The Longest Journey

"is the journey inward, for he who has chosen his destiny has started upon his quest for the source of his being." - Dag Hammarskjöld

Source // LongestJourney.com

The 1001 entry for this game calls it the end of an era; point and click graphic adventure games as a genre have fallen by the wayside, but not before a last great story about the mix of magic and technology in the form of The Longest Journey.

We are 18-year-old Art student April Ryan, and we're the mother of the future. Whatever that means. Must be true. Dragon hologram told us in our dream.

Source // GOG

Let's see what's going on here...

Source // Wikipedia


I picked up a digital copy of The Longest Journey on GOG, where it plays with no fuss whatsoever twenty years later. Except that for whatever reason, I couldn't capture screenshots and my video capture resulted in an hour of a black screen, accompanied by the game audio.

I was hoping to show some of this game off as I experienced it but will have to try to recreate it from the promotional images on the still viewable official website.

Source // LongestJourney.com

The Longest Journey starts in a fantastical landscape that couldn't possibly exist, as we are inside of one of April's dreams. You can tell because she's in her underwear. Think of it as Cobb's spinning top - was I wearing my underwear? Yes. Dreamworld.

She soon starts talking to a tree who will help her rescue an egg, just as long as you divert a stream with a stick and a dragon scale. I'm not making any of this up. You do so, after much talking, and April wakes from her dream. But it's no ordinary dream. They're getting weirder. They might be more than dreams...

In the real world, April is an art student and, like all art students I'm sure (I have no idea), they leave everything to the last minute. April needs to finish her painting for her course/exhibition/homework. As opening quests go, it's unusual.

After bumping into other people living at the Border House, a low-rent accommodation for arty types run by a British lesbian... I'm still pretty damn sure I'm not making this up (you can sit through twenty minutes of Q&A with her if you like), we set out for school.

Source // LongestJourney.com

Fun Times

It must have been half an hour in at least by the time I left the first building because the dialogue in The Longest Journey is so in depth and detailed in order to paint a picture of this world. It must be a statement on artists just waffling on and on about everything under the sun. There's even a line of dialogue that points out that a character can bullshit her way through topics of conversation with no problem.

Multiple options and many, many questions allow you to play April in a number of ways. I don't know if different paths lead to different endings or anything, or if you close off or open up different things depending on what you decide to say to people, but the sheer amount of words makes the game feel like a story.

In terms of actual gameplay, it's only been clicking on something to hear a comment, and maybe grabbing something to put into our inventory for an inevitable need. Other than that, it's aaaaalll story.

Source // LongestJourney.com
Source // LongestJourney.com

It's set in the far future, and looks impressive. Character models are hit and miss, but the pre-rendered backgrounds are nice to look at. Slow to walk through, mind you - I only learned of hitting Escape to skip the animations late on in my playthrough, and even then it only spurs April into a jog until she gets to where you want her.

I first went to the subway (not knowing where school is and not seeing a map yet), only to be told I have $1 in my bank account and need $15 to get a train. Ah. Struggling art student then. But I learn I work at a cafe and haven't been paid yet, so that's a lead to chase.

I find the cafe next, but it's closed until 3pm for an unknown reason. Guess I'll go find the school, as is my mission. It's through the park and seems a fairly relaxed place as I just stroll in and plonk myself in front of a blank canvas - carefully interacting with it by clicking on the paint palette, then on the canvas. Gameplay!

Soon, I meet some friends, have a hallucination involving a dragon hologram (oh, yeah, holosculpture is a thing in the future), and finish my painting. Time to hit up the now open cafe, where I want to get paid and find a clue to meet Cortez, who knows something about my dreams but is being all cryptic about where to meet.

Source // LongestJourney.com

My boss says I need a timesheet to get paid. I don't have one. Another epic quest begins...

Source // LongestJourney.com

Final Word

I'm only about an hour or so into The Longest Journey, but it feels both less and more than that, owing to the sheer amount of words that these people speak, and the huge number of optional, additional words that you can have them speak about.

Everyone knows everyone else in this city, it seems, and they're chatty to no end. It's not necessarily tedious talk, however. The characters feel like living, breathing people, but I think that's mostly because I'm not used to listening to arty types waffling on in video games. I don't need to bear witness to a debate about when an album was released, but I did, then was roped into it, then had no choice but to listen to April settle the debate, and suddenly I know a little bit more about... something... I'm not sure what. It's not important to the plot, but the worldbuilding checkbox has been thoroughly filled in by now.

I have no idea where The Longest Journey goes. We are someone who can bridge two worlds and all sorts of stuff like that, but I haven't officially discovered that because I'm trying to find my timesheet so I can travel on the train.

Gameplay-wise, it's a doddle so far. Point, click, choose to look, talk or pick up, wait for April to finish speaking and move on. No puzzles, no timing, no weird solutions... except the stick and the dragon scale, maybe, but there was literally nothing else to do in that situation - April even mentions she doesn't know how this is supposed to work, but it feels right, so whatever.

Source // LongestJourney.com

I do actually want to see more of this game. I don't know why. The writing isn't grabbing me - I don't want to ask all twenty questions, thanks - but it kind of is. The content might bore me in places, but it feels true to life. People sound like people. The voice acting itself isn't too bad either, so they sound like people in more ways than one.

If this has been described as the final hurrah for the genre, then it looks to have gone out on a high, and when I wade through the artsy-fartsy stuff to get to it, I'll know for sure. As it stands, I can only say that The Longest Journey has, perhaps surprisingly, got my attention, and I'll get back to it at some point.

Fun Facts

Along with thematic inspiration from the works of Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon is the first point and click adventure in the Gabriel Knight series, Sins of the Father. I've not touched The Beast Within since first playing it for this blog a few years ago. Probably won't wait as long to play The Longest Journey again.

The Longest Journey, developed by Funcom, first released in 1999.
Version played: PC, 2000.