Journey is an interactive parable, an anonymous online adventure to experience a person’s life passage and their intersections with other’s.
Faced with rolling sand dunes, age-old ruins, caves and howling winds, your passage will not be an easy one. The goal is to get to the mountaintop, but the experience is discovering who you are, what this place is, and what is your purpose.
Travel and explore this ancient, mysterious world alone, or with a stranger you meet along the way. Soar above ruins and glide across sands as you discover the secrets of a forgotten civilization.
What We Think:
Journey doesn’t burden itself with the complex trappings of numerous other quest-central games. It travels light, allowing for the magical trek to be its own reward.
A Thousand Miles
The player is a mostly silent creature garbed in a cloak and a flowing scarf. He awakens in the middle of a massive sandy expanse. In the distance, he sees a solitary mountain split near its summit whence warm beams of energy emanate. Though it is countless miles away, the player’s path is clear.
The creature is able to run, jump, and emit a summoning tone (a sort of musical chime). Co-mingling with the lifeforms that flock to this tone will generate magical energy, which is stored on the player’s scarf, and is spent by jumping. How’s that grab ya?
Finding energy clusters along the way will lengthen the scarf, thus extending the amount of time he can spend aloft. Players hoping to explore more of the countryside should keep an eye out for clusters, as a great deal of magic can be required to reach the out-of-the-way locations.
Each stage ends when the player reaches a Vision Stone. Activating one will reveal more of the world to the player, and will show a chapter of the story surrounding the demise of this tattered world.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
Visually, Journey positively stuns. The player’s cloak and scarf react to the weather conditions, billowing endlessly, and never in a set animation sequence. As dead as the desert may appear, the dunes seem to heave in and out with breath as the wind distorts their shape. Truly, one could spend a great deal of time watching the sands blow back and forth. Adding to this effect, the various forms of parchment-creatures engage the player by reacting in a fluid, organic manner.
The orchestral music accompanies the action seamlessly, swelling and fading in all the right places as the story unfolds. In a game that is almost completely wordless, the musical score rises to the task of narrator, and performs the role masterfully.
Fans of thatgamecompany‘s past project, Fl0wer, will feel right at home with most of the control scheme on offer here. Sailing high on bursts of magic will likely conjure up images of swarms of flower petals scouring the industrialized wastelands. Though the thumbsticks can be used to control the player’s direction, the Sixaxis can also be used. The controls feel far more instinctual in this latest game.
Two Sets of Footprints
Occasionally, a second player character may appear at varying points throughout the story. This person could be anyone, and there is no way to know who is controlling this second avatar. They can’t really assist in any tangible way, and communication between player characters is restricted to the same musical vocal tone, which does little other than to indicate that something has been communicated.
Yet, strange as it may sound, as I traversed the desolate landscapes en route to my goal, just knowing I was spending a brief time in the company of a like-minded individual was actually quite comforting. I haven’t played an online game where such trivial interactions meant as much as they did in Journey (particularly during the harrowing sequences nearest the end of the quest).
Filling Big Shoes
IIMHO, not since Shadow of the Colossus has there been such a refreshing take on the quest game genre. SOTC stripped away the grind between boss battles, leaving only the bosses and the dream-like travel of the distance between them. By portraying the Colossi as gargantuan, scalable beasts, players quickly overlooked the lack of towns, the dearth of side quests and the absence of mindless hordes of slaughterable minions.
Journey dares take it one giant step further, stripping away conflict entirely, and leaving only the passing of time, and the gradual diminishing of distance. Here, the vistas are oversized, daring the player to conquer their dizzying heights all the while marveling at their beauty. The revelation of each piece of the realm’s history presents a stunning new area to explore, rich with immense crumbling structures, bizarre ancient creatures, and daunting weather conditions.
To The Corner and Back
Though Journey is a short game, the range of emotions that it manages to evoke is worthy of note. The initial learning period is brief, and the player will start to gain access to jaw-dropping vistas. The awe-inducing landscape is quickly replaced by fear and caution, and eventually gives way to pity (all of which is hard to justify without spoiling the details of the tale).
Blazing a direct path to the moutain will likely take around two hours. Finding magic symbols will lengthen the quest, as will discovering the various glyphs. These will unlock more of the land’s history, granting a deeper insight into what created the waste that has enveloped the countryside.
But the brevity of Journey in no way detracts from the quality of the experience. Thatgamecompany surpasses its own mastery of the craft by taking players on a fulfilling experience, rich in magic, wonder and feeling. Take heed, PS3-owning indie fans: Journey is not to be missed.