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Lucid: sweet dream or vague nightmare?

Lucid, A Game About Dreams, video game, screenshot, sky, cliff, man, Leif
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The Longest Journey is one of my favourite adventures.

The Secret of Monkey Island started my love-affair with video games as a kid, but I think it was The Longest Journey that truly showed me what they could achieve. Released by Funcom in November 1999, it told the epic tale about restoring the Balance between the parallel universes of magical Arcadia and industrial Stark, through characters who were inspiring because they fought for what they believed in.

No other series has captured my imagination in the same way. I believe the releases are some of the finest examples of storytelling in games because, rather than share an individual story in each instalment, everything is connected via links which aren’t at first obvious. Separate elements are weaved together in a way where it slowly dawns on the player how significant they really were, and I love how it all comes together.

When doing one of my regular checks on Kickstarter a couple of weeks ago, I came across a campaign for a narrative game called Lucid – A Game About Dreams. The title and tagline didn’t particularly jump out because there are a lot of adventures based on similar themes, but my interest grew when I read it was being created by an experienced team. Developer Black Book AS is made up of individuals who have worked on some award-winning releases including Firewatch, Age of Conan and The Longest Journey.

I usually follow a rule of not backing campaigns which don’t include demos on their page. I’ve learnt over the years that it’s good to see evidence of a creator’s skills, plans and progress before parting with your cash so you know what you’re giving your support to. The number of projects which appear on the crowdfunding platform without offering players any kind of trial genuinely surprises me: it feels like a wasted opportunity for promotion, especially when you’re trying to get people to pledge without a guarantee of getting a reward.

Rules are made to be broken, right? I became a backer as soon as I read that Art Director Didrik Tollefsen had directed The Longest Journey.

The other thing you need is a good plan to raise your campaign’s profile. The thing is though, I haven’t been able to find any of the usual stuff you’d expect. There are no features or interviews about Lucid on gaming websites, no videos on YouTube, and the latest tweet from the game’s Twitter account was in June 2019. A lack of interaction like this should usually be a point of concern but rules are made to be broken, right? I became a backer as soon as I read that Art Director Didrik Tollefsen had directed The Longest Journey.

Lucid’s story is set in the quiet fishing town of Måsnes, located in the most northern part of Norway. It doesn’t sound like an easy life for its small society here. The midnight sun means there’s no sunset during the summer months and survival in this part of the world is subject to the forces of nature and cooperation of its people. Now there are modern economical struggles too, on top of old unhealed wounds caused by conflicts between the indigenous Sámi and various settlers.

Leif isn’t what you’d normally expect of an adventure game hero. The official trailer somewhat harshly refers to him as a boring, lonely and cowardly man who doesn’t even have the power to get out of bed sometimes. One summer evening, he wakes up and discovers for the first time in many years that he remembers his dreams. Is there a connection between them and the real world? And even if that’s the case, can a person like Leif summon up enough courage to do something about it and save his universe?

The game takes place over several days and nights, shifting between the protagonist’s awake and dreaming states. Players can control him to interact with the environment but, as he’s sadly and slowly losing the will to live yet still has his own free will, he may not always have the energy or motivation to follow through on what you tell him to do. Progress is achieved by helping Leif to become mentally unstuck and creating any type of connection between himself and the world around him.

In his awake state, the protagonist has a basic set of action points which symbolise his energy level. Since he’s human and not an epic video game hero, there’s a limited number of major actions he can perform in a day and sometimes these are extremely limited due to his crippled functionality level. There’s no mention of choice and consequence on the Kickstarter page, but this makes it sound as though players will have to make decisions on which tasks are a priority and which should be left for another day.

In his dreaming state, you enter Leif’s mind where the rules of time, space and physics no longer apply. The only logic is that of his subconscious and the elements are in constant shift from the associations made within the dreamscape. With the introduction of lucid dreaming, the protagonist learns special powers found in the journal of his late Sámi grandfather. These can be used to examine his imaginings in closer detail by uncovering hidden elements, changing objects and creating new connections.

The little amount of information online means that’s all I can tell you about the gameplay itself right now. Hopefully it’s something the Black Book AS team is working on, and they’ll share more about their project before the end of the crowdfunding campaign on 18 June 2022. Only 6% of the target has been pledged so far at the time of drafting this post. If the project is due to reach its £42,488 goal in the next three weeks, more gamers need to hear about Lucid and see how gorgeous the trailer is for themselves.

I can’t deny that reaching that level of funding in a short time is going to be tough. As mentioned above, I’d normally advise staying campaigns which can’t show you a demo and have a limited presence online; but sometimes you’ve got to take a chance if you come across a project which appeals. It’s just important to remember that there’s never a guarantee of a game being released, even if it does meet its target, and a pledge is a way of showing your support for someone’s dream rather than being a pre-order.

If you have five minutes to spare, head over to the Kickstarter page to find out about Lucid. If you’re an adventure fan and it looks like the kind of thing you might enjoy, consider making a pledge or wishlisting the game on Steam.

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