Before we dive into our assessment for Dreamfall Chapters – Book Two, here’s a handy link to our review of Book One for those who need to catch up. I’d also like to add that, while we did score the previous episode, we will not be scoring Book Two. This is to match our new policy of only awarding a score to episodic games once they are completed. We’ll still provide “The Short Version” at the end as usual, but the numeric scale OF DEATH won’t return until Dreamfall Chapter’s conclusion. Anyway, let’s talk about Book Two: Rebels in as spoiler-free a manner as humanly possible.
Wow. I was not expecting that much content.
My personal run time for Book Two came in at just over 7 hours. When combined with the 4 hours I spent with Book One, it makes the current available content of Dreamfall Chapters longer than most entire seasons of episodic games. And we still have 3 instalments to go. Of course, all that time spent in-game means nothing unless the experience is any good, and while it’s quite clear that the increased size and scope of Book Two has made it a fairly buggy affair at launch, the end result is an engrossing, engaging, and entertaining second instalment.
If Book One was the 'orientation' for the series, Book Two takes off the training aids and gleefully throws the player into the deep end. Both the narrative and the puzzle-based gameplay take a significant leap in scope this time around, as Zoe continues to unravel the mysteries of her past alongside the political intrigue in Propast, while Kian finally begins shaping the fates of those around him in Marcuria. With several new characters making their debut (some of which became new fan favourites within hours. Yes, I’m looking at you, Enu) Book Two makes it very clear that you can’t please everyone, and that your actions will come back to haunt you in fairly significant ways.
In fact, the latter point was made a little too clear thanks to the prompts broadcast during conversations. Being reminded near the start of the chapter was a nice touch, but the repetitious use of “your previous actions have caused consequences” (and its variants) throughout the game was slightly overdone, and my immersion suffered as a result. That said, the cause-and-effect of choices throughout Book Two, along with decisions made in Book One, are executed in fine fashion. It’s a topic I mentioned in the Book One review, but the divergence of possible paths in Dreamfall Chapters continues to be seriously impressive.
While the Propast district of Europolis returns and takes “oppressive tactics” to the next level, Book Two focuses more on Marcuria and its struggles against the Azadi occupation. As a huge fan of the series, wandering around the town and revisiting familiar locations from The Longest Journey and Dreamfall was a personal highlight. Seeing the docks, the iconic tower above, and a certain somebody’s tree stump brought a smile to my face as I toured the town that, much like with Propast, felt alive. Tourist maps dotted around ensured I wasn’t lost for long, which considering the amount of running around involved in some of the puzzles ended up being a godsend.
For the most part, the puzzles remain a fairly straight forward affair, although there were a couple of situations where I was running around for ages looking for clues when the answer was in front of me all along. It wasn’t that the puzzles were particularly fiendish or even obscure, but more that the jump between straightforward and lateral thinking caught me off guard. Likewise, Marcuria plays host to a few puzzles which made good use of other characters and player consequences, which is something I hope the developers continue to play with in later episodes.
With the scale of Book Two trumping that of Book One, it should come as no surprise that some bugs crept into the release build, but while they were thankfully all cosmetic in nature they were fairly noticeable. In particular, the audio suffered from incorrect volume levels and some music cues would restart abruptly instead of continuing or fading out. There were even a few instances of character models going full-Exorcist and spinning around like something possessed. Hopefully by the time you’ve read this these issues will be patched or on the way to being patched, but I do think it’s a reflection on both the size of the game and the team that is building it (as well as their determination to deliver something different and complicated overall.)
Despite the issues, Book Two manages to take the moral choices and really amps up the difficulty this time around (if it wasn’t set that high already.) I stared at the screen agonising over some of the decisions at several points, kicking myself afterwards in a few cases. If anything, these moments perfectly display the effectiveness of the writing, with both personal and wider moral decisions presented before the player. In my opinion Book Two contains some of the best examples of this we’ve seen from the genre in recent times, raising the bar for follow-up episodes from other episodic titles. I just hope that the quality level of these moments remains high moving forward.
Oh, and a little bit of crowmance wouldn’t go amiss, either.
- Yet more excellent storytelling.
- The moral choices are even more agonising than before.
- The return to Marcuria should please fans of the series.
- Cosmetic issues with animations and audio levels throughout.
- Constant reminders of previous choices hampers immersion levels.
The Short Version:
Despite some technical gremlins causing cosmetic issues throughout the game at launch, Book Two: Rebels successfully builds upon Book One’s excellent start. More agonising moral choices lie in wait on the streets and Propast and Marcuria as Red Thread Games deliver another well-written and entertaining instalment of Dreamfall Chapters.
Platforms: PC (Tested), Mac, Linux
Developer: Red Thread Games
Publisher: Red Thread Games