This is a long review describing the many, many aspects of The Long Journey Home which render it a complete garbage fire of a game. It is so bad as to be an exquisite example of incompetent and ludicrous design. Mostly though it's just hot garbage and I am super angry at having wasted 33. I want my damned money back!

The tl;dr version:
A combination of elements which in isolation would and should be amazing, but are so ham-fistedly mashed together by an incompetent and amateur team as to conflict with each other and provide zero enjoyment. It's like someone took an infinite number of monkeys and had them typing C++ for an infinite length of time hoping for a great game to be made, and when the monkeys came up with TLJH the publisher was like: **** it, good enough.

The long version:
I had insanely high hopes for this game. It seemed to channel Starflight and Star Control 2 with its space exploration, space combat, and ability to kit out your ship while also landing on planets for resources. The roguelike nature of it also called to mind FTL (Faster Than Light), while the random starmaps and alien races, of which only a select few are randomly allocated with each "randomisation seed", reminded me of Masters of Orion 1 & 2. Plus of course the hardcore survival aspect seemed somewhat reminiscent of NeoScavenger and Day R Survival.

I wanted to love this game so badly, that even despite the bad reviews which popped up immediately, I still put down my 33. Most negative reviews complained of the difficulty, to the point the developers actually patched in an easier "story mode" option. "Ha!" said I, laughing. Having completed a lot of very hardcore tough games (such as Pathologic) and loving them, I assumed the complaints where from younger gamers who simply didn't know what a decent challenge was.

How wrong I was.

The problem with The Long Journey Home is not really the difficulty, but rather the fact the game itself is not fun, does not motivate you, provides no joy within the struggle, and provides almost no choices in order to adapt to the difficult. It wastes your time, demands you play it in one very specific fashion, and punishes you simply for following its own imposed rules.

The best review I've read of TLJH was titled "Of Cargo Cults and Child Baking" and GOG. Cargo cults being people who know that something's wonderful and want to replicate it, but can only produce a sad and ineffectual mockery of what inspired them. While "child baking" is a child who will add every ingredient to a cake they thinks is tasty, each in excess, and the outcome is inedible.

I should have listened to this review, since it succinctly highlights the core problem of TLJH.

Anyway, let's commence with a litany of sins, from the minor to the major:

* The controls are universally awful. It claims to offer Xbox 360 control support, but I was stuck at the main menu for several minutes wondering why my controller did nothing. Suddenly I realised: OMG, the programmers were actually stupid enough to make menu control via the D-pad mandatory! Why in seven hells would you not allow me to use the thumb sticks on my controller?! This immediately tells me the team didn't fully grasp what they were doing.

* Why does it not run on my laptop, but demands use of my super powerful gaming rig? It is a 2D rip-off of Lunar Lander and Space War. There is literally nothing complex or which would require much gaming grunt. The PS2 could run this with little trouble. There are actually PS2 games with more complex 3D models, and more complex physics/shaders/lighting/mechanics than this game! So why does it need a powerhouse to run it? Because the programmers clearly had little experience and don't know what code optimisation is. Perhaps they were high graduates?

* Why does this thing take 10 bloody GIGABYTES of data? Games which require large downloads normally have spoken dialogue, hours of CD quality audio, plenty of Full Motion Video footage, or ridiculously high-res textures. This game has NONE of the above. There is no voiced dialogue, whatsoever. There are no videos or FMV - all cut-scenes use the in-game engine. In fact, if you click to watch the game's intro it links you to YouTube! What in the hell?! Ten gigs of data and you link me to YouTube to watch the intro?! Couldn't you, I dunno, have like put a small MP4 or something in the game download? As for textures, the game's characters look like cel-shaded papercraft characters. Again, these kind of graphics are PS2 level and should be able to fit on a 700mb CD-ROM, maybe a 4gb DVD if you are really crap at compression. Sloppy, just sloppy.

For the record, I love PS2 games. But I cannot understand how this game could be SO badly optimised.

Those are technical faults. Now for the cluster-fart trainwreck that is the gameplay.

