Summary: We check out a GDC demo of Funcom's upcoming adventure game sequel for the PC and Xbox.
While technically a sequel to Funcom's original title The Longest Journey which was released back in 2000, the developers decided not to make this a direct sequel so thankfully people unfamiliar with the first game won't have to know anything about it to enjoy Dreamfall. The sequel allows the player to take control of three characters at some point in the game. The Longest Journey's heroine of April Ryan is back for the sequel but her character will have some changes for people who have played the original game.
Two new characters make their debuts in Dreamfall. Zoe Castillo is a 20 year old woman who uses both charm and her use of technology get through the game. Finally there is the male character of Kian, a mysterious sort who is likely the main person you will need to control for Dreamfall's combat sequences (more on that feature later).
While there are three playable characters in the game, the main action centers on Zoe in the year 2219 in a city named Casablanca (whether this is supposed to be the future version of the real Casablanca is not explained). Zoe has everything a woman would seem to want in this time period; a cool pad, great location, and a cute pet robot (the game's main designer Ragnar Tørnquist told us during the GDC demo that the actor who voiced the cute robot is the same actor who voiced a similar character, Teddy, in the Steven Spielberg movie A.I.). Of course it wouldn't be an adventure game without some, you know, adventure in it and Zoe will venture out of Casablanca out into unknown worlds and settings. There are three major locations in the game; a world of magic, a world of science, and a world which Funcom calls "The Winter".
We mentioned combat before and while all three characters can do some sort of fighting in the game it's Kian that gets to do the majority of it in Dreamfall. Funcom has said the combat is akin to what BioWare developed for their 2005 Xbox action-RPG Jade Empire. There are three types of combat moves in the game (light, heavy and block) and the combat is being designed so that players don't have to be masters of fighting games to figure it out. It's cool to see that Funcom is trying to bring in new elements in the adventure genre.
The build we got to see at GDC was the Xbox version and it looked pretty darn amazing. The art style of Dreamfall looks more like an illustrated novel than a slick video game with lots of grand vistas, buildings and other locations. Character models are well done as is the user interface in the Xbox version. We were assured that the PC version of Dreamfall (which we did not see in our GDC demo) will look even better thanks in part to higher resolution graphics.
Even though we only got to see a brief Xbox demo of the game at GDC, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey already looks likely to be the adventure game to beat in 2006. The big question is not whether the game will do well on the PC but whether people will pick up this game on the Xbox, which hasn't had the best of luck with adventure titles. Aspyr plans to release this game for both platforms in the US later in April.
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