Dreamfall: Chapters Review

May 26, 2017

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m probably going to die waiting for Half Life 3. It’s been a similar emotional journey to when my first dog, Mickey, ran away; there will always be a faint, wishful hope, but a few years ago I had to sit myself down and face the hard reality of such a prolonged absence.

I guess that’s why Dreamfall: Chapters was successfully funded through Kickstarter; the faint, wishful hope of 21,858 fans who, collectively, threw $1,538,425 at Red Thread Games to create the final chapter in their beloved Dreamfall saga. Frankly, I think those 21,858 fans are the only people enjoying Dreamfall: Chapters, since a working and recently refreshed knowledge of the series’ first two titles is, apparently, a prerequisite to understanding even the basic beats of this long, bizarre journey.

Before I go any further, it absolutely bears noting that Dreamfall: Chapters is not a cheaply or lazily designed game; Director Ragnar Tornquist and Red Thread Games have poured an enormous amount of time and creative passion into this title, and it shows. The game is beautiful to look at, making up for some distinctly ‘last-gen’ animation with a top-tier art style and outstanding textures. Unique and well written characters populate the dual worlds of this story, both of which boast gorgeous, rich colour palettes and refreshing differences in design convention; Stark being the game’s model of Earth, alongside Arcadia, a magical realm existing in parallel to our world. The plot, though an absolute mess in execution, is inspired and bold, and treads ground that most games won’t risk covering. Among an unorthodox, sci-fi background, there are some very human stories being told. I wish I had known fully what was going on at any point in my time with the game. Ragnar may have shot himself in the foot by writing such a complex tale, in that a simpler story may have been easier for new players to catch up with.

Unfortunately, Red Thread have not done a good enough job of acclimatising newcomers to the extensive and confusing canon of the series. They’ve included a catch-up cinematic, but it is purely dialogue-based and glosses over a tome’s worth of story in a few minutes, giving only the most basic context for the events of Dreamfall: Chapters. Then, you’re thrown immediately into the plot and tasked with making key decisions for a character you do not know or understand. Imagine having Star Wars Episodes 1-5 explained verbally in under five minutes, and then sitting down to Episode 6. Sure, you can follow the on-screen events, but all the impact would be gone. Who’s this Vader guy again, and why do I care?

Gameplay, as expected, takes somewhat of a backseat to the story in Dreamfall: Chapters. It’s a simple point-and-click adventure, more at home in 1997 than 2017. To be fair, though, it’s mechanically sound and the puzzles are light and varied. I suppose that the focus on story is what exacerbates the game’s problems; if it had enjoyable gameplay systems to fall back on, Dreamfall: Chapters might be worth playing, even without understanding the plot. As it turns out, though, the plot is all this game has to offer. So if you haven’t played the prequels, and therefore cannot catch-up to or understand the plot, it’s not offering you very much at all.

Having not played The Longest Journey (1999) or Dreamfall: The Longest Journey (2006), I am not a returning fan of the series, and must review this title as an outsider. I acknowledge that long time fans may have been thrilled with the title. I can even see why they’d like it. Again, that I do not understand this game doesn’t mean that I can’t see how much effort went into it.

It is, unfortunately, just too reliant on the other games in the series. Dreamfall: Chapters is available to purchase as a stand-alone product, and, as such, should be able to stand up on it’s own. I’m afraid it does not. I guess, this is what happens when you make a game purely for the service of it’s fans, at the exclusion of anyone else. It might be fantastic but, as an outsider, I have no idea.



- Beautiful art style and visuals
- Bold, complex narrative.


- Inaccessible plot
- Previous games mandatory for enjoyment

Overall Score: