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Monday, 21 December 2015

Dreamfall Chapters - Book Four: Revelations

Dreamfall Chapters
Book Four: Revelations

You know how long it's been since the last Dreamfall Chapters episode? Six months. It took six months to get a new episode out. A significant part of that is the upgrade in the version of Unity they were using, which required going back and implementing the engine for all previous episodes. Despite saying that this change would make the whole game look better and run smoother, the eventual result seemed to be that it looked the same, didn't run any better (in fact, it ran worse for me), and a gigantic wait between episodes.

I may be harping on about this, but can you imagine if Telltale Games did that? They were duly slaughtered in the media for the excessive weight between some of the Tales from the Borderlands episodes, and those were nowhere near half a year long.

Anyway, in this episode, Zoe, now in Archadia, seeks to reach the Purple Mountains and the Oular, where she's been told that the First Dreamer is. To do so, she must enter Abnaxus' abode, deal with April Ryan's old enemy Roper Klacks, and face the Yaga, a primordial force of nightmare that has existed since before the twin worlds. Worse still, she knows that when she reaches the First Dreamer, she'll be faced with a choice - one that will change her life forever. Meanwhile, Kian arrives at the prison camp of Ge'en, and discovers the terrible experiments they have been running there - with Hami in close pursuit.

A majestic creature.

To be honest, this feels like an entirely different beast than the episodes we've had so far. While the three previous episodes have fitted very much into the 'Dreamfall' line of stories - which despite being sequels to The Longest Journey have always been substantially different in tone and content - this episode is constantly harking back to The Longest Journey, bringing back Roper, Brian, and Abnaxus in major roles and constantly referencing April's tangles with Roper and the Gribbler. It feels almost nostalgic in nature, a two hour wistful reminiscence about the game that started it all.

Which isn't a bad thing, and to be honest, this is my favourite episode so far. I do question the title, though: If you call your episode 'revelations', then one of the key things I expect is an answer to the biggest question of the series so far. That is: 'Who is the Prophet?' If anything, the episode only muddies the issue, pushing both Brian and, bizarrely given that he's not shown up in Dreamfall Chapters prior to this, Roper as candidates. Instead, the revelations all seem to be largely related to the cosmogeny of the twin worlds, which is all very interested, but not a question I actually ever asked.

Kian also gets a bit shafted in this episode, as he has in episodes before (ah, I remember the very first episode, where he only had about twenty minutes of story time), with his trip to Ge'en feeling less like an important part of the plot (we learned that evil things were happening at the internment camp, which frankly, anybody could have told you) and more like a reason to keep him out of Zoe's way and away from the rebels while the Azadi massacred them. He's in what amounts to a plot holding pattern, with the only real plot movement for him being Hami arriving so that Kian can get him on side (off screen).

Onor also needs to return to the Discworld book he came from post-haste.

Zoe's section of the plot also feels strangely rushed. After building to her traveling to Arcadia, she's in it for only a little over an episode, as plot threads involving the First Dreamer are hurriedly wrapped up to prepare her for, presumably, a final showdown with WATIcorp and the Undreaming. It's a far cry from the hopping-between-worlds schtick we had in The Longest Journey and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, and to be honest, I almost expected to see Kian end up travelling to Stark somehow, and I'm a little disappointed that he didn't. It'd make him the first person in-series to come from Arcadia and go to Stark, rather than the other way around.

Abnaxus' Abode.

Still, this is probably one of the stronger episodes of the series so far, and I did actually enjoy it a lot. While Red Thread Games had said that book five would be out by the end of the year, that seems enormously unlikely right now, as I write this review on the twenty-first of December, with no release date for book five in sight. To add to that woe, The Longest Journey Home has possibly been cancelled - or at the very least, its fate is up in the air - and Red Thread Games has remarked that Funcom might want to handle future installments in-house, so that's a thing. If I had to hanker a guess, I'd say we'll be seeing the next episode some time around March or April.

I suppose the latter would be fitting, in a way, at least.

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