worlds.






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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 25, 2001 6:05 PM.

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