Funded to the tune of more than $1.5 million by almost 22,000 backers on Kickstarter, Dreamfall Chapters originally released episodically on PC over the course of two years. The console version now bundles these parts into one complete package, reworking them with improved and expanded graphics and sound.
Switching character perspective helps keep things varied in the early stages (imagine swapping between Deus Ex and Dragon Age now and then and you’re close), but the game really begins to build steam in the latter half. With the different universes and characters converging, the resulting crossovers are actually quite exciting when you’ve grown attached to a number of cast members. Strong scripting and voiceover contribute to making these connections, but, if you’re unforgiving of dodgy lip sync and facial animations, you might find it hard to do much other than be distracted.
There are some oddities to the game as a whole, which finds it reminiscent of the likes of Fable and Eternal Darkness, in place of anything more modern - that said, a lot of people (ourselves included) still love those games. Chapters isn’t at all focused on mechanics, but weak gameplay can too often feel like a barrier between you and the story.
There’s a lot of backtracking through the same areas, made worse by some vague objectives that lack explicit direction, setting a meandering pace. Puzzles can be time-wasters, too. They’re never illogical, which is a big plus point, but there were numerous occasions where what seemed like an obvious answer just wasn’t an option. Tasked with incapacitating someone in a busy tavern? You can’t accept an invite to join them and ply them with drink. Need to catch a rat? You can’t employ the services of that nearby cat. While these are very likely intentional red herrings, it’s hardly satisfying to discover they don’t work when they arguably should. Chapters is a long game that could easily have been made more concise by trimming unnecessary fat.
Dreamfall Chapters has as many twists and turns as it does ups and downs, helping you stay engaged and justify powering through the sporadic doldrums. Its world, characters and narrative are strong enough to make the game’s weak mechanics worth tackling, even if only as a means to an end. With this in mind, and also accounting for the budget price point (£24.99), Chapters is a game adventure fans should still consider checking out.