|Box Art N/A
|Platform Win, Mac
|Developer Red Thread Games
I headed into Dreamfall Chapters Book 3: Realms expecting it to be like most mid-point for most stories: slow and offering very little in the way of plot building.
The episodic choice-and-consequence-driven adventure game has peaked and valleyed. While Book 1: Reborn set the table splendidly, Book 2: Rebels dragged under the weight of heavy-handed exposition and ideas that seemed rushed.
By Book 3: Realms, however, Dreamfall Chapters has found solid footing. It expands on its two leads, Zoe and Kian, gracefully and with real intrigue. Realms delivers a contained story for the episode and lays the tracks for interesting events to come — it's the shot of adrenaline the series needed.
Where Dreamfall Chapters' second episode continued almost immediately after the first, Realms features a small time jump. Kian, now sporting a stylish head of hair and a full beard, is still working with rebel forces in Marcuria. But the consequences of Rebels and natural progression of the game’s conflict have taken their toll on the city. Magical beings are almost completely absent — most have been rounded up and shipped off to prison camps.
Kian’s arc has often been a low point of the series. He’s a stoic character, and even his internal struggles, up to this point, have been less interesting than Zoe’s. In Realms, however, Kian is more confidently written than he ever has been. He’s more personable in his responses, even when they’re brief. Choices I made in the previous game had a noticeable effect on which of my rebel companions I spent time with. The result, while predictable, still felt like a reasonable one that made me appreciate my decision all the more. I was always eager to see how Kian would react and, for the first time ever, moving away from Kian left me wanting more.
His chapters are fairly straight forward, focusing largely on working with rebel forces and snooping around Marcuria. Realms feels more puzzle-driven than previous entries; I spent a good deal of head space trying to use the clues the game gave me to figure out how to proceed. Even when the tasks themselves didn’t feel meaningful — sneaking up on guards, catching rats — solving these puzzles was a reliable burst of satisfaction every time.
Zoe’s chapters, however, make for some of the best scenes in the game. She takes her first moves away from the city of Propast, where she’s spent the entirety of her time so far. She, too, has undergone a drastic physical change following the conclusion of Rebels, but her character remains as resilient and hungry for answers as ever. After looking into the explosion from the previous episode, Zoe finally uses a dream machine, awakens to her powers and crosses into Marcuria.
Realms feels more puzzle-driven than previous entries
Zoe’s chapters, like Kian’s, are puzzle-heavy — though not quite as difficult. In one instance, I roamed the city’s underground by using a pin as a beacon to find my way. Another had me swap out chips in a bot to capitalize on its different powers. None of these segments posed a serious challenge — chip swapping took some pondering and trial-and-error — but they were short enough to avoid frustration.
What Realms lacks in difficulty and mental challenge, it makes up for with its narrative strides. Zoe and Kian finally feel like established, fleshed-out characters. If past episodes have given us insight into how they tick by steadily building up their thoughts and goals, Realms allows them to exist within those spaces. Their actions are relatable because they’re understandable. Realms isn’t quite ready to mash its two heroes together, though it seems clear their paths are ready to converge.
Book 3: Realms is where things finally get moving
Realms offers more action than any previous episodes of Dreamfall Chapters. It’s exciting to see Zoe cross into Marcuria, and satisfying for Kian to finally head into dangerous, uncharted territory. Where the previous episode dragged in its rush to get through key plot points, Realms is exciting and interesting. If previous episodes laid the groundwork and pushed the pieces into place, Realms finally reaps the benefits.
Dreamfall Chapters - Book 3: Realms was reviewed using a download code for Mac provided by Red Thread Games. You can read more on Polygon's ethics policy here.About Polygon's Reviews