A short one this week; work has been wreaking havoc on my opportunities to actually sit down and play The Longest Journey. Even with the little time I’ve been able to spend with the game though, I do have some fairly strong impressions.
It feels extremely European. It’s not quite a European game of course, at least not in the traditional sense of a game being “European”: French, in other words. The Lost Journey is Norwegian. Scandinavian and French are two very different aesthetics, at least stereotypically. Yet there is something there that jumps out at you, central differences to the American approach. So many decisions are subtly different, from font choice to the prologue to voice acting to artwork. It’s nice, actually. All of those things (and more, of course) create a different feel to the game overall. It lends the game a sensation of uniqueness.
It also has a weird 1990s style of sci-fi. Not the intrepid journalist on meteoroid style of The Dig, but the kind of sci-fi weirdness of Farscape and Lexx. Everything just feels a little… off. Not because the game is all that weird exactly, but because it’s not quite as predictable as I’m used to. This is also fun: even at this early point it’s becoming clear to me why people are so attached to this game.
I really like the idea of two inter-connected worlds. The artwork is fantastic as well and really sells the idea. Funnily enough, I like the world that more closely approximates our own. There’s something very cool about the depiction of Stark that feels like a greater accomplishment, impressing me without talking trees or enormous lambent dragons. Though I am very curious to learn more about this enormous dragon.
Most of all I’m finding myself wondering what the heck happened to video games in the interim between King’s Quest I and The Longest Journey. I mean, I lived it; I was something of an adventure game true believer for quite a while, though I suppose the extent to which I can claim that identity is rather undermined by the fact I’ve never played this game until now. Playing them back to back now, though: well, it’s something special. There are obvious graphical differences, but there are massive thematic differences and The Longest Journey is already exhibiting narrative ambition leagues beyond anything the King’s Quest series ever tried to do though to be fair, the King’s Quest series was trying something completely different. The interface… actually feels more limited than later entries in Roberta Williams’ series. This comes across as an attempt to strip things down but so far I’m not a fan, and it feels remarkably awkward in comparison to the standards established by Sierra and LucasArts.
However, beyond these differences the overall change in atmosphere is drastic. King’s Quest I was a trailblazer in many ways and an innovator through the elaboration of classic motifs. The Longest Journey (so far at least) is a vehicle for an avowedly off-kilter sci-fi story. The former game was showing that video games could produce a coherent narrative, helping to establish the medium’s potential in storytelling. The latter game seems to be stretching the boundaries of that potential. King’s Quest I sought to show that video games could tell stories as well as other mediums. The Longest Journey is proof that video games can tell stories that other mediums will struggle to tell. I find that very exciting and I hope the rest of the game delivers.