reviews\ Jan 24, 2001 at 7:00 pm

The Longest Journey - PC - Review

After experiencing night after night of horrifying nightmares, you realize that you are the only person who can save the all-important balance between two very different worlds by shifting between them.  The free world rests on your ability to figure out exactly what this balance is and how to save it before the evil overlords take control.  Are you up to the challenge?

Combining amazing graphics set over two very distinct worlds, challenging puzzles, witty dialogue and seamless game play,  “The Longest Journey” developed in Norway by Tri Synergy, proves to be one of the best point and click adventure games to come out in recent memory.   You are April Ryan, a beautiful young woman who has just left her home in the country to go to art school in the big city during the 23rd century.   Her life is going fine until she begins to have visions in her sleep of a chaotic land filled with vivid, and sometimes violent, imagery.  When these thoughts begin to present themselves during her daily routine, April realizes that something is horribly wrong and that it is up to her to do something about it.    

She soon realizes that two very different worlds exist. The world known to her, Stark, is logical and scientific, filled with flying cars and big city skyscrapers.  On the other side is Arcadia, a land of magic and fantasy.  It is evident to April that these two worlds' existence is based solely upon a balance that has been kept intact until now.   Since the departure of the Guardian of the Balance, chaos has ensued and will continue forever unless someone can figure out how to restore it.   April’s role comes in as she begins to realize she is a “shifter,” one who can cross between both worlds.   Her journey takes her through beautiful and exotic landscapes (150 locations) filled with strange and unusual characters (70 speaking) as she tries to find out just what this balance is.   Informative and sometimes funny dialogue (“Evil wizards always sound like Richard III on crack!”) and April’s personal diary are some of the aids that help you advance through the game.

When you open up the box for this title, you'll notice that there are four CDs included (due to the lengthy video clips).  To install "The Longest Journey," you pop in the first CD and away it goes, right?  Wrong.  You must first choose the installation size you prefer from the four available options: complete (2GB of disk space required!), large (1GB!), medium (420MB - more reasonable), or minimum (220MB).  I decided to go with the medium installation, which installs everything except the sound and video clips.  If you chose either the complete or large installation option, be ready to embark on not only "The Longest Journey," but also the longest installation of all time.  As the installation progresses, it will ask you to insert each of the four included CDs.

Once you start up the game and attempt to configure your options, you'll notice that there isn't too much you can change.  Unfortunately the video mode is set at a predetermined resolution (640x480) and it cannot be altered.  This is somewhat of a disappointment, but once you observe the graphical quality of this game you'll soon forget about your desire for a higher resolution.  You do have the ability to choose a color depth of either 16 or 32 bit and also if you want to use high quality 3d models.  The only option that I selected was to use subtitles, which is often helpful during game play.

As you begin your new journey, be prepared for somewhat of a slow start.  "The Longest Journey" takes a while to get up to speed, but this isn't a bad thing by any means.  It gives you a chance to get to know your character and forces you to be pulled into the game, whether you like it or not.  The game starts out with some amazing video clips that make you think you're about to watch a film rather than play a game.  As these video clips are being shown, you will notice your CD-ROM drive whizzing away.  This is also the case when any sound is played throughout the game, assuming you chose the medium installation option.  Also due to this choice, you may notice some skipping/choppiness between scenes and dialog sequences.  At first it may be a little irritating, but that's the price you pay for saving disk space.  No need to worry though, once you're absorbed into the game you'll hardly notice it.

Right off the bat the graphics will take your breath away.  The original landscapes/cityscapes of the worlds combined with very familiar looking urban scenes make for a realistic and unique backdrop.  Details were obviously not overlooked at any point, which is clearly illustrated by the astounding quality of every single scene.  The character models are also impressive, but when at a distance they often look a little "pixelated".  As for the graphical quality of the video sequences, prepare to be completely blown away.  The 3d rendering, textures, and lighting effects are among the best I've witnessed.

Advancing through the game, you realize just how intricately and effectively the puzzles you must solve are incorporated in to the plot.   The seemingly confusing plot turns out to be quite the opposite after only a short time playing “The Longest Journey.”   You’ll have a great time meeting and conversing with new creatures, traveling through strange worlds and working your brain to figure out the sometimes-challenging puzzles.  This game does a great job making the puzzles challenging enough to make you think, but no so hard as to frustrate you and make you want to quit.  The puzzles increase in difficulty, as you get further through your journey.   Advanced gamers might find it too easy as a whole, but the majority will find it challenging enough to hold their interest.   Logical thinking combined with the help of your interactions with characters and your journal will be all you need to solve the puzzles without too much difficulty.  Also, you can take comfort in the fact that you cannot “die.”  If you do happen to get stuck, keep in mind there are walk-throughs available for this title that will help get you back on track.

The original soundtrack and game dialogue are second to none. The elegant classical music seamlessly follows the plot and is engaging rather than distracting.  The dialogue is extremely unique for each character and the lip sinking is very accurate.

“The Longest Journey” is a wonderfully original game that will be a godsend to those seeking an adventure game in which they can explore the vast, beautiful worlds without having to shoot something about to jump out at them.   The plot is well developed throughout and doesn’t have any noticeable holes.   Most of the characters are well developed and without a doubt you’ll find yourself becoming engrossed in the game’s complex and original plot. Players will enjoy the moderately challenging puzzles along with the soundtrack, which is music to anyone’s ears. Great graphics, interesting and believable characters and dialogue, easy installation and interface and a fascinating story that will grab players' attention from the very start make “The Longest Journey” definitely a title to add to your list.  It provides a fun, thought provoking experience for seasoned adventure game enthusiasts and those just trying out the genre. This Funcom title will definitely give you your money’s worth, offering over fifty hours of game play.

This product is rated for mature gamers (17+) due to strong language.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Install: Medium
Compounded on four CDs, the installation process is quite long but not too difficult.

Gameplay: 9.0
Using your mouse to simply point and click in the game, "The Longest Journey" is easy to navigate through.

Graphics: 9.5
As stated before, the graphics are absolutely beautiful. The "jaggedness" of the character models is of very little consequence to me because the gorgeous majority makes up for the occasional "blockiness".

Sound: 10.0
Without a doubt the soundtrack and dialogue are breathtaking.  The original orchestrated music is wonderful and fitting with the mood of the game.

Difficulty: 9.0
Difficult enough to keep you interested but not so hard you want to stop playing.  The puzzles get progressively more difficult and give you a sense of accomplishment upon completion.

Concept: 9.5
Great, original story line with a deeply involved plot featuring believable characters and unique landscapes.

Multiplayer: N/A

Overall: 9.4
"The Longest Journey" is a must for any fan of the adventure genre but would also make a great addition to any gamer's collection.  All aspects of the game including the plot, graphics and sound are very impressive.  "The Longest Journey" is good enough to bring back the nearly dead adventure genre and will leave players begging for more.


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