Space: The final frontier. In The Long Journey Home, it’s your mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to go boldly where no one has gone before…or at least attempt to, in-between some questionable minigames and an eclectic mix of alien species.
The Long Journey Home places you at the helm of the first human voyage to the nearby (relatively) Alpha Centauri galaxy – however, during a test flight the ship, and all its crew, are flung to the other side of the universe. Alone and in an ever-changing, yet always threatening galaxy, it’s up to you to get you and your crew back to Earth, alive.
With a classic premise, The Long Journey Home attempts to present the infinite potential of space exploration, and to some extent, succeeds. It’s in its ability to tell stories that The Long Journey Home shines.
Along your astronomical journey, you’ll encounter a wide array of hugely differing alien species. Unlike other games where this has been attempted (here’s looking at you No Man’s Sky and your selection of three sentient species) The Long Journey Home manages to create a huge variety of alien species, and by extension stories.
The Cueddhaest race was the first I encountered. An insect-like race of creatures made out of pure energy, the Cueddhaestare often seen in pairs, but are always spouting out wisdom relating to their species and their unique religion – their overarching aim? To locate the spiritual ‘Threefold Key’ which will open the path through the Pillars of Ascension and into the Nextplane.
This just describes the species I encountered the most – each species is just as interesting, complex and truly engaging. They have rich and fully fleshed backgrounds which make every encounter interesting and exciting.
If this game was a space-faring, RPG/DnD-like experience I would definitely praise it a lot more. Sadly, outside of The Long Journey Home’s superb writing, the gameplay doesn’t necessarily hold up.
The core gameplay is split between a few distinct, yet slightly frustrating minigames. The first takes place in the hub world-like space area. You can fly freely around planets, stars and space station by controlling the ship’s speed and direction to gracefully glide between worlds (or, if you’re like me, violently collide across the night’s sky) – it’s an interesting mechanic that would be more enjoyable if the controls weren’t janky. Even when boosting, often times the ship feels slow and imprecise, and in a game where precision is key, this can be particularly frustrating.
The precise nature of the game is shown clearly in the game’s second stage: soaring across each planet’s surface on the hunt for resources needed to refuel or repair your spaceship. In an attempt to recreate the nostalgic pleasures of older, 2D lander minigames, The Long Journey Home, unfortunately, manages to create a frustrating and annoyingly precise challenge. Outside of the crazy amount of precision that is needed to land in the small, specific mining points across the planet, the player must also tackle the elements, in the form of radiation, heat or earthquakes. Add to this the lander’s ability to chug down fuel faster than you’re able to mine it, and you have an experience that is annoyingly frustrating offer sufficient rewards.
And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the infuriating consequences of damaging your ship or injuring a crew member – and that’s the crux of The Long Journey Home – it presents a beautiful and rich universe that is bogged down by its flawed gameplay and lacklustre rewards.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*