When thatgamecompany released Journey way back in 2012 it completely passed me by. In fact, it wasn’t until late 2015 that I even gave it a chance. That was a huge error on my part and now I’m going to explain why.
Journey is an explicitly straightforward game. You control a lone robed figure in the middle of a vast desert whose single aim is to reach a hazy mountain in the far distance. Journey offers you little guidance and leaves you to explore the sandy deserts and abandoned structures freely, with the looming mountain in the distance as your only directional incentive. I found the environments to be completely stunning. The use of reds and oranges make the sand that I was surfing on seem to ripple and blaze like fire. Later in the game, deep blues and piercing whites set a more daunting tone. This (as well as the powerful soundtrack) creates an astounding atmosphere that drives your personal journey forward.
The further I got into Journey the more I fell in love with the total lack of dialogue. Instead of being confused by the lack of spoken guidance I relished in it. I felt at peace because I knew that there were no time limits or enemies to be wary of. The safety of the environment allowed for undisturbed exploration and the discovery of a hidden story through various murals and glyphs that are concealed behind sandy waterfalls and ancient monuments. However, the true beauty of Journey is that you may come across another online player making their own way towards the mountain. After starting the game in complete isolation, I found it to be an uplifting notion that I could complete it with a fellow traveller if I wished.
Sometimes the middle section of a game can sag or lose momentum. This is not the case in Journey. After a high-speed race down the side of a sand dune I was in high-spirits. This moment of pure elation didn’t last long as I found myself plummeting down into a deep underground cave accompanied only by melancholy music. I immediately felt an emotion that I had yet to experience in Journey; I felt painfully lonely. As I made my way through the underground section of the game I was thrust into a new world, full of fear and darkness. Playing this section felt akin to playing a completely new game and I was astonished that Journey had managed to hide this area underneath the burning sand dunes that had lifted my spirits so high mere moments ago.
At the conclusion of the game the environment changes to a snowy blizzard at the base of the mountain. At this point of the game I felt a sense of apprehension building because I knew my arrival at the mountain signalled the end of my story. I was filled with dread as my robed traveller made his climb up the mountain, and what happened at the top brought me to tears. Journey affected me in a way that no game has ever affected me before. The constant rise and fall of emotion teased out by the music and the beauty of the environments makes for a heart-wrenching experience. An experience we all must share!