Image Credit: Journey (Duh). As a side note: possible spoilers ahead.
I never owned a PS3, so the only reason I even played Journey was because of a friend. The experience was the same as when he made me play Dark Souls: He sat me down on a beanbag, handed me a controller then ninja rolled onto the bed behind me and swathed himself in a blanket. His eyes visible through a tiny gap in the fabric, keen on seeing what my reaction would be.
In Journey you aren’t given a clear goal, but the game communicates what you’re supposed to do perfectly. For some reason you need to head towards this light, far and high away across the sands. Along the way you meet other players, and you’re meant to work together and bond. The only way of communicating is by making strange noises and glyphs.
Apparently my experience in Journey was very different to his. He met a player at the start of the game and they stuck together throughout the entire thing, his online buddy showed him all the secret areas and they eventually made it to the very end. My friend was emotional at the end of the game where it seems like you’re about to fail, as he thought he had lost his friend.
My journey through this game was a little different. The first character I met was like a spirit, covered in a gold and white robe. Apparently the white and gold character skin is something you earn from finding every secret location and unlockable. I didn’t know this at the time but it was extremely impressive nonetheless and he showed me a few secret locations to make my character stronger. Unfortunately I wandered in the wrong direction by accident I lost him, so I continued onwards. I met about 3 more characters after this, they only hung around for 5 to 15 minutes before sitting down and turning into dust (disconnecting from the session). As a result I didn’t get very attached to any of them.
The most emotional moment for me was when you get attacked by those large flying worm creatures. My online partner and I were sliding down the sand when all of a sudden we were attacked. The only thing I saw was a flash of movement and then a shower of sparks as my ally was flung across the sky, since I wasn’t quite so attached to them I tried to run away as fast as possible. Fortunately I met them again at the end of the encounter. And then they promptly disconnected.
For the rest of the session I met maybe one other person, who disconnected just before we reached the final ending, where you have to hike through the snow and hide from the flying worms. I made this last leg of the journey alone. Moving from shadow to shadow to avoid the watchful gaze of the enemies. As I struggled onwards through the snow my character started to struggle, and I cheered him on, wanting so desperately for both of us to make it to the end of the game. I didn’t have an online ally to struggle alongside me, but this last part of the game was still emotional for me. Despite my online experience being not the best, although still good and interesting, I was still invested in my character. I didn’t want him to die alone on the slopes.
And that is what made the last part of the game even better. The amazing music and even better ending level we’re so satisfying. And I was able to complete it on my own, which I suppose is an entirely different experience altogether.
Happy 5th year anniversary Journey. You were pretty amazing.
One last thing to end on: The storytelling is mainly up to your own interpretation. To read the cut scenes, images and game objectives that are presented, all without any direction that is laid on a platter for you. And I think that this makes the game all that more satisfying. I also haven’t even mentioned how beautiful the visuals are, and the music. But now you know :). Take a look at Abzu while you’re at it, it’s by the same devs. I don’t think it’s quite as good but I think that’s because I’m into scuba diving, and I think that nothing looks cooler than actually being under the water.