Product Type: other PC games
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A long, strange and wonderful journey that you'll never forget
The Longest Journey (PC)
Member Name: thereddragon
The Longest Journey (PC)
Date: 20/06/09, updated on 20/06/09 (80 review reads)
Advantages: Incredibly well written, great characters, intelligent & deep but also lively & funny
Disadvantages: None except that there'll never be anything quite this good
Publisher: Tri Synergy
Year of release: 2000
'The Longest Journey' is what I consider by far the best Adventure game I've ever experienced. It really is outstanding in originality, intelligent writing, depth of gameplay and immersion. It's won numerous awards including IGN.com's Editor's Choice and their Best Adventure Game of 2000, PC Gamer's Editor's Choice, Computer Gaming's Editor's Choice, Gamespot's Game of the Year, and Gamespy's Best of 2000, and is number 18 on PC Gamer Magazine's Top 100 Games of All Time. So, quite a collection of accolades!
If you like point and click Adventure games and have not tried this one, you have a real treat in store for you. A cross between Science Fiction and Fantasy, it was released to not a lot of fanfare, and I actually didn't hear of this game until about three years after its release, when I read about it in one of the PC gaming magazines and became curious. They considered it the best Adventure game ever made and were waxing enthusiastically on its many qualities.
I became intrigued and decided I would try to find a copy, although I had some misgivings as the article explained that you play as a 17-year-old girl. This made me think it would probably be a bit girly and maybe a bit 'young' for my tastes - although a girl myself, I'm not a 'girly' girl, and I'll never see anywhere near 17 again.
Still, I bought a copy from the game's website, as I was unable to find it in any shops, and installed the two CDs. The box informed me that it is rated Mature 17+ and contained Strong Language. So, I guessed that it wouldn't be too overly girly or young.
So, I fired it up and was presented with an opening sequence of an old lady seated in an armchair in the sitting room of a rustic country cottage, with a young couple sitting nearby. The young couple ask her to tell them a story, one about something they refer to as 'The Balance', and the old lady begins to recount a tale, a 'story that begins where it ends'. This scene fades away and we are treated to some of the most beautiful fantasy artwork I've ever seen in a game, or anywhere for that matter. A glowing man is suspended in mid-air; a dragon is swallowing its own tail. We don't know yet know what these images represent.
Next we see a young woman in bed sleeping, and we see that she is having a strange dream. The bed fades away and she finds herself in a strange fantastic landscape. We now find that she is April Ryan, the character you play as. She seems to be alone, then finds that a tree nearby is inhabited by a nature spirit and it talks to her, telling her that it has been charged with protecting a very important egg in a nest in one of its branches. A huge white dragon arrives, and we learn that she is the mother of the egg. The dragon speaks to April: 'April, Daughter, I have been waiting for you,' it says in a gentle and fond voice. 'Waiting? Why?' April asks in bewilderment. 'Because it begins here, with you, as it always has,' the dragon says cryptically. 'I am the mother of what is, but you are the mother of what may be.'
However, a huge ball of what appears to be some sort of noxious matter suddenly appears in the sky above them, and sends everyone hurtling in different directions, April herself falling off a steep cliff. She wakes up in her bed, dazed and frantic at the strange nightmare she has just had.
But, was it just a nightmare? The next morning April resumes her usual everyday life as an Art student at the local University and working part-time in a local bar/café. She lives in a small town called Venice on the outskirts of a city called Newport. Venice is an artsy, Bohemian village made up of converted industrial buildings connected by a series of canals, and we find that it is about 200 years in the future from now, although student life and Bohemianism don't seem to have changed much in all that time! April has many good friends and seems a bright, level-headed girl, so when strange things start happening to her, such as seeing a hologram art sculpture of a dragon momentarily turn into a real dragon, or a strange small hairy creature playing a flute suddenly jump out of the jukebox in the bar where she works, she begins to doubt her sanity.
Then, to make things weirder, she meets a mysterious older Spanish man called Cortez. He is a very articulate and intriguing man, and tells her that he knows all about the dream she had and the strange waking experiences that she thought were hallucinations. He tells her that she has a very important mission ahead of her, and April now begins to doubt his sanity too. But at the same time, she feels strangely drawn to him.
