Dreamfall Chapters - Books 1 and 2

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Dreamfall Chapters - Books 1 and 2 Game Poster Image
Thought-provoking adventure set in parallel worlds.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The game's two worlds -- magic and scientific -- represent various ideas that cause conflict, so they're great illustrations of problems troubling society. Players forced to make choices that have profound, lasting consequences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Players take on two roles: a modern (circa 2220) young woman and male warrior from a more primitive time and place. Despite differences, both bear burden of guilt, desire to redeem themselves. Both can become true heroes; also can be less heroic, based on player choices.

Ease of Play

Simple controls, intuitive puzzles with dialogue choices that add a light challenge.

Violence

Not depicted outright, frequently referenced through threats among characters. Also implied by military figures pointing guns at civilians.

Sex

Not pictured, but several references made ("have lots of sex," a character says). Graffiti shown of a woman's genitals. Zoe, the main character, shown in one scene in a T-shirt, underwear.

Language

Significant use of profanity, including frequent variants of "f--k" by some characters.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In the science world, mild reference to Chinese wine and nonplayer characters seen smoking cigarettes. Characters in the fantasy world of Arcadia shown drinking wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dreamfall Chapters - Books 1 and 2 is a complex downloadable adventure tale for mature players that also addresses ideas about love, guilt, tolerance, and faith. Though violence isn't shown, threats are made by numerous characters, and soldiers even point their weapons at civilians. Numerous sexual references are made, including graffiti shown of female sexual organs, and the main (female) character appears in a scene wearing only a T-shirt and underwear. Some characters are shown drinking wine and smoking cigarettes, but there's constant profanity throughout; one character uses a variation of "f--k" as every other word.

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What's it about?

DREAMFALL CHAPTERS - BOOKS 1 AND 2 tells the parallel stories of Zoe Castillo and Kian Alvane. Zoe's an average 20-something from the year 2220 who discovers she has the rare ability to dreamwalk outside the science-oriented world of Stark. Kian, by contrast, hails from the magical world of Arcadia and is a warrior trained by the industrial Empire of Azadi. Regardless of where they are, both heroes fight to prevent their worlds from being enslaved by the dream-stealing Powers-That-Be.

Is it any good?

Dreamfall Chapters sets out to wrap up the saga started in The Longest Journey and its sequel, Dreamfall. It picks up right where Dreamfall left off and goes on to weave a complex narrative that's as intriguing and emotionally gripping as any best-selling novel. What makes Chapters so fascinating is the way it uses player choice to shape the story. Players are forced to face the past demons of characters and make profound decisions about how they should move forward in life. Apart from the compelling questions, the game seals the deal with its visuals. Stark is a beautiful, totally convincing near-future city that any modern urban dweller can easily see living in, while Arcadia is an enticing locale in a rustic Renaissance fair kind of way. It also has excellent voice acting that brings the right level of emotion and vitality to some exceptional writing. Zoe in particular is written with a depth and humor that makes her both sympathetic and utterly convincing.

Though it's incredibly well made, Chapters does contain a few problems. First, there's the possibility of getting stuck. During one playthrough, Zoe was suddenly stuck inside her apartment, unable to get back out. Second, a poor sound mix made one of Kian's missions (the search for a traitor at a secret meeting) hard to execute. Third, there's Crowbot. Crowbot is a cowboy hat-wearing cartoon crow who voices the public map/location finder for the people of Stark, and he's annoying, with an obnoxious, twangy voice that's so jarring, it has no place in its futuristic setting. Even with these flaws, Dreamfall Chapters is a fantastic game that maturely explores individual and societal issues through deft writing and interesting quest design, making players feel as if the fate of two worlds is truly in their hands. It's not often a game is this thematically ambitious or as successful at conveying its message. Though its episodic nature leaves players hanging, (Book 3 won't be out for some months), its first two chapters are chock-full of enough thought-provoking questions to ensure players will be back to experience the rest of the tale.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their dreams. Can you remember the last dream you had? What was it about?

  • Think about the difference between magic and science. Which do you think is better, and why?

  • Discuss the importance of acceptance. Why is it important to get to know people who are different from you?

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