Journey was released approximately one year ago and, to celebrate the occasion, I joined some folks in replaying the game last weekend.
I've already written and spoken more thousands of words about this game, but I always manage to come away with fresh perspectives after every playthrough. Even after a year, Journey remains one of the most impressive games I've ever played. Here are some of the thoughts that came to mind as I watched the credits once again:
Seeing people min/maxing Journey weird.
Even a year after its release, I managed to come across numerous companions on my adventure. A few of these people had clearly played the game before, as they quickly found the hidden runes and obscure murals in each level. One person in particular would dash through the levels as fast as possible, collecting the runes and opening the gates to the next area as if she/he were being chased.
It strikes me that I didn't see such behavior when I played Journey for the first few times last year, as people were still strangers to the desert. It actually made for a somewhat stressful dynamic, as I was much more apt to wander around the levels while my partner was all business.
The drop-in, drop-out multiplayer is extremely elegant.
Without any obvious loading, server messages, or invites, meeting and subsequently parting with people feels organic. It also rewards you for paying attention to your companion, since you can only tell the difference between partners via visual and behavioral cues. I hope future, passively-online games like Bungie's upcoming Destiny are taking note.
The music is (still) amazing.
The various recurring motifs and themes are almost like another character. I made a point to pay close attention to the way the music cues and loops, as it always seems to reach a crescendo right when something dramatic is happening. The more I listen, the more I start to view it the music as akin to level design, it has a huge impact on framing the in-game world and the overall experience.
Journey is a triumph of restraint.
It's hard to find any extraneous material in the game. Besides the initial onscreen prompts that teach you movement basics, all communication with the player happens without menus, voice overs, or tutorials. There aren't any wacky side quests or score chases. Every moment of the game feels meticulously refined.
I dilly-dallied and still completed my journey in under two hours. Even so, the narrative ride offers a better sense of discovery, hardship, and eventual triumph than most 50-hour open world games I've played. You can tell a story about a difficult quest without any grinding.
The sand surfing through the ruined city and the final ascent to the mountain are some of the best moments in video games.
Not much else to say here except that I imagine they will continue to be stand out moments far many years to come.
If anyone else revisited Journey last week, I'd be interested to hear your impressions. And if you missed it, don't worry: I'm planning on making one more run this weekend. If come across a traveller in a white robe, it just might be me!