There are times as a video game reviewer where you play a game that you really want to love, but it just doesn’t do it for you. That’s very much how I feel about The Long Journey Home from Daedalic Entertainment. This is a space exploration game with roguelike elements. You are in control of Earth’s first ship with a jump drive. On the test flight to Alpha Centauri, something goes wrong, and you have to try and make ‘the long journey home.’
You begin your mission by choosing your crew. You can pick any four members from a selection of ten. Each has their own strengths and specific items. Then you can pick your ship. Again, each has their own positives and negatives. Some have a stronger hull, or more fuel, etc. You also pick your lander. Once you have done all this, you set off on your doomed test flight. Your first jump sees you stranded in an unknown galaxy, tens of thousands of parsecs away from Earth. Your goal is to get back home, but of course, this is more about the journey than the destination.
Depending on what ship you choose, you will be able to make 2-3 jumps before you need to refuel. Unfortunately, these jumps are a lot shorter than the one that got you lost in the first place. You are only able to travel to nearby star systems, and you need to find one with a space station or someone to trade with before you run out of fuel for jumps. To buy the fuel, you’ll need either money or items to trade. You can collect new items through your various encounters or from drilling and searching the surface of a planet
To get down to the planet’s surface, you will need to use your lander. This plays like a minigame similar to the classic game, Jetpac. How easy or difficult this is depends on a number of factors. You will need to deal with the winds on a planet and the level of gravity. You will need to manage your hull integrity and fuel. Drilling requires fuel so you’ll need to decide how much you will need left to make it back to your ship. If you are unable to return to your vessel, then you will lose your Lander and whoever is piloting it. It is possible to create a new one, but it does require credits or materials. The loss of your crewmember, though, is permanent.
So much of The Long Journey Home is about resource management. You need to visit planets to get items and materials, but you use fuel and can damage your Lander in doing so. You need to weigh up the risk and reward ratio when you make each decision. When you reach a space station, you need to decide which items you can afford to trade or how many credits you can spare to be able to repair your ship. Ultimately, what you need to do is buy the exotic material required to make the jumps that will take you home.
Along your journey, you will encounter numerous alien races. With there being a different universe every time you play, the aliens you meet will be different on each play through. Some will come in peace while others will be nothing but aggressive. Each encounter will have a different result. I met one alien race who wanted me to go and dance for the pleasure of their leader. Another wanted me to help them find their missing colleagues. On a separate occasion, I was attacked from the outset. Though you need to be aware of the inherent possible danger in these meetings, they also provide you with valuable information about nearby stations and can earn you extra money & resources.
All of these encounters start as text-based communications. In fact, you need to be prepared to do a lot of reading throughout The Long Journey Home. There are screens and screens worth of dialogue, lore, and instructions to trawl through. There is some recorded dialogue/alien dialect, but you will still be reading a lot. This does have the advantage of allowing you to choose how deep you want to delve into the lore of the game. There are also a lot of menus to scroll through when you’re in your ship. Each area of the ship (bridge, med-bay, lab, etc.) have their own section, and there are numerous interactions you can do on each.
Visually, the game is pretty basic. Most of the time, when you are piloting your ship, you will appear as just an arrow. When you are navigating a specific area or an asteroid field you’ll see a better visual representation of your ship but don’t expect visuals comparable with Elite Dangerous. Though the visuals may be basic, each star system has complex gravity maps that you will need to use and negotiate. You can save quite a lot of fuel by slingshotting your ship around stars and planets. You will quickly learn to use the natural gravity and rotation to help you towards your destination as fighting it will see you burn through your fuel reserves in no time at all.
The Long Journey Home is a game that has a lot of promise but fails somewhat in its execution. The ideas are good. Using gravity to help pilot your ship is great. The idea of a roguelike set in space has many possibilities. It’s also nice to have an intelligent space adventure that doesn’t rely on twitch reactions to survive. Unfortunately, as a whole, though, The Long Journey Home is just a little bit dull. Your actions don’t require enough deep thought to excuse the game being as slow-paced as it is. Instead, the game relies on minigames and numerous paragraphs of text. The team at Daedalic Entertainment clearly have some talent and potential; I just don’t think this is the game that properly showcases that. The Long Journey Home might be the game for you if you want a very slow-paced intergalactic roguelike without much excitement. If that isn’t you, though, I would give it a pass.