Posted: December 22
For the first 1/3 of this game, I would have given it a "no." Then up until an hour or so before the end, I felt pretty neutral about the whole thing. By the end of the game, for whatever reason, I had fallen a little bit in love with the world(s) this adventure spans. So it's a yes, but with some warnings.
This game was created at a time when 3D graphics technology, even pre-rendered, was quite limited. It shows, big time. The characters are chunks of polygons and the animations in particular are quite absurd. Like, unintentional humor absurd. Nonetheless, I could see how this could be visually captivating for people-- 14 years ago. I didn't come into this game expecting anything other than dated graphics but it is not a game that has aged well in that respect.
In terms of "gameplay," there isn't a whole lot of it. It's an adventure game, so it comes with the territory that a lot of your time will be spent walking about and taking in the storytelling. This game felt like 80% of it was just spent listening to people talk. There's just a lot to listen to. At times, especially towards the first half, it can seem very slow just listening to all the talking. But there are eventually puzzles to solve. Unfortunately they're not good puzzles. If you're familiar with adventure games, you'll know there are right ways to do puzzles and wrong ways to do them. TLJ does them the wrong way. I was forced to consult a walkthrough several
times in order to progress, and the things I was "missing" were always ridiculous.
The defining (if not redeeming) aspect of any adventure game of course is the storyline. Despite a funky opening, The Longest Journey doesn't exactly dash out of the gate. The aforementioned long-winded dialogues quickly reveal a diverse cast, but they're not all what I would necessarily consider "fascinating." Unfortunately the voice acting is extremely uneven. Rarely, it's quite good, but occasionally it's plain terrible, and often it's just "off" enough to keep it from being believable. The game is ambitious; it really tries for a lot of drama with developed characters and action and humor, and the acting really doesn't sell it. Admittedly, 14 years ago, it was probably pretty impressive. So the game throws you into the "Journey" with really little reason to be interested in it, largely because you're not sure what's supposed to be going on. Then soon enough things get weird, and you start getting a sense of the scope of all this weirdness, but it honestly feels pretty cheesy. For some reason it was enough to keep me coming back to playing TLJ again and again (it IS a long journey), and eventually the game lulled me into appreciating the depth of its story. I became numb to the games flaws and was left to contemplate how thorough a world was created here, particularly the many characters and their stories, and how they all together belong to something bigger. Still, it isn't fantastic, but it is something rather special. By the end, I was glad to have met them, awkward as some of them may have come across at first.
The Longest Journey was clearly a very ambitious adventure, and while it may not have aged so well, you can still sense the vision of the creators as something that is quite remarkable. The game's ending can be described as unsatisfying, but moreso than leaving a bad taste in my mouth it just left me wanting more. And, as it turns out, there is more. So that's where I'm headed next.