Few games can be said to be truly pure. Modern games usually branch out in so many directions with endless grinding, 100's of collectibles and trinkets and millions of pointless side quests. They're so laden down with fluff that their underlying gameplay and message is completely osbscured.
So when Journey came out in 2012, with it's minimalist story and art-style, lack of HUD, only vaguely hinted at collectibles that don't even matter and it's short 2 hour run-time, it created waves. Suddenly the fluff was gone, the clouds parted and we got to experience one of the most moving and powerful games ever.
Journey had no dialogue to speak of, yet said so, so much. It was short, yet lasted longer in my mind than many other games 20 times it's length could only aspire to. It was a one of a kind experience, and now a whole new group of people get to play it. To celebrate, I thought I'd show how my recent playthrough of Journey went, in picture form.
I heavily suggest you listen to the Journey OST while you read this blog. It'll enrich your experience immensily.
Warning: Lots and lots of pictures inbound. Also extreme beauty and many pictures of mountains. If you haven't played Journey, I really recommend playing it first. Don't spoil this game, whatever you do. If you don't care then read on!
This is the first hill you'll climb and it gives a gorgeous view to your destination, that mountain. Lets get started!
A ruin, nestled in the sands. I adore the art-style used here, very ICO-esque but more minimalist and clean.
A view from within the ruin. The graves seem ominous (who's graves are they?) and the looming structure is begging to be explored. Onward!
I've collected my scarf (very cute scarf btw) and I got a stunning look at all these graves. Something 'grave' happened here.
A quiet moment of contemplation for the fallen, whoever they may be. Also I went to make some tea here. Journey+Tea=A++!
I went to those ruins seen previously. Seems like a communal gathering place. Perhaps a theatre? Mysterious.
I've collected my first collectible here, as seen by the motes of light on the left. They seem to extend my scarf, so I can jump further. Neato!
After a big, big jump, I've stumbled upon a shrine of sorts. Lighting up these pillars on the left and right will turn the shrine on seemingly. But those rays of light man...Beautiful.
The way forward is open, let us continue!
But first, one final look at this area. Those things you see on the middle rock are pieces of cloth. Touching them lets me jump super high. Weird but awesome.
I felt very small here. The sense of loneliness and insignificance has been strong so far. Being dwarfed by this corridor reinstated that fact powerfully. What a beautiful game.
I've found a companion! He was running around activating these mechanisms (the rock formation with the cloth) with his voice (pressing O makes your character chirp) and I beelined straight to him. I think we hit it off but I dunno. We chirped at each other a lot, that's for sure!
Me and my new friend have been rebuilding this bridge. It's going swimmingly. Reminds me a little of the bridge from Shadow of the Colossus but more cloth.
My friend is chirping at me. He's clearly played the game before, he knows where all the collectibles are. Also I'm going to say he's a he. I refuse to name him though. The mystery is part of the experience after all!
We crossed the bridge and approached another shrine. Notice how the pillars we need to activate are far from each other? Perfect for two people to split up and activate seperately. Understated but clever design choice.
This is perhaps my favourite screenshot. The mountain looms, far but near. Me and my new friend, standing close but not too close. We've only just met but we have a long journey ahead of us. Can you believe this is all in-game? :D
We've stumbled upon a new...creature, would you say? It's a flying carpet kinda thing. Also more ruins, covered in sand. Hauntingly beautiful. (New drinking game: Take a shot for everytime I say beautiful!)
Our first glyph! It seems to depict an ancient race. They seem similar to us. Note: Everytime we sit at a shrine, one of these beings depicted shows us a vision. I forgot to screenshot them until later. Apoligies!)
Another glyph. These ancient beings seem to have tamed some creatures, with flying capabilities. I assume these ruins are all their's as well. Did they create these cloth creatures? Hmmm...
This was a fantastic moment. Sliding down a sand hill with my new friend (who would make Tony Hawk jelly with his sick skills). Big ruins over yonder.
Another shot of the mountain. I'm always in awe of it. Even with the loneliness softened by my friend, the feeling of insignificance is still there.
'Two strangers, traveling in the desert, not a word said between them, yet they understand each other perfectly'. I think it's impossible to take a bad screenshot in this game.
Full on ICO mode here. It seems cloth creatures are trapped in this tower.
We've reached the top and freed the creatures! Two have stayed back for some reason. It's time to get Alladin in here!
I was right, it's Alladin time!
Sorry about that in the top left but I had to include this shot. What a lovely view. Funny story time: You see that glowing thing near the bottom? I missed that and we had to spend 5 minutes trying to get me up there so I could collect it. My mate was a good sport though. What a guy!
