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Dreamfall Chapters - Book One

Score: 75%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Steam
Developer: Red Thread Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/ Puzzle/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

At its heart, Dreamfall Chapters - Book One owes a huge debt to classic interactive fiction like Zork or any of the Infocom library from the early days of home computing. The difference is that Dreamfall Chapters - Book One exchanges spare text for lavish visuals, music, and voice acting. This game basically externalizes the movie that was running in our minds as we played those great interactive fiction games of long ago.

Itís clear that a huge amount of work was put into the design of Dreamfall Chapters - Book One, from the character models to the level maps to the voice acting to the music. It all really smacks of quality, the kind of loving attention to detail that makes for a great gaming experience. If Dreamfall Chapters - Book One were no more than an interactive movie, it would still be worth your time. Also worth mentioning is how well the interface gets out of the way to let you focus on the experience. When you want to use an object or speak with a character, you can mouse over them to view a set of options, but otherwise thereís nothing to distract you from the characters, the setting, and the storytelling.


Gameplay:

Recent years have produced an abundance of story-driven adventure games from publishers like Double Fine, Telltale Games, and smaller independent creators. The runaway success of something like Gone Home and more esoteric adventure titles like Kentucky Route Zero demonstrate that thereís an audience eager for more than shooting, driving, and abstract puzzle games. The latter category is an interesting parallel to Dreamfall Chapters - Book One because there are plenty of puzzles to be found here. They go beyond the fetch quests of a typical RPG or action/adventure game, but donít always rise to the level of smarts weíd like.

What youíre getting with Dreamfall Chapters - Book One is essentially a lean-back experience punctuated with choices that keep you engaged in the progress of the story. Objects present around you at any given time are almost all useful, with a few extras thrown in for color. Itís interactive fiction on steroids, but as an adventure game, it largely runs on rails. Compared to some of Telltaleís work in this genre, Dreamfall Chapters - Book One appears to have much more contained choice, preferring to keep you on track rather than give you an open world. The style of this game is very story-centric, making it great for players more interested in being entertained than in having their brains twisted.


Difficulty:

Depending on what kind of expectations you bring to Dreamfall Chapters - Book One, the fact that it doesnít place much focus on stumping players is either good or bad. As with any game of this type, thereís always a certain combination of available objects you need to discover. The ability to combine objects in your inventory is a nice level of complexity, so youíre at least one step above fetch quests. Even with this level of detail, we found the puzzles werenít designed to hurt your brain or to require much special knowledge. As a benchmark on the extreme end of the challenge spectrum for this type of game, weíd throw out something like the Myst series, where puzzles often required some seriously lateral thinking.

If there arenít many brain teasers here, whatís left? The opportunity for Dreamfall Chapters - Book One in our estimation is to bring adventure gaming to a more casual audience, especially an audience looking for unique aspects like a well written female character and a story that doesnít insult your intelligence. Sure, the puzzles may fall a bit flat, but if you like the story itís actually a perk that the game isnít putting up any big walls between one chapter and the next.


Game Mechanics:

The spare interface of Dreamfall Chapters - Book One trickles down to the mechanics. Playing on a console or keyboard is all about the same since the only actions required are to move around the world and interact with objects. Certainly thereís nothing like twitch reflexes or platforming involved, so this is a good opportunity for those interested in a more relaxed experience to get their game on. Keyboard interaction is actually minimal, with most of the action happening from the mouse or touchpad. You can see objects from a distance that can be controlled or inspected, and characters will either speak to you in passing or as you interact with them.

The point of Dreamfall Chapters - Book One is to enjoy yourself while playing, with minimal distraction or cognitive friction. Itís much like the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books in that there are choices with consequences via character interactions and lightweight puzzles. Just as you werenít supposed to get stumped or give up in frustration while reading those CYOA books, Dreamfall Chapters - Book One gives you just enough challenge to keep the experience interactive and engaging, but always with a focus on driving you forward through the story. Itís nice that you can replay and make different choices with different outcomes, but most people probably wonít make that commitment. At the very least, if you enjoy a good story and like the idea of interactive fiction evolving into a visual feast like this one, Dreamfall Chapters - Book One is well worth your time.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Minimum System Requirements:



Mac: Mavericks 10.9; 2.5GHz Quad Core i5; 8 GB RAM; ATI or Nvidia with 1 GB VRAM.
 

Test System:



Mac: Mavericks 10.10; 2GHz Intel Core i7; 8 GB RAM; Intel HD 4000 with 1024 MB VRAM.

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