With all the world building and character introductions out of the way, it’s finally time to reveal some mysteries and get the adventure on its way.
Compared to the previous two books, Dreamfall Chapters: Book Three: Realms is rather linear. There are far fewer choices with branching paths, and you have no freedom to explore Zoë’s world in Propast. However, this isn’t exactly a bad thing.
While the past two books were concerned with setting the stage for the rest of the game, Realms is more about getting the story moving — by dishing out major revelations and by showing how your choices have impacted the story so far. Granted, your choices have done little to alter the overall plot of the game. However, what has been affected are Zoë and Kian’s interpersonal relationships — whom each has befriended and the support they provide.
The beginning of Realms is one of the game’s interlude chapters where we focus on the life of mysterious child Saga in a strange house outside of time and space. Last time we checked in on her at the end of Book One, she was just a baby. Now she is a little girl — and a terribly voice acted one at that.
Saga sounds like the creators of the game got one of their daughters, put her in front of a mic, and had her read each line only once — deciding whatever came out was good enough. Her inflections are unnatural and stilted as if she doesn’t understand the words on the page. Nothing sounds believable — especially when you consider Saga is a girl, raised in solitude by an Irish-accented father and yet she somehow has a Scandinavian accent. Honestly, it sounds so bad it has to be heard to be believed.
Saga’s section of Realms also has the single most monotonous puzzle in Dreamfall Chapters yet: Collect Saga’s random doodles from around the house. You’d think this would be a simple task, but even finding one can be a challenge. And when you do find that first one, it’s more than a little demoralising to realise there are eight more hiding in the deceptively tiny house.
The problem is that the hide-and-seek puzzle is rather obtuse. There are few visual cues to show you what is a drawing and what is a normal background object. While it has since been patched out, one picture was actually relatively easy to find but could not be selected until you turned on a lightswitch — not exactly the most obvious solution.
The actual contents of the puzzle, the drawings, are interesting as they tell the story of The Longest Journey and imply an intriguing connection between Saga and the series’ original protagonist April Ryan.
The other puzzles in Realms are much better. Kian’s is rather straightforward and simply requires you to once again explore the streets of Marcuria to find the few items you need. Zoë’s big puzzle, on the other hand, is rather more complex and — thanks to the inclusion of Shitbot — enjoyable.
The most enjoyable part of Realms comes near its end where Zoë finally makes her way back to the fantasy world of Arcadia. It is there that we once again meet the series’ eternal sidekick: the talking bird Crow. Catching up with Crow is a real treat. His dialogue is excellently written and delivered. It feels like coming across a long-lost friend — and the mystery behind his final scene is Dreamfall is still left tantalizingly ambiguous.
With Crow in toe, Zoë encounters Arcadia for the first time in years. During those times when we have seen Marcuria through Kian’s eyes, he is always attempting to remain as unnoticed as possible — moving around at night when fewer people are around. Zoë, on the other hand, has no real way to even pretend to be a local, so she just acts as what she is — a foreigner in a strange land.
Because of this, Zoë is able to unabashedly walk about, talking with both guards and the average person. Much like in the first book in Dreamfall Chapters, we are able to listen in on random people’s conversations — learning more about the world not through the eyes of the resistance but through those who are just trying to live their normal lives. Some people are happy about the magical races being driven out of the city while others are less so. There’s even one great conversation between two townspeople about farmers coming to the town because of the harvest and how one is upset about it.
There is one other aspect I quite enjoyed in Realms: how the characters have changed physically. It is clear from the start that a fair bit of time has passed since the events of the second book. Kian is now sporting a rugged beard. And Zoë’s look has changed completely — though not really by choice.
After the explosion at the end of the previous book, Zoë spent some time in the hospital getting skin grafts for the burns she suffered. Even now, she has what appears to be a large shrapnel scar across the side of her head and some sort of mesh over the scared portion of her face. It’s good to see there have been physical consequences to her adventure thus far. It makes the stakes feel all the greater when the heroes receive a measure of permanent damage.
While the start of this book is shaky with its painful puzzle and terrible voice acting, Dreamfall Chapters: Book Three: Realms overall feels like a solid step toward the story’s conclusion. With Zoë finally in Arcadia, Kian off on an adventure to a brand new location, and several of the big mysteries revealed, Realms finally feels like we have started on our grand adventure.
Now all that’s left is to wait a few months and see where the story goes from here.
Dreamfall Chapters: Book Three: Realms was released on June 25, 2015.
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