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The Longest Journey Review
publisher: Empire Interactive
P166, 32MB RAM, 200MB HDD, 2MB SVGA video card
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Nov 16, 00 (released)
|» All About The Longest Journey on ActionTrip|
Let me see... it is May 2000; I'm sitting in front of my computer holding the four CDs containing Funcom's latest game - The Longest Journey. Something appears to be wrong... a point & click adventure!? Am I imagining things? A real classical adventure with no "fire" keys, aims, cameras senselessly trying to catch site both of the hero and action, no 3D surroundings nor need to tweak your machine up as to get additional two frames per second.
Further testing proved that year 2000 started off rather well for us, adventure-players. Hopefully it will continue in the same fashion if Monkey Island 4 appears in due time. We really needed this after the last two years of playing Nightlong, Grim Fandango, Discworld Noir and Gabriel Knight 3...
The environment is semi3D - The background is a still, pre-rendered picture and all characters and items are 3D objects. Anyone who played Grim Fandango or Alone in The Dark serial will know what I'm talking about. The Longest Journey, on the other hand, has the best combination of 2D and 3D graphics I have seen - the quality of the models is nothing worse than the quality of backgrounds. All the objects are highly detailed with superb texturing. Each character consists of about 1000 polygons, and when you take into account that there are about 50 characters of any importance to the game and even more stunts, you may get a picture about how impressive the scenes look. Even the hard-core antagonists of 3D graphics in adventures will have to admit that this game looks great because it managed to solve all the problems that 3D graphics caused in former attempts. All character animation is great, all of their movements fluid and realistic. The shadows are not volumetric, but they still look good. The only objection I could make is that some scenes seem unrealistically still (for instance, Brian Westhouse's bungalow in Arcadia is set on sea coast and the waves in the background are static).
The resolution is fixed: TLJ will only work in 640x480 with 16 or 32-bit color palette. That did not bother me because I played the game on a 15" screen, but I'm sure it will bother some people. The level design is beautiful and the same goes for the frequently appearing movie sequences.
Let me get back to the plot... The main character is an eighteen-year-old girl named April Ryan, who lives a perfectly ordinary life in the future city of New Venice - she is a painter, and she earns for her living working in a caf'. New Venice is a common city with its houses, parks, schools and Blade-Runner-like looking areas controlled by large corporations - an authentic vision of future altogether. Suddenly, the life of April Ryan turns to the other extremity and becomes very, VERY unusual. Her dreams start mixing with reality, in such measure that she cannot determine which is which... Eventually, it turns out that it was all real and that April is "the chosen one" to maintain balance between two diametrical worlds (Arcadia and Stark), worlds ruled by magic and science, chaos and harmony...
This story may seem simple, yet that is far from being true. It is extremely complex and it requires a lot of concentration. It is divided into thirteen chapters plus the prologue.
Control interface follows the trends set by Full Throttle, Sam 'n' Max Hit The Road and The Curse of the Monkey Island, three Lucas Arts' games based on the general notion "No interface". Everything comes down to clicking a mouse on an object, which by default means "look". If the object seems capable of more sophisticated interaction two more icons appear: the mouth ("talk to", "eat", "blow", "lick") and the hand ("push", "pull", "take"). It is also impossible to die, or make a mistake you cannot correct later in the game (speaking of this, I will never forget the scene from one of the first Space Quests when Roger Wilco suddenly dies just as you reach the finale because some monster kissed him ages earlier in the game). So, the game is basically relaxed...
The difficulty of the game is disputable. It took me about a week of moderate playing to finish it, and I got stuck on two or three locations. I did not spend much time wandering about without having a clue about what to do next. On the other hand, I solved several difficult problems accidentally by randomly combining objects, which are (fortunately for inexperienced adventurers) few in number, which make the game relatively easy. Half of the active objects in the game are not interactive too, meaning that you can only look at them. The game has a useful option that marks all the possible exits from a scene. I lost a LOT of time because of a stupid bug, which occurred when I tried to combine two objects in my inventory, hence rendering them useless. The only thing that could fix it was loading a previously saved game.
There is a lot of great dialogues which unravel the story. Fortunately, April carries her diary everywhere she goes and makes a note of all important (and unimportant) dialogues, which can be reviewed at your own discretion. The same diary is also used to save games and events, and a very good side of it is that once the game starts you have to log in and use your own copy of the diary. My sister will never again overwrite any of my savegames....
It remains to be seen how the market will treat The Longest Journey. It would be a real shame if it ended up as unnoticed as Grim Fandango. TLJ defiantly doesn't deserve a fate like that. Well, if you are an adventure player... you know what to do !
Great combination of 2D and 3D graphics, an deep and interesting story;
A relatively small number of interactive objects.
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