What a title.
I played Journey yesterday (just about all of it) and it was great; while engaged, every single part of me enjoyed it. I won’t try to thoroughly explain what about its controls I loved, but its freeness all felt like a natural extension. You never run or jump; you fly or exploit the terrain, sliding through sand: down the far sides of dunes or with the wind at your back.
It is a bundle of even more beautiful things:
- There is a friendly but kind of fickle AI creature (the first introduced); it felt like an actual thing I was interacting with (and occasionally benefiting from!) rather than either awful end of the spectrum: a tool or a background element.
- The multiplayer is wonderful, and reminds me (in a mechanical way) of a supersimple but polished Dark/Demon’s Souls’ auto-match. Wanderer friends make tasks much easier and makes the desert feel less lonely in a genuine way: you really are less lonely. Yet, you could do everything yourself if you tried.
- Enemies: they show up a few times, and they punish you in an admirable way. It’s not a slap on the wrist, but it never means starting over; it is akin to an enemy in Zelda who steals neither your shield nor your sword, but half of your heart containers, irretrievably. The things you covet most are those which you earn yourself and feel are your right to keep forever, no? I can’t imagine a single other game that would do that. (Journey, of course, gets away with it because it’s so short and so engaging: you get over it shortly. And then the game ends anyway.)
Journey is not Gravity Bone, but it inspires me in the same way; it is good at all of the same things; it is disappointing in all the same places. Journey has more than Gravity Bone in terms of its graceful, joyous character movement and in its incredibly well-done stripped-down multiplayer.
It is beautiful and internally consistent. It does things that are not incredibly new but it does things right. It’s a single experience that I nevertheless want to experience at least one more time. It contains interactions that, likewise, all feel right in a fun way.
It ends. It doesn’t end too quickly, but it’s too easy to realize that there’s too little room to play it all over again; there are parts I’d like to experience again (and will!), but there are truthfully no problems to solve a different way, and there are no hurdles to fail at in a different way, or at all. It lacks length but more importantly it lacks depth.
I want to play Journey and Gravity Bone again, the both of them, but I know that I’ve experienced their content and that’s just about all there is to them. Other games have more content (Half-Life or Dark Souls), or a way to play through as someone else (… Dark Souls), or a way to keep interacting with others in a… you know, interact-y multiplayer way (TF2? … or Dark Souls, the game that secretly has everything).
Nothing lasts forever, of course, but if only it made it possible I’d feel good about taking an endless Journey.
… for a while, anyway.