Before we dive into our appraisal of Book Four, here’s our usual bit of housekeeping for our episodic reviews. If you haven’t already, be sure to get up to speed with our reviews for Dreamfall Chapters – Book One: Reborn, Dreamfall Chapters – Book Two: Rebels and Dreamfall Chapters – Book Three: Realms by hitting the links provided. As always with our episodic reviews, our score will be published once the season is finished, reflecting the game as a whole.
Those of you who read my review for Book Three will know that, while it was enjoyable and made some big narrative moves, I felt it to be the weakest episode overall so far. It wasn’t a bad episode at all, and in fact it had some important reveals that have been hanging over The Longest Journey saga for years, but it failed to match the masterclasses that were Books One and Two. In saying this, it honestly felt like I was kicking a beloved and faithful animal that had been following me around for years. I felt terrible.
Absolutely justified, but still terrible.
On top of this, in recent months Red Thread Games have not only been working on Book Four, but have also been porting their game engine to the latest version of Unity. I won’t go into detail about the process (you can read Ragnar Tørnquist’s fantastic blog post for that) but the short of it nearly killed the studio. Thankfully it didn’t – the port was successful, Book Four was finished, and now everything is fine. Huzzah!
So yes. Book Four. Does the latest episode bring back some of the greatness that is found in the first two instalments? While I don’t think it necessarily gets back up to that standard, I felt it was certainly an improvement over Realms in many respects, even if it did suffer from a few similar issues. Perhaps the biggest improvement was thanks to the upgrade to Unity 5, as the overall performance was the best it has ever been. The frame rate remained in the 50s for most of the time, with only a few moments where it dropped to around 30, and this is with the improved textures and lighting effects making areas much clearer to see. That said, the excessive use of lens flare was a bit much. I honestly thought I had marks on my monitor at one point, but then realised it was the game wishing to put the lighting effect over certain scenes.
Admittedly, it’s by no means on J.J. Abrams levels of overuse, but it still might be something for RTG to consider.
With the action taking place exclusively in Marcuria for Book Four, the story took some big steps this time around for both Zoe and Kian, to the point where the end game is now set up for what will almost certainly be a heart-breaking conclusion. I say this because my choices from previous episodes started to rear their head throughout Revelations. In one case, a choice I had made in Realms with the intention of saving someone actually had the opposite effect, making me feel like an awful human being. Thanks, RTG.
Admittedly, there were less big choices to make this time around, but those that were there were clearly significant in how the final episode will play out. Zoe in particular has a tough choice thrown at her, and series veterans will no doubt be wrestling with how to approach it. In fact, I feel that Revelations could create the biggest divide between those who are newcomers and those who have previously experienced TLJ saga as a result of this choice.
There were many call-backs to The Longest Journey and Dreamfall throughout Book Four, which as a fan of the series had me grinning excessively. However, while it was great to see familiar faces and locations again, I did feel there wasn’t that much in the way of exploration. There are some NPC conversations to be found, with some even referencing choices from earlier episodes which was a really nice touch, but I did feel like I was being funnelled down a set path yet again. What I’m trying to say is that I really do miss the breathing room from Books One and Two.
There were also a few interaction-less, dialogue-heavy scenes again, although my main complaint from Book Three isn’t as problematic in Book Four. In a way I think this is the issue with granting so much freedom and choices in the earlier episodes, along with needing to deliver important plot points at this stage in the game. I really don’t envy the balancing act RTG have to go through to get it right, but it’s important to note that while it still isn’t perfect I’d say it is definitely better than in Book Three.
Another complaint that still hasn’t been resolved is the volume levels for certain characters. There is improvement, but there were still moments where I couldn’t clearly here what was being said in some internal monologues. Hopefully with the engine upgrade complete and graphical performance now the best it has ever been, some more attention can be paid to ensuring all the audio levels are more finely tuned.
Of course, for many of you those criticisms won’t matter, because you’ll already be too invested in the game at this point. What truly matters is that the storyline is as engaging as it can, and that you want to follow the journey of these characters. In that regard Book Four absolutely nails it. Zoe and Kian’s paths continue to reveal long-awaited secrets, and I was genuinely worried for some of supporting characters (Crow in particular.) At this point I’m not sure what to expect from Book Five, but Book Four has done a great job in getting me hyped up for the finale. I’m honestly dreading the outcome of some of my choices, but also looking forward to some much needed closure. If that isn’t an indication of a job well done by RTG – especially in the face of its engine upgrade troubles – I don’t know what is.
- Previous player choices make some huge impacts this time around.
- The storyline remains incredibly engaging as we approach the finale.
- The engine upgrade to Unity 5 improves overall performance significantly…
- … but a little less lens flare might be ideal in future.
- Volume levels for some internal monologues are still too quiet.
- Although nowhere as bad as in Book Three, there are some interaction-less, dialogue-heavy moments.
The Short Version:
While exploration takes something of a backseat this time around, the result means Revelations sets up a grand finale for Dreamfall Chapters. Previous player choices make some big impacts throughout, and it’s clear there’ll be more to come thanks to some key scenes in Book Four. With the game engine’s upgrade to Unity 5 a huge success, let’s hope that Red Thread Games can focus on delivering an engaging conclusion to Zoe and Kian’s journey.
We do not score episodic titles unless they can be purchased separately as standalone games, or at the reviewer's discretion. A score will be assigned to the entire season once complete.
Platforms: PC (tested) | Linux
Developer: Red Thread Games