I recently played an enjoyable PC adventure game called “The Longest Journey.” It is the story of two worlds: the world of order and science (Stark) and the world of chaos and magic (Arcadia). A guardian has maintained the balance between the worlds for thousands of years, but for some reason, he has left his post. The worlds are becoming unbalanced, and it’s up to an 18-year-old art student from Stark named April Ryan to save them because she has the power to pass between both worlds. But how can April figure out how to save others when she can’t even figure out herself? Thus, April sets off on the longest journey of her life: going between two worlds and into her own heart and soul.
“The Longest Journey” came out in 1999, so both the mechanics and the graphics are somewhat dated, but it made use of some interesting concepts. The game was created by Ragnar Tornquist, who undoubtably drew upon his varied interests and background. Anyway, on to the concepts.
The longest journey is within – The main storyline isn’t long, but the game feels epic. Two different worlds and the rich lore certainly help, but it’s the inner journey that really elevates this game. Through dialogue and diary entries, you really get to know and care about the protagonist, April Ryan. You get to see how she feels and grows in response to external events.
The split between science and magic – This is not a new idea, but it’s one that I’ve liked since the days of reading Split Infinity. Earth is split into 2 worlds: Stark (science) and Arcadia (magic).
Dreaming is the way between the worlds – What if our fantastical dreams are really adventures in the realm of magic?
The art of the possible – Logic dominates our modern world, and we expect things to ‘makes sense.’ But think of what we miss by limiting ourselves to the logical choice. The arts open our eyes to what is possible.
Power of intuition – With open minds, we might be surprised at what we know intuitively and what we can grasp quickly. When April Ryan first appears in Arcadia, she cannot communicate with the locals because they don’t speak English. After she stops fumbling around, she realizes she can understand ‘Alltongue,’ the universal human language.
Fate vs. free will – Ah, the eternal human dilemma. How much of (if any) our actions are predetermined? For a heroine foretold in prophecy, the question takes on increased urgency. Of course, she still doesn’t know the answer in the end and must act as if she has free will.
Stories must evolve to stay relevant – A loremaster tells April that her people hand down stories ‘told in their own words’ to ensure that the stories change with the times and stay relevant. This is an interesting idea that is quite different from what we do. Typically, we try to preserve old stories as windows into the past. Sure, people reinterpret or remake/update them occasionally, but these modifications aren’t considered in the same class as the originals.
Waves in time – At one point, someone tells April that she is a ‘wave.’ Most people flow with the river of time, but waves are people whose ideas or actions significantly affect the flow of events.
You cannot go back – The end of the hero’s journey is bittersweet. You are happy about saving the world, yet what are you suppose to do afterwards? You cannot go back to a normal life like nothing happened.