Journey is a game where your only objective seems to keep going forward. 2012 has been the year of storytelling in games. The boundaries have been pushed outwards in all directions, from Triple-A retelling the modern military shooter in ‘Spec Ops: The Line’, the interactive novel being challenged with ‘The Walking Dead’ from Telltale Games, the incredibly moving story of John in ‘To the Moon’ and Journey.
Jenova Chan and the team have always tried to evoke the most human of emotions through their catalogue of games. They convey the feeling of exploration and how we are nervous upon entering any new space before gaining enough confidence to venture onwards and improve. Flower expanded upon these themes by showing how we can affect the world around us. The end of that game lifts the soul in ways other mediums can’t begin to explore.
As many iterative sequels do, Journey promised to add a multiplayer element to the formula. So how does this add up to one of the best games of the year?
Journey has mysticism right from the very start. Your character, a robed alien with glowing eyes, is kneeling in the middle of the desert in a contemplative pose. He rises and floats across the sand with ease, evoking memories of Flower with its freedom of movement. The signposting in the game is subtle, using the promise of finding what is over yonder hill to full effect. It is all in the effort to make the world seems desolate and bare. You are alone. When another player appears in your world it is a time for rejoicing.
I bounced around my world giddy with excitement. The fact that I was playing a game became irrelevant. I had found a kindred spirit. He knew exactly where I had come from. We had each survived this journey together. We set about exploring the world as a pair and revelled in the world. Together we reached a section where we glided through the sand over hills, under arches and through the world. It is one of the most liberating experiences and when I reached the bottom I looked around for my buddy. He was gone. Was it something I had done? Did I go too fast through that section? I was selfish. I had let my own enjoyment get in the way of my relationship with others and I hated myself for it. The feeling of loss was immense.
Storytelling in games doesn’t come in any more powerful ways. I was communicating the most powerful of human emotions without speaking. Journey is a special game. I have not mentioned the incredible soundtrack (which is the first video game soundtrack nominated for a Grammy) or the fact this game is one of the most stunning of the year with incredible vistas for the eyes to feast upon.
If you haven’t taken the Journey yourself, make it a new year’s wish.