Longest Journey, The

Tagged: Game

Videogame (1999). Funcom. Designed by Ragnar Tørnquist. Platforms: Win.

The Longest Journey is a third-person graphical Adventure using a point and click interface. Set in the twin worlds of high technology Stark and magical Arcadia, it is an important example of a Science and Sorcery game, in which science fiction and fantasy tropes are combined and contrasted. The dichotomy between Stark and Arcadia is the division between logic and poetry, embodied in the separate natures of Gordon Halloway, a man who should have become the guardian of the balance between the two worlds, but has instead been split between them. The player character is April Ryan, a slacker and struggling art student in Stark. The Longest Journey begins in April's dream; eventually it is revealed that she can move between the two realities, and that the dream was the player's first sight of Arcadia. Stark and Arcadia were divided in their distant past by the Alien Draic Kin, who play the role of both worlds' Secret Masters, to prevent humans abusing the combined powers of magic and technology. The game's plot centres on the attempts of a renegade member of the Kin to reunite Stark and Arcadia prematurely, in order to gain personal power. To achieve this end, Gordon Halloway has been divided between the worlds, an act which has indirectly caused the balance between them to decay. April's mission, as eventually becomes clear, is to restore this balance by rejoining Halloway's sundered halves. In the poetic Arcadia, he has become the malicious, formless Chaos; in the scientific Stark, he is the overly logical and emotionless Gordon.

Visually, The Longest Journey is strikingly well designed; both socially divided, futuristic Stark and Arcadia, a land of mermaids and timid molemen, are vividly realized. Structurally, it is a conventional Adventure game, in which (often quite difficult) puzzles must be solved to advance the player from one chapter to the next of the strongly linear story (see Interactive Narrative); some of its expository sequences are perhaps overly long and insufficiently interactive. The game's true strength, however, lies in its lyrical and resonant story and subtle characterizations, notably of the insecure and cynical yet appealing April. In the epilogue, it is suggested that the balance, though restored, must inevitably fall.

The sequel, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey (2006 Funcom, Win, XBox) designed by Ragnar Tørnquist, moves away from exclusive reliance on puzzles to progress the story towards an action adventure style of gameplay (see Adventure), though the combat and stealth mechanisms are somewhat simplistic. The view chosen is third person, in a real time three-dimensional world. As in The Longest Journey, the plot is linear; the player is guided through the broad outlines of the story Tørnquist wants to tell. Ten years after the end of the first game, both Stark and Arcadia have entered a time of troubles. In Stark, a global computer crash has brought about the "Collapse" and loss of contact with its space colonies, after which order has been restored by the introduction of a semi-benevolent police state. Meanwhile, much of Arcadia is now ruled by religious fundamentalists, who have brought peace but banned the use of magic. The main protagonist is Zoe Castillo, a young woman from Stark who is suffering from a loss of faith in the world when she begins receiving mysterious messages asking her to "save April Ryan". Later in the game, the player's control shifts to an older, embittered April and the religious fanatic who is hunting her; their contrasting viewpoints are expressed through the interior monologues that the player hears when interacting with the characters and their environment. The story explores conflicts between beauty and security, faith and freedom. In the end, much is left unresolved for a future sequel. [NT]

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