Some more glyphs. The ancient race look pretty prosperous. What could have caused their downfall?
More broken bridges, more mystery. Also my friend's scarf is clipping through the ground. Whoops!
Sliding through the caves now, the lighting is stunning. My mouth literally dropped open here.
One step closer. I'm having a lot of fun so far. Equal parts exciting and stunning. Even better than my first playthrough.
Things have taken a turn. We've dropped down far below and found another shrine. What is this place?
It's blue, is what it is. Feeling very apprehensive now. I think I'll stick close to my bro, who knows what's coming up.
It's like a maze in here. Lots of holes to look into. The ancients built this but to what end?
Allow me to introduce what I've called 'Clothweed'. This seaweed like cloth recharges your scarf and lets you float along it's length. We had a lot of fun here, ducking and diving everywhere. :D
Here it is in action. Flying around like this is hella fun!
Another new creature. I call these 'Clothfish'. I'm not very imaginative. They function similar to the Clothweed, except they wobble like a jellyfish. Awesome!
A mechanic I forgot to mention: standing near each other recharges our scarf energy. Essentially, Friendship=Power. How apt.
These are those giant things we saw on the glyph a while back. So they were made by the ancients. Fascinating. In a vision I didn't show here, the ancients were seen fighting each other using these. War always ruins everything.
Even in the darkness, this game looks stunning. The change from blue to green is especially lovely. But danger looms...
Those searchlights belong to giant snake-like machines (think of the flying colossi from Shadow of the Colossus but smaller). See how my friend's scarf is short now? The monster hit him. It was so terrifying, I ran straight to his side to see if he was okay. Chirped like crazy when he got up. Scary. :(
Finally captured a screen of the ancients in the visions. Very similar to my character, except tall and white. Are they my precursor race? Why do they show me visions of their history? What is this journey even for?
Well we made it through there. Thank Jeebus, that was tense. My poor friend's scrarf though! If I could lend him some of mine, I would.
A tower. I'm getting some Prince of Persia vibes here. Climbing this should be fun!
There are a lot of glyphs in this area. They all seem to tell of the ancients and their war. Activating them also fills the area with magic sand that powers our scarfs for unlimited flight while in it. Radical.
Nearing the top now!
A view underneath the dust cloud. Beautiful particle effects everywhere. I could hang out here for ages but progress calls.
We've reached the shrine and another vision. I feel powerful here. My scarf makes me feel big and, after all we've been through, I feel like I can reach the mountain no probs. Onwards!
My friend stood here for a little while. I imagine he had something to attend too. Gave me the perfect chance to set this shot up. What awaits us?
God we're so, so close now. Also it's snowing. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!
I've always loved snow levels. The simplicity and elegance of snow always impresses me.
There are some very strong winds here, almost constantly pushing us back. We have to take cover behind rocks and wait for a lull to progress. The wind also saps our scarf energy, which nessecitates us staying close constantly. Things are looking grim.
It's a complete whiteout. Energy is low, winds are strong and, if you look closely, you may see a flying enemy in the middle right. We both get a beating, courtesy of it. Help!
Welp, we managed to make it. Battered, brusied and our scarfs in tatters. But we did it. A very dark and brooding shot here. Really don't wanna do that again.
'Come on man! We're almost there! Just keep walking!' I wanted to say this but alas, I couldn't. I couldn't even chirp. See our scarfs? Gone. See the graves...
'This is the end...this is the end, my friend...'. In a moment, my friend will collapse. I could have carried on walking for a bit but I decided to stay near him. We either reach the mountain together or die together. But watching him fall...one of the most heart wrenching moments I've experienced in a game.
The ancients over my broken body. I wait anxiously.
I've reached the top of the mountain. But...I'm devastated. I couldn't find my friend. I searched the entire area, high and low, looking for him. Nothing. I almost wanted to stop playing. We'd come so far. I neglected to screenshot the rest of the area but we...I got to ride a massive carpet for a while and the clothweed and clothfish made a comeback.
The end is near. I'm at once excited to see what lays beyond yet upset I couldn't see it through with my mate. But one things for sure, it's been an awesome journey.
You know, it doesn't even matter what lies beyond the fissure. It's cliche, sure, but if any moment deserves the saying, it's this moment. 'It's not the destination, it's the journey'.
And here, friend's, is where we must part ways. Thank you, stranger, for a magical time. It wouldn't have been the same without you.
And thank you reader, I sincerely hope you had as much fun reading this blog as I had writing it. Feel free to use any of the images, I endorse it even. And do yourself a favour if you haven't already, go and listen to the Journey soundtrack. It has more beauty than all these pictures put together.
May you have a safe Journey.