* The game will repeatedly induce a game over, forcing you to restart. Which was fine with something like FTL which moved quickly and could be finished in an afternoon. Except with TLJH, in order to have enough fuel and avoid game over, you are expected to slowly drift through space using gravity to bring you places. Which would be OK if you could save regularly, or it had a Star Control 2 form of progression. Instead you will spend hours drifting slowly, hoping you have enough fuel, only to immediately face a game over due to some random event, necessitating you start the slow drifting all over again.

* There are multiple alien races you can stop and chat with, with long dialogue trees which describe the lore and background of the game. Except you're only allowed to ask 3 questions before the aliens get annoyed and refuse to communicate anymore. There I am, docked at the space station, asking about some ruins I recently visited, and BAM! "Sorry, we're bored of this conversation, so we're ejecting you from our space station." Why?! This makes no sense. Why develop a game, write numerous pages of dialogue, and then punish players for wanting to read it? Can you imagine if your TV self-destructed if you watched it for longer than 10 minutes? That is the kind of bat-shirt insane stupidity this game throws at you, again and again and again. In the end I stopped talking to aliens, because WTF is the point?

*The entire resource gathering / resource management / survival aspect is too limited and doesn't make sense. Why does a single unit of minerals block out an entire row of compartments? Why can't I mix and match until my cargo hold is full? What is the point of most minerals when they are so worthless they can't be sold and don't repair anything?

* The actual gathering of resources isn't much fun either. Star Control 2 got it perfect with its lander minigame. Here it's like a really bad version of Lunar Lander, with borked controls, and excess winds.

* The game gives you random ruins, wrecks, and other points of interest, but none of them are capitalised on. The number of times I've ventures through some hellish fire world, smashed up my lander, only to explore some wreck or ruins and all I get is a useless trinket or one-eyed turtle is infuriating. This is the problem with the modern trend for randomisation in games: THERE IS NO INTELLIGENT DESIGN. Illogical and random crap is smooshed together like PEANUTS AND BUBBLEGUM and the devs call it macaroni.

* The dev team is arrogant enough to state on the Steam forums that each time you die you learn something which help the next time you play. Except you learn nothing. The only thing repeat deaths encourages is to avoid alien communication, avoid exploration, avoid resource gathering, avoid trading, basically avoiding everything. Because everything in this game will deteriorate you in some way. Everything will sap your resources. In addition to there being no intelligent design, by way of the randomisation, there is no balancing either.

* Ultimately, the implementation of the disparate elements do not work. On their own, they are not fun. They are also too simple to allow any sort of emergent gameplay. You're given the impression of numerous items, and resources, and tools, and characters, and aliens, but there is no scope for adaptability or diversity in how you approach things, as there was in FTL, NeoScavenger, Starflight/Control 2, or indeed dozens of other games. It is painfully restrictive, despite the scenario implying the opportunity for MacGuyver style invention. With FTL you could mix and match your way to some sort of success. With Master of Orion you could use diplomacy, ship combat, or rapid technological progress to win. With TLJH, there is absolutely none of that creative freedom.

The ship combat is clunky - and why can I only fire sideways? The lander minigame is repetitive and boring. The resource management is so simplistic as to be just crap. The alien interactions are neutered by a 3-question limit - they might as well not even exist! The randomisation is illogical and obtuse. The "special events" are extremely boring - whether it's a space brothel or ancient monastery, the reward will be some generic "item" you can get at a dozen interchangeable places. Why bother?

Nothing about this game is redeemable. It's badly programmed, badly designed, grossly overpriced, and an utter waste of time. It fails to comprehend what makes a decent, it fails in absolutely every regard. And the worst thing is I paid 33 to suffer this. The Hi-Def remake of Star Control 2 is available online for FREE under the name Ur-Quan Masters. While FTL, NeoScavenger, Starflight 1 & 2, plus Masters of Orion 1 & 2 can ALL be bought for less than this single piece of slop. About 27 by my reckoning, which leaves 5 in your pocket for other games. Do not waste your money on The Long Journey Home.

The sheer awfulness of this game is so immaculate as to border on brilliance. I cannot believe any group of people could create something so buttock-clenchingly terrible and then have the audacity to charge SO MUCH for it!

Like shovelling hot, rancid trashbags into the mouth of my unborn child. This game makes me weep with anger and regret.