The Long Journey Home Review – The Long Journey for Fun?
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Daedalic Studio West
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Release: 30th May 2017
Disclaimer: Review Code provided by Daedalic Entertainment
The Long Journey Home is certainly an ambitious game, it wants to deliver a great rogue-like experience similar to FTL carried by interesting worlds, races and storylines, developed by the german storytellers of Daedalic. With the goal of a story-driven rogue-like it´s easy to fail, lacking both soul and fun. Luckily it quickly became apparent that the game presented to us manages to dodge this trap, well … sort of, so, let´s take a closer look at yet another german game.
In The Long Journey Home we´re the commander, I guess, of a research team sent out to test humanity´s first hyper drive. Of course, failures are inevitable but to be thrown at the other end of the universe is quite the surprise and bad luck. With only limited resources, it´s our job to bring the crew of the Daedalus back home, ideally alive.
By selecting a team of four crew members, a ship and lander, each possessing unique items or abilities, at the start of each journey we´re able to customize and specialize on certain aspects before beginning our long journey home. If you´d like a tankier ship, along with a crew of pilots and engineers, for a more aggressive playstyle, you can do that … at least in theory.
In practice however, especially the crew itself seems very streamlined, no character has huge bonuses or abilities, and everything boils down to the unique item everyone of them carries, while the ship and lander actually offered quite a variation concerning speed or fuel usage. The fact each character can basically do anything strengthens this impression, if a scientist can fly a ship why is a pilot that important except for his item? It just never felt like a system which allowed much customization through the crew members. During my first hour I didn´t even notice I used my scientist to fly the lander.
Speaking of the lander, The Long Journey Home´s gameplay nearly completly revolves around said landing mechanic. To actually return to earth many hyper drive jumps to new star systems are necessary. Since our ship can´t carry infinite amounts of resources, we´re forced to find a resource-rich planet sooner or later. Once arrived in a star system we first have to actually navigate to a planet, before we can scan and analyse them.
In order to do so, The Long Journey Home relies on the well known thrust mechanic, allowing us to either accelerate or slow down as well as steering right or left, on a 2D galaxy map. After minutes of flying past or in the planet, due to its difficulty, we eventually arrive at a planet, send our lander to the surface and drill for some resources. Well, if it would be that easy. During the lander segments on the planets itself, were greeted once again with the thrust system, known from the galaxy map but now in a more classic 2D environment.
Honestly, it may sounded like an unique approach to space rogue-likes, yet there´s a reason why I´ve not seen it till now: The learning curve. Said thrust system is highly physics and feelings based, you need to feel the speed, the distance, the weight and time, to effectively control both the lander and ship. The required time for this learning process will be clustered with various planet crashes and fuel waste, denying any possibility to actually progress before you didn´t master this hard movement.
Your first runs won´t be based on the generated world or your resource managment but on unnecessary damage taken from crashing into planets, denying any sort of long progress, even tho the lander and ship are pretty forgiving, the sum of all crashes makes all the difference. I have no problem with skill based rogue-likes but the implement system, which is the only actual “gameplay” element, causes more frustration than fun in the long run. You may disagree, depending on your attitude towards the mechanic, yet for me, as a person who dislikes said system in general, it seemed more like an obstacle.
When you´re not exploring the galaxy, you´ll quickly find yourself without much to do otherwise. Except the possiblity to repair or refuel your ship, using the different items you found or got from your crew members as well as equipping bought upgrades. Overall, the whole gameplay quickly felt repetitive, due to the lack of variation. Instead of a changing experiences because of transferred items or equipment to the next playthrough, typical for a rogue-like, The Long Journey Home decided to focus on knowledge you gain throughout your journeys, it´s biggest strength and weakness.
The Long Journey Home focuses on its worlds, aliens and quests, resulting in one of the richest story experiences I´ve had in a rogue-like so far. During your trials to complete the 5-7 hour long journey to earth, you´ll be immersed through either the interesting races or absolutely great quests. The eight races feature not only a great and unique design but their own personality, opinions and systems too, of which you´ll learn more and more by talking to them, gaining knowledge for future encounters. At no point the game itself will tell you anything about the galaxy, everything is up to you to discover.
Moments, like encountering a lost survivor on a planet, a new race or even one of the “main” side quests, featuring extensive stories and sometimes even surprising outcomes are the moments The Long Journey Home lives from. Personally, the gameplay lost me after some hours into the game but I kept playing for the interesting galaxy. Since everything is procedurally placed in a procedurally generated galaxy it´s impossible to see everything in a single complete run, giving you the needed replayability. After you returned to earth for the first time, which will take up to 10 hours alone, you´ll probably won´t stop, you want to see everything of the great content The Long Journey Home has to offer behind the random galaxy. Every playthrough won´t make you physically stronger but strengthen your knowledge of the galaxy, allowing a more efficient and immersive experience everytime you start a new run, yet denying any chance of a changing gameplay.
Presentation wise The Long Journey Home defintely drives its own style. While it can´t shine with sharp textures or breathtaking action, the galaxy often managed to visually surprise me in my first hours. Planet surfaces look absolutely stunning, be it the colourful jungle environments or gas planets, even tho they repeat themselves after a while. Characters and ships feature a very sharp and angular design, not unseen till now but certainly a way of breathing some personality into the generic theme of humans in spaceships. On the other hand alien races are very soft with rather round edges, creating quite a cool contrast. The overall artstyle of The Long Journey Home can create some truly great moments.
The Long Journey Home is certainly an interesting game, solely focusing on a great story experience, rather than a truly great gameplay. Without the interesting stories it has to tell, I wouldn´t have enjoyed nearly that much in the long run, the gameplay becomes too repetitive and the different runs too similar in structure. Yet, I found myself liking it because of all the cool ideas, as well as designs packed into it, which managed to often surprise me during my time.
If you can handle its flaws and problems, are a fan of good quests, plots and experiences, The Long Journey Home is defintely something for you, if you´re able to spare 40 bucks for such a game. Even tho it may have the content to allow a playtime worthy of this price tag, it´s up you, how long you can have fun with it.