Twenty years. It took me twenty years to get around to playing this gem of a game. That's not an overstatement, either: I distinctly remember the cover of the LEVEL magazine in 2000: after nagging them for a long time, my parents finally bought me my first issue ever.
I remember the moment well; I also remember reading the review of The Longest Journey, liking it and thinking yes, this sounds great, I will play this one day. I knew that day wasn't coming any time soon: I had no way to get the game, and even if I did, my computer at home - and by "my computer" I, of course, mean my father's work computer, the mighty i486 with a 200MB hard drive - had a) no CD drive and b) not nearly enough power to play such fancy, high-tech games.
It did not occur to me, however, that it'd take twenty years. When I started playing it a few months past, and started telling my friends about it, I realized one of them was a few months old when it came out, and the other wasn't even born yet. (No, it does not make me feel old, why would you even ask that.)
So years went by, and it always stayed somewhere in the back of my mind. I bought the game in 2012. Then started playing it in 2018 or so, but then had to stop for a long while. So now I've finally set everything aside and started playing again.
After such a long build-up, I hardly knew what to expect anymore. But even after all that hype, I got hooked. It took a while to get used to the old graphics. The low-res 3D characters, aehm, leave a lot to the imagination. The cut-scenes are fair a bit better, so you actually get to see what our protagonist April looks like. 😄The important thing is, I did get used to the graphics quite quickly, then just enjoyed the ride.
I know I can't write anything new about a game like this, so just a few of my highlights. First of all, the characters. They were just so lovable, I miss them still, April and Crow and Cortez and all of them. And that will probably be the reason I will play the sequel, hopefully sometime before 2040 rolls around. April's quick-witted humor is exactly what I like both in-game and IRL.
The entire world was built with care and a lot of ideas were explored, like the implications of the Balance on theology, or how one might come to grips with finding out one might be a "chosen one", whether one likes it or not.
Or all the times when April tries to talk about feminism or political correctness to people living in what amounts to a feudal magical society, only to be met with baffled confusion, more than anything else.
In chapter 4, Abnaxus says:
Everything is possible between science and magic.
While that may be true enough within the game's universe, it also is relevant outside of it, because the developers of this game took the limited technology available to them, and made something truly magical. Something capable of touching me years later, when all their tech might as well be from the stone age.
I'm not sure whether I'll still be able to find that old issue of Level and re-read it. No luck so far. But looking at the table of contents available online, I've just now realized that a few games that somehow keep popping up in my head randomly also come from this exact issue. Huh.
Ah, time to end the post. Just looking at these screenshots makes me melancholy.