Before we dive into our appraisal of Book Three, 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 and Dreamfall Chapters – Book Two: Rebels 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.
The first two Books have rocked our twin worlds with their huge environments, atmospheric world building, and expertly crafted narrative. Rebels in particular provided a run time to rival most episodic seasons and ended on a shocking cliffhanger. If anything, we’ve been spoilt rotten by Red Thread Games up until now, but as a result Book Three doesn’t quite hit the same marks as the previous instalments. Make no mistake, though – surprising revelations and long-awaited returns make Book Three an important episode, but it did come off more as a setup for the remainder of the story than anything else.
The interlude with newcomer Saga that kicked off the episode was a mix of charm, nostalgia, and absolute frustration. Pixel hunting around a 3D environment looking for proximity-triggered items had me wandering around longer than I was expecting, but the annoyance was swayed by Saga’s observations (especially when wearing hats.) The thing is, I don’t think the pixel hunt was the biggest offender of that scene –that belongs to the picture sorting puzzle at the end. I managed to complete it in two attempts thanks to my knowledge of the series (although I’m very glad that correct placements stayed put) but I couldn’t help but feel that players using Dreamfall Chapters as their entry to the series would be utterly lost here. While trial and error is a legitimate tactic, it goes against previous statements that newcomers would be able to jump in without needing to play The Longest Journey or Dreamfall, or heading over to GameFAQs for a solution.
It’s just a shame because it leads to what I assume is an important moment for Saga and the story as a whole.
Proceedings return to normal when we re-join Kian and Zoe later on, and I continue to be impressed by how RTG evolve the in-game locations as the story progresses. The festival happening in Marcuria added a vibrant veil over the apparent oppressive atmosphere, while the martial law happening in Propast managed to make the dysopian future even more depressing. While there’s isn’t as much to discover on your travels this time around, what is there is up to the high standard we’ve come to expect from the game thanks to the well-written inner monologues and overheard conversations.
Kian’s adventures in Marcuria in particular provide some fantastic personal moments (as he finally opens up to other characters, and then declares his love for yams) but he also plays a role in an important reveal for the series. Unfortunately, it is during these revelations that the episode brings about my biggest criticism – a lack of interaction during conversations. I was very aware I was doing nothing while watching exposition being bombarded at me, instead of being able to ask questions. In comparison to previous episodes, this was is fairly disappointing.
You could argue that the importance of the scene calls for concentration, but there are several other similar scenes throughout Book Three. As a result it actually makes the episode feel incredibly linear, despite the fact diverging threads continue to be thrown at the player in obvious and subtle ways. At the same time, it also makes the game feel shorter because of the lack of interaction, despite the fact there is over two hours of gameplay in Book Three. Again, both issues most likely stem from the fact we’ve been spoilt by the first two instalments, but I do hope the conversations return to a more freeform style in the next instalment.
That’s not to say all conversations weren’t interactive, as (some of) Zoe’s sections did manage to include some humorous if ultimately unimportant choices. Book Three also debuted Zoe’s much-discussed new haircut, which if you ask me looked pretty sweet (although it did come at the cost of losing some skin. Ugh.) Anyway, watching her deal with the events at the end of Book Two and finally make a stand against WatiCorp helped build up the urgency on her side of the story. It also led to the long-awaited return of fan favourite Crow. The former sidekick of the month was on fine form during Book Three, providing wise-cracks and terrible puns aplenty, and his animation in particular was better than most of the other characters.
With some sections involving stealth-esque gameplay (ie. don’t run) I was glad to see that RTG had included a quick-restart feature, resetting the action almost instantaneously. Considering how most modern adventure games have ‘you died / mission failed’ screens that then send you back to poorly chosen checkpoints, it was good to see how common sense and convenience for the player has prevailed in this case.
There were a few other issues of note from my playthrough. The volume levels for certain characters (especially the main ones as you wander around) continue to be too low at certain points, and as a result there were times where I missed out on what was being said (especially Saga’s conversations with her dad.) It was also a shame that I, along with a number of players, were affected by a bug that altered choices made in previous episodes. While RTG were commendably quick to fix it, it did mean I had to play through Book Three a second time (which somewhat worked in my favour as I picked ‘better’ outcomes and explored different puzzle solutions.) However, it must be noted that the game crashed significantly during my time playing Book Three. While I sympathise that the team at RTG is quite small, I certainly hope these problems are fixed in the future.
I’ll admit I have been fairly critical of Book Three, but the truth is that narrative is still as gripping as it has ever been, the choices still as difficult at this stage without knowing the bigger picture, and the cast of characters still a delight to interact with. It’s almost as if RTG have used the slightly linear and slower approach of Book Three as a setup for the remaining two episodes. Hopefully this means that we can get back to exploration in terms of both locations and conversations in Book Four, as we will definitely have a new area to visit next time.
- The glorious return of Crow!
- Characters continue to evolve along with the world(s).
- Long awaited reveals for the overarching story.
- A disappointing lack of conversation branches lead to monologue-heavy scenes.
- Early puzzle which relies on knowledge of The Longest Journey could be off-putting to players who are new to the series.
- Volume levels for certain characters & stability issues dampen the experience.
The Short Version:
A lack of conversation branches and slightly shorter run-time mean that Book Three doesn’t shine as brightly as previous episodes did, and some frustrating bugs have provided unnecessary annoyance. However, despite these issues the narrative continues to build up to what will hopefully be an action-packed final two episodes. Important revelations of a personal and grander nature, along with a long awaited return, make Book Three: Realms a slower but entertaining setup before the inevitable storm for Zoe and Kian.
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 (reviewed)
Developer: Red Thread Games