|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: ThatGameCompany||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sony||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: TBA||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Andrew Groen
After all of the members of the press lucky enough to schedule a meeting to see Journey had finished filing into the small presentation room, the lights dimmed and Jenova Chen presented us with his latest creation. From that moment there wasn't a soul in that room who wasn't hanging on his every word.
Chen began the presentation by explaining to us some of us inspirations for wanting to create this specific game. He spoke of the proliferation of technology. Saying that in life, the average human spends his days and hours in a never-ending pursuit of more power. Not necessarily in the "rule the world" sense of the word, but technology. The internet is an extremely powerful device. Airplanes and cars are powerful. He said this mirrors our approach to video games because it's a natural impetus for a human being.
But, Chen said, these moments aren't very powerful. They're a dime a dozen. Instead he theorized that the most important, influential, and poignant moments in a persons life are the moments of "smallness" that they experience. To explain this statement he told us of a meeting he had with an astronaut, a space shuttle pilot who had flown to the moon and back. This astronaut had said that everyone he knew who had seen our planet from the moon had come back a changed person. Apparently, in that moment, seeing the Earth as such a tiny object which contained everything that person had ever known, created a feeling of "smallness." It was this conversation - this revelation - which has inspired the philosophy behind Journey.
Though it doesn't look even remotely like anything ThatGameCompany has produced before -- or anything any company has produced for that matter -- though it is abundantly obvious that this is their creation. The graphics are intensely stylized. Even the main character is mostly abstract. You can make out legs, and the probable area where a face hides underneath a large maroon cape and cowl. The world is extremely sparsely populated, containing more sand dunes than people by a 100:1 ratio.
The other people that you'll meet, however, are real people. That's right. Journey is an online game. That doesn't mean you'll be running into people all of the time, but rather Chen wants you to occasionally meet with someone and to bond in a unique but intense way. There is no voice chat so all communication will be non-verbal, although characters do have the ability to "sing" which is an odd rising noise every character can make.
Your journey is a trip across long swaths of desert with occasional sights to see and places to explore. These added places will provide additional information into the history and culture of the world that is/was, rewarding the curious player with a more rich experience.
At its heart is a distinctly minimalist sensibility that one can't help but relate to Shadow of the Colossus and Ico. Not so much in terms of visuals, but loneliness. Players seem almost entirely alone in a huge, dead world. Which should make sparse, random encounters with other players all the more exhilarating.
Throughout the game, the driving force of the action is a bright, shining mountain top. The character wakes up not knowing who he/she/it is, but this shining mountain compels you forward. In order to get there you'll have to solve puzzles, and do a considerable amount of complex platforming (and sometimes both) to reach the summit.
We'll have to see how ThatGameCompany handles player interaction before we're fully convinced of this game's brilliance though. After all, many a great game was ruined by relying on players to play nice together (*cough*ResidentEvilOutbreak*cough*).
However, judging from ThatGameCompany's previous efforts, we have a lot to be excited about in 2011. This could be a very worthy successor to their brilliant previous game, Flower. ThatGameCompany has only really been in existence for a few years, but in that time they've created two of the seminal classics of this generation. Now that the company is picking up steam, they can afford to take larger risks on larger games. The scale of these games has been growing at a very rapid pace, and Journey is a continuation of that trend.
I couldn't be more excited, personally, for Journey to come out. I'm anxious to play it, but I also believe ThatGameCompany's games give an important message about our industry. There is a market for high-minded artsy games, and they are proving that one game at a time. The first thing that will push this medium forward is the corporate realization that money can be made by hiring visionary designers, and publishing visionary games. If we stand behind companies like this, then our entire industry stands to gain greatly.
CCC Freelance Writer