Dreamfall Chapters Game Review: Immersive and Impressive but Fragmented and Flawed
While I found Dreamfall Chapters immersive and enjoyable, the various disparate narrative threads simply didn't come together at the end for me. I ended up looking forward to Zoë's parts of the game much more than Kian's, who I found somewhat dull. In keeping with this, I found Stark, Zoë's futuristic cyberpunk world, more compelling than Arcadia, which presents a much more typical magical fantasy setting.
Because of this, I was disappointed at the fragmentation of the gameplay into three different main characters and settings, all of which had intrigue but none of which felt fully fleshed out (particularly Saga, the third character, who mostly remains a mystery throughout).
While Stark and Arcadia appear large, atmospheric and interesting, most of the buildings are simply decorative and cannot be entered, and most of the city inhabitants cannot be interacted with meaningfully, only eavesdropped in on. Similarly, Riverwood and the Purple Mountains are stunning locations, but, disappointingly, you are effectively on rails in the former and spend very little time in the latter.
There's also some lovely character design – although I could've done without Zoë's distractingly well-rounded butt cheeks (mostly NSFW) being the focus of so many shots (a strangely male gaze-driven choice for an apparently progressive studio).
There are also odd lapses in the game. At one point, Zoë and Crow discuss needing to get somewhere; in the next moment, the screen fades to black and it becomes evident that they have acquired a means of getting there and already made the trip. This could be indicative of budget/time constraints (the chapters were slow to be released, with stretches of up to six months between each one, leading to a fragmented gaming experience for me and many others), but it nevertheless takes you out of the experience.
And, while I enjoyed the sense of autonomy given to the player in the form of choices, some of these felt somewhat arbitrary and did not have any apparent meaningful consequences. For example, the revelation of a certain character's sexuality, while welcome, seems inconsistent given a previous choice and therefore feels forced for the sake of inclusivity.
The puzzle-solving is quite straightforward for the most part, although there are a few illogical hurdles, which comes with the adventure gaming territory. In addition, I experienced a couple of game-halting bugs that required a reload (although these might have since been ironed out).
Verdict: Overall, Dreamfall Chapters is substantial, immersive and impressive-looking enough to entertain adventure game fans, but fragmented and flawed, which might disappoint those who have followed the series since its genesis.