By the time you arrive at this point, just minutes into the game after the initial nightmare sequence with the dragon, you will already be hooked and will desperately want to know what this is all about and what's in store for April. Both Cortez and the lady dragon have told her that she is someone of great importance, a crucial figure who has an important role to carry out. What could it be?
You will be taken on a long and absolutely fantastic journey that you will never want to end. Suffice to say that Cortez turns out to be a facilitator who enables April to travel between two different worlds - the one she knows, which is referred to as Stark, the world of science and logic, and Arcadia, the world of fantasy and magic. These two worlds both exist on Earth, but in two different dimensions. The ability to travel between the two worlds is called shifting, and very few people have the ability to shift, Cortez being one of them. It falls to Cortez to teach April how to do this, the purpose of which you will find out later. Arcadia is a beautiful, ancient world that you feel totally immersed in and actually find it disappointing when you have to shift back to Stark to carry out another of your goals. However, Arcadia is not without its problems, and there are many that you need to solve there.
This game has a massive number of characters, all of them very well-defined and individual, and you will become very fond of many of them. April herself is one of the best lead characters I've ever seen in any game - despite my initial misgivings of what this character might be like, they were completely wrong. She's smart, sassy, and can be very, very funny and also very, very strong and resourceful. A likeable, well-rounded character with a real 'can do' attitude. I can guarantee that when you finish 'The Longest Journey', you will really miss April and many of the other inhabitants of this fabulous game and its two worlds.
As mentioned, this is a point and click Adventure, so you literally click on where you want April to go, who you want her to interact with and what items you want her to use or pick up. The interface is well designed and easy to use. You have an inventory where you keep all the things you collect, a log of all the major conversations you've had, a video log of all major cutscenes as they occur, and 'April's Diary', in which she records her accounts of her experiences every day. So, the forgetful amongst us have lots of means to remind ourselves of any important events of which our memory is hazy!
And it's as well that you have these aide-memoires, because this is one heck of a complex, complicated story with many goals, many characters, many places to visit, many strange experiences to encounter - the richness of the writing, complexity of the story and depth of the gameplay is really second to none I've ever seen, the nearest being The Longest Journey's sequel (Dreamfall) and the classic FPS/RPG Deus Ex. The writing is superb, very deep, intelligent and even spiritual at times, with quite a few scenes that have actually moved me nearly to tears, yet the writers are also adept at including really wacky and off the wall humour that will have you chortling in front of your PC screen
Graphically, it's stunning. By that I don't mean that it has the most up-to-date, impressive photorealistic 3D graphics - after all, it was made in 2000, and is a 2D game - but that the artwork in this game is truly beautiful. It all looks like a series of gorgeous paintings, and the Arcadia sequences, in particular, consist of some superb examples of surreal fantasy art. The music in this game is also very beautiful and atmospheric, lots of sweeping and uplifting stuff.
I've played this through twice and am now starting on my third time, because I've just inspired someone I know to get a copy and once they started playing it, it kicked off my motivation to have yet another go! It is something that is replayable because although your gaming experience won't change from one replay to another, this game is so packed with so many different characters and events that you simply won't remember all of it after a year or so. But, even the stuff I do remember, I'm enjoying reliving all over again!
'The Longest Journey', although not available in shops as far as I know, can be purchased online, new as well as used, from various sources such as Amazon and eBay. It no longer seems to be available from the developers' website, as it was way back when I bought it.
You might also want to pick up a copy of the sequel, 'Dreamfall', which carries on ten years from where 'The Longest Journey' leaves off. You may be initially disappointed to find that you don't play as April in this one - but you will encounter her later in the game and actually alternate back and forth between playing as April and the new heroine. See my other reviews for a review of Dreamfall!
There is a fair degree of swearing and references to sexual issues in the game, so as its certification suggests, this is not a game for children!
Recommended with the highest recommendation humanly possible. A must-have. I wish I could give it more than five stars.
Also on ciao.co.uk as thereddragon and Helium as Esmeralda Draic.
Summary: The best Adventure game you'll ever play