As a gaming enthusiast I’m always interested in new gaming experiences, but every once in awhile I feel compelled to go back and put in some serious time replaying some of my favorite games from the preceding years. In that spirit, I have created a new series of writing pieces titled Replaying the Classics, wherein I discuss the games that I have replayed recently. Unlike my Late to the Party series, my goal with these writing pieces is not so much to give a strong analysis of a particular game, but rather to give an informal recounting of a game and to try to convey to the reader why it’s one of my favorites. I do not come to you this time as a game reviewer, but merely as a friend wanting to have a casual chat about what he’s been playing. Today, let’s take a seat in our comfy chairs and talk about Journey.
First, an explanation is in order. I’m long overdue for another entry in the Replaying the Classics series and I’d understand if you thought it was finished. While there are only one or two games left that I intend to play for Replaying the Classics, the reason it’s been a few weeks since you last got one of these is primarily life circumstances I’ve been going through, namely long hours at my job and the preparation for my trip to Asia. Last weekend I finally had some free time and I knew I needed to get back on track, so I knocked out Journey, which is a short game. Hopefully your patience in waiting for a new entry in this series will now be rewarded.
Get to the mountain. That is your sole objective in Journey. You are a nameless, masked wanderer on a quest to the reach the mountain’s summit. What exactly awaits you at the top of the mountain is unknown, but getting there is the only thing that matters. You start your journey in the sun-scorched sands of the desert with the mountain looming in the distance, and then simply begin moving towards your destination. Along the way you pass through the ruins of an ancient civilization and are given glimpses into the story of the beings that used to live there. Your own story as you approach the mountain mirrors that of those who once inhabited the land, following the path of discovery, exultation, strife, and despair. When you finally reach the mountain you’ve seen the tale of those came before you, and then its time for the final struggle to the top.
What happens at the mountain, you ask? I’m not telling. It’s not because I don’t think you can handle it, but rather because that Journey is one of those games that is completely worth experiencing for yourself. Honestly, I’ve told you too much already, and would suggest you stop reading right now and just play the game. It only takes about two hours to finish Journey, so you can complete it in a single sitting, and it’s a game that first came out on PS3 back in 2012, so it shouldn’t cost too much these days. If nothing else, put it on your watchlist and snatch it up whenever it next goes on sale.
Oh, alright, you’re interested in the game but just want hear more about it before trying it out. That’s fine by me. Earlier I mentioned the story of your character and the world you traverse. There’s not a single piece of text, dialogue, or narration in Journey, meaning that narrative is crafted entirely by visual storytelling, combined with the game’s outstanding soundtrack. What Journey does with its story is quite impressive in that it spins a surprisingly emotional and moving tale of the rise and fall of a civilization, as well as your own journey through its ruins. If this sort of storytelling sounds somewhat familiar, well you’re quite astute to sense that. Journey was made by the same studio that made Flower—another game that used the same style of storytelling, and which we which we talked about in a previous conversation.
Another interesting thing about Journey is that it can potentially become a co-op game. If you are connected to the Internet and have Journey’s online features enabled, you may run into another wanderer during your trek towards the mountain. These characters that look just like you are in fact other players who happen to be in the same area of the game that you are. You can only come across them one at time, so there can never be more than two characters on screen, and whether or not you choose to interact with other players is entirely up to you. With no voice chat functionality in the game, your only means of communication with another player are either by actions or the musical note your character can emit. If both of you are willing, you can potentially play almost the entire game together with another player, or if you’re not interested in doing so you can simply run away from another player until they disappear from your world (or, I guess you could turn off Journey’s online functionality if you want to avoid this scenario entirely). Personally, I would suggest playing Journey more than once, with at least one playthrough being strictly solo and at least one other with the online feature active. Even though it’s technically the same game, experiencing Journey both ways is worthwhile as you get a different vibe when there’s another player with you.
At this point in our conversation you’ve no doubt looked over some of the screenshots I’ve provided. As you’ve seen, Journey is a very pretty game with a strong art direction, and if it’s any encouragement to you let me say that Journey looks way better than what these screenshots might suggest. There are actually several points in the game that I’ve intentionally not shown you because a screenshot doesn’t even come close to capturing the game’s beauty (and to avoid major spoilers). You’ll know them when you see them, and then you’ll come back and tell me I was right.
Well, this conversation has been quite the journey, hasn’t it? Yes, that was a terrible pun; I repent in ash and sackcloth. Still, I think you now have a better understanding of why I think Journey is a classic and maybe I’ve even stoked your interest in this game. I hope you enjoyed our time together, and I look forward to seeing you again to discuss the next game in Replaying the Classics.