30 minutes of Prison Break: Dreamfall Chapters edition

Dreamfall Chapters developer walkthrough

There are only a few games that I consider important to me, truly treasured possessions and experiences that had a substantial impact; The Longest Journey, and to a slightly lesser degree its sequel, Dreamfall, are two of those games. 

Ragnar Tørnquist and co. created two huge, fascinating worlds and tied them together beatifully with nuanced characters, clever puzzles and a powerful, compelling story that drove the adventure forward. It’s a critical series for not just adventure games, but video game narrative, and the fact that the story has been allowed to continue through Dreamfall Chapters makes me indescribably pleased. 

Red Thread Games have put together a 30 minute demo video, showcasing Kian’s – one of the previous game’s heroes – escape from Friar’s Keep, which was also featured in Dreamfall. Beyond the joy of seeing old characters and old haunts, the video is an encouraging glimpse into a game that, while only in alpha, is already looking rather excellent. 

Red Thread’s provided two versions of the video, one with commentary and one absent it, but I recommend the former as the commentary doesn’t get in the way of the on-screen action – which is mainly walking and talking – and provides some fascinating insights into the design process.

Sharp, witty dialogue, superb voice acting, dialogue puzzles – oh my. It’s shaping up rather nicely indeed. There’s more than a hint of Telltale’s impact on the world of the adventure game represented, with important decisions to be made with weighty impacts, and I’ve long expressed my love for the more organic, people-puzzles which have become so popular, where players aren’t just solving inventory conundrums, but are also trying to get into the minds of characters and solve them, as well as more tangible head-scratchers.

Above all, I’m most impressed and surprised by the dialogue wheel. At first glimpse, it looks a lot like Mass Effect’s, which is not bad at all, even though there was an occasional dissonance between the choices and the outcomes, but it’s actually a lot beefier than BioWare’s attempt. Dialogue choices are fleshed out by an internal thought process, with – in the demo – Kian thinking through his options, weighing them up, and adding context to them. It’s an exceedingly clever way of letting player’s understand the character, while also giving them the tools to make a decision that makes sense to them, without spoiling the actual dialogue.

While it’s lovely that we’ve got plenty of classic-style adventure romps to choose from these days, I’m ecstatic to see that Dreamfall Chapters is attempting to add some new mechanics to what is often one of the simplest genres. If Telltale’s success with The Walking Dead has taught us anything, it’s that there’s more than one way to make a compelling adventure, and it doesn’t always involve just wandering around rooms clicking on things and sticking stuff together – though that’s always a lark too.

Cheers, RPS.