If you're familiar with Telltale's games, phrases such as "episodic structure" and "choices matter" are most likely in your vocabulary, even though choices sometimes don't matter as much as you would have liked. Dreamfall Chapters by Red Thread Games is another episodic adventure with choices that matter, however, this works in a slightly different way when compared to the works of Telltale.
Dreamfall Chapters is the third part of a series that started way back in 1999, when The Longest Journey came out, with the second part coming out in 2006. Dreamfall Chapters was funded via Kickstarter and released in episodes on PC between October 2014 and June 2016, and now the time has come for the full game to be released on console.
Obviously those who are familiar with the series will get to grips with this third game easily, then, but on the other hand, if you're just now jumping in, some of the events and characters could mean very little and feel a bit distant. On this note, there's a puzzle which requires knowledge from the events of the first game, and as we hadn't played it we simply had to make an uneducated guess, as the game provided no recap for us to take advantage of. Of course, you can turn to the Internet for answers, as well, but that would be cheating, wouldn't it?
The adventure game clearly has its roots in old point and click games, and has you solving a number of light puzzles as well as chatting with a plethora of different characters. Apart from the example mentioned above, the solutions for these puzzles are often quite obvious, but they offer a welcome change of pace from the storytelling, ensuring gameplay doesn't feel just like watching an interactive film.
Choices in this game matter a lot, and the game makes that very clear, as you often get messages saying that a certain decision will matter later on, or an event occurs as a result of a choice you made in the past. While there's not a lot of subtlety to this, we appreciated our choices actually making a difference here, even if there's a certain kind of ending.
There are two different stories that the game follows, one in a future metropolis where Zoë Castillo wades through swamps of relationships and corporate conspiracies, and another following ex-soldier Kian Alvane in a mystical city called Marcuria, who has lost faith in the teachings of his Azadi tribe and faces a death penalty, eventually escaping and ending up in the local resistance. The game jumps quite often between these two stories, but ultimately this works quite well, making us curious as to how these two lives will turn out.
The story deals with pretty heavy topics, and real history has been a heavy inspiration for the writers. On top of segregation, for example, other themes in the game include political corruption, homelessness, and paedophilia. The writers certainly have quite strong political opinions on top of this, which is evident from the script, and we think that some might find this a bit offputting, certainly if you have contrasting opinions of your own.
From a technical point of view, the game doesn't impress too much. Character models look good, but their motions and expressions look very dated, and there's also big frame-rate drops on the PS4, quite often struggling to keep up with even 30FPS.
As a whole Dreamfall Chapters is an okay adventure game which may well appeal to fans of Telltale's formula of multiple choices, except here they have a bit more of an effect on things. Despite the technical side faltering a bit, it's an entertaining package of storytelling and puzzle solving.