This game is three parts fun, four parts creative and ten parts breathtaking. The golden sands, the fluid movements and the silent narration give the impression that this game is supposed to be played quietly, and with reverence. Journey, made by Thatgamecompany, does not have any monsters to fight, not dialogue to dictate the story, and no official overarching plot. The game relies on its gripping graphics and simplistic visual cutscenes. The gameplay consists of the androgynous character through the destroyed world to reach this peak. When I was playing this game: my group of friends coined the phrase “Zen game,” because the music and the casual gameplay, but despite those traits, this game is very eerie. The journey represents the path of reincarnation and enlightenment.
The beginning section starts out in a desert with the remains of this once great civilization, with these markers that resemble grave stones cropping up everywhere. The goal is to reach this shinnying light on the top of this split mountain. At each stage of the way, there are these memory markers, showing more and more of this sad story of a people that once was. Through each stage you learn more and more about the world, through fun and beautiful levels.
These people had a powerful connection with the land and the spirits that helped power their machines, but then they used too much, and turned to the other machines, and they severed their connection to the land, and to each other. These people had a beautiful civilization, and it seems like the animals were quite fond of them, however there is also another type of entity in the game: The dragons. They also run on scarf power, but they somehow evolved to gain their own food source whatever the cost, which led to the extinction. As soon as you come into contact with these beings, the atmosphere becomes brooding, dark, unsettling.
And what of the traveler? We know nothing about it other than what we can assume in the game. After you have reached the mountain, the character turns into a beam of light and is transported right to the place the player begins this journey. This creature didn’t exist before the civilization collapsed, being created as a sort of redemption for the race, and is their only salvation.
The circular path is the life and death of a person who is trying to reach enlightenment. In the second to last white checkpoint, the character is shown a visual representation of the journey, but there is something specific detail that ties in with the central theme of the story: The story is circular. The ending of the image connects tot where the character starts off. Who knows how many times this thing has gone through the same journey atoning for the sins of its race. On the way you consistently pass by these markers, eerily similar to gravestones, where others (or perhaps different incarnations of your character) have fallen on this quest.
The scenery is as much a character as the avatar. This beige world is devastated by some sort of disaster is breath taking. The colors are neutral colors, grey beige, light blues and whites. The only exceptions are the character, the scarf and the sun, the only ‘life’ in the world. In the end when you just close to reaching the beam of light in the sky, everything turns white, the character getting covered in frost, getting slower and slower, losing your life force, the why reality erodes on a persons soul. Then he collapses and everything fades to black. Then the white sages come, to ‘rescue’ you, and restores soul and you rush into a peaceful joyful place, filled with life and peace, and you finally reach the light. It feels like a celebration, and everything is ecstatic that you made it. It’s the prize at the end of a long life, full of struggle and persistent. And you are rewarded with walking into the light, and then being shot back to the beginning.
The dragons represent the deterrents in life, things interfering with enlightenment, the things that literally ‘eat’ the life in the world. And by extension, the cloth animals that you free help you along the way. The kindness you show adds to your life and it effects your journey. There is also your scarf, your life force. You can gain more on the way from the the little
These white masters that guild you on your journey are enlightened ones. If you do a complete runthrough of the game, collecting all the scarf upgrades and activating all the stones, your avatar becomes permanently white for all the playthroughs afterwards. They bear a striking resemblance to the White guides. But the character is still forced to repeat the cycle, despite its hard work.
The games circular story and simple symbolism can be taken in many different way. This is just one of many.
The let’s play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkL94nKSd2M