[Review] The Long Journey Home – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Daedalic Entertainment GmbH
  • Publisher: Daedalic GmbH
  • Release Date: 04/09/2019
  • Price: $29.99 / £26.99
  • Review code provided by Daedalic GmbH

A Space Age Odyssey

I’ll be the first one to admit that space adventure games are not usually my sort of speed, but The Long Journey Home had a hook that caught me in the most nostalgic of ways. The Long Journey Home begins with you selecting a crew of four to man the first ship capable of making jumps through space on a simple research trip to Alpha Centauri and back. You have ten different options to choose from so I started out with Kirsten the astronaut, Alessandra the engineer, Miriam the mission planner, and Simon the corporate executive (because adding him in sounded funny). From there you choose a ship and lander and their color scheme before your little crew makes their first jump through space only for things to go horribly wrong, otherwise there would not be a plot. Now it’s up to the player to guide their little crew all the way back to earth by jumping from star system to star system, interacting with alien life, and collecting the resources to keep going.

While this game is a space exploration game, it gave strong nostalgic feelings of The Oregon Trail though with a fresh new setting and a lot more freedom in which direction you end up going. Though, instead of managing the food and morale of your party, you are making sure that you have enough fuel, your ship is not too damaged, and you have the right fuel for making short jumps through space. At least nobody is getting dysentery!

The Big Wide Universe

One of the elements of The Long Journey Home that makes it feel like such an adventure is that each time you play, the universe that you are traveling in is procedurally generated. Meaning that each time you try to get back to earth it will be a completely different experience not only based on what path that you choose to take but the way that the universe is laid out before you. This is both the benefit and the detriment of the gameplay as you can end up being dealt a poor hand right from the beginning. One trip through the stars you might spend your time encountering ships of other alien species that are either friendly or indifferent to your plight and give you directions, items, or even a little mission. On another attempt to return to earth, you might find that every other ship you encounter is some form of hostile alien or space pirate, leaving you with the option to pay tribute, fight, or attempt to escape.

This means that even with difficulty options, each generated universe can vary in difficulty, especially when it comes to collecting resources from planets in order to keep yourself going. There are a lot of things to keep track of in order to make sure your ship stays together and your crew stays alive, not to mention able to move forward. Though you are told the keyword that serves as the seed for your universe before you begin, there is always the option to try the same universe over again if you want a second shot at it and on lower difficulties. Your progress can be slightly rewound for a second chance, though this won’t always mean viability in continuing.

The game is visually easy to understand so you know what needs doing or what needs your attention. While some elements of the design can look a little on the basic side, it’s the little touches such as the occupants of your ship standing around or working in the backgrounds of the menus. Not to mention the look of the planets and other space elements in both navigation and loading screens giving a real feeling of traveling through the stars on an epic quest homeward.

Navigation Through the Stars

By far one of the elements that is either going to make or break your enjoyment of this game is the control scheme. Or perhaps I should say schemes because there are several. The game shifts between them easily as each has their purpose but some can be downright frustrating. When in diplomatic situations with the various aliens of The Long Journey Home or exploring points of interest on a planet surface, the game takes on a simple and understandable interface in the form of a console with two screens that allows for making choices or navigating menus to interact with lifeforms. It’s simple, straightforward, and works perfectly for the types of situations that it is used in.

The more difficult control schemes come in anything regarding the navigation of the ship. There are three, a 2d side to side navigation for landing on plants, collecting resources or visiting points of interest. A top down navigator for interacting with other ships, navigating hazards, or space battles. And the larger navigation for traveling to and around stars and planets in a system. These three styles can be hard to get a handle on at first since it does take some getting used to the weight and momentum that your ship will have. You don’t simply drive to planets on a map, but have to consider your speed and the gravitational pull of the plant to swing yourself into its orbit before you’re able to land on it. Once you go into the lander, each planet has its own factors that affect the way the lander will fly and behave. It may take a moment of adjustment before you can navigate without slamming into the planet’s surface and taking large amounts of damage. It might take a few to several tries before you have a confident handle on the controls of your ship. It took me walking away and coming back after a little while before I managed to fully click with the game and not just slingshot myself into a star.

A Strange Story to Tell

The largest asset that this game has in its favor that had me keep going even when I was slamming my ship into everything I possibly could was the writing. Your crew isn’t always the most interesting, but they’ll have different reactions to jobs and objects that show personality and occasionally will pop up for comments at the bottom of your navigation screen that tell you more about them. The really interesting characters can be found in the aliens that can be met throughout your travels. From aliens spreading their religion to a small conspiracy theorist that you might be with “them” to ruthless pirates to stuck up nobles and even a friendly plant creature named Toby who just wants to see more of the universe. Each of them is written in a fun and charming way that suits the wide range of species that can be encountered. The system of diplomacy is simple with your actions having reactions with the aliens you have encountered and how they regard you, but it adds something to consider to those interactions. For example, the “noble knights” type aliens I encountered on one run were not very happily when I participated slave trade because I was desperate for credits.

It’s worth noting though, that this game certainly earns it’s rating. Not everything is cheery and peaceful in the universe after all. Even though there is not anything particularly graphic shown on screen there are moments that have some pretty strong implications. There is also the possibility that you will encounter places such as a space brothel where the aliens may comment of the “performance” of whoever of your crew you send in for… research purposes. I would not advise this game for children or young teens because of this.

In Conclusion

I have not yet managed to make it all the way back to earth yet despite many tries, but I find myself doing better and getting closer. Even if sometimes the odds end up really stacked against me so that I barely get anywhere. It’s only a matter of time before I will make it all that way there and finally see the end of my long journey. The Long Journey Home is one of those games that is incredibly replayable as you traverse the stars taking many paths towards the same goal.

Pros

  • Tons of personality and laughs in the writing
  • Fresh take on a nostalgic concept
  • Many options for replayability

Cons

  • Controls take time to get the hang of
  • Generated universes feel unfairly stacked against the player

Verdict
A witty and fun take on space exploration that can be held back by the learning curve and may not appeal to all players.
3.5/5

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