The Long Journey Home review
A punishing resource and repair system gets in the way of the long journey home's characterful exploration., our verdict.
A savage, sometimes frustrating space exploration game that succeeds because of beautiful design and a compelling universe.
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What is it: A procedural space exploration and resource gathering game where everything will go wrong. Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment Developer Daedalic Studio West Reviewed on: Windows 10, 16GB RAM, Intel Core i7-7700, NVidia GeForce GTX 1070 Expect To Pay: £34 / $40 Multiplayer: No Link: Official site
One of my favourite moments in The Long Journey Home happens before I take off. I spend 15 minutes analysing the characters, picking the ones I’d tolerate being trapped with, trying to work out if there was a secret reason I should take a potted plant into the space. It didn’t matter. Three hours later they were all dead from burns and/or suffocation. This doesn’t mean that what came after was bad (apart from the deaths), but just that the game does a smart job of defining the gravitas of your mission. You’re going into space and, despite the name, you’re probably not coming back.
Your four adventurers are flung to the far side of universe and must navigate their way home by farming resources, maintaining their ship, and negotiating with a selection of distinct alien races. The journey is different each time, and their are loads of combinations of crew and craft, so there’s no ‘right’ way to play it. (Although I discovered multiple times there’s definitely a ‘wrong’ way.) The Long Journey Home largely delivers on the promise of grasping and desperate journey across space, but it’s deliberately tough. Your crew will die. Your equipment will break. Aliens will take your things.
I went into the game expecting the difficulty to be high, but there are times when the balance feels off. You gather resources by dropping your lander onto planets, drilling for metals, and sucking up gases like a vacuum cleaner. You’re given a description of each planet before you land, so you don’t have to be reckless, but it’s always a risk. Any errant bumps and crashes can cause injuries to your pilot which can only be cured with expensive medpacks. Each excursion only takes a few minutes, but it’s still a gruelling, repetitive way of gathering essential resources, and it isn’t always fun. Variables such as convection, which blows your lander off course, only compound the frustration. I pimped my lander to reduce the effect of wind, but I started to dread the threat of landing on a planet’s surface. Sometimes, you have no choice but to brave the most difficult planets, and it often results in disaster.
Gathering essential resources can be a chore, but it’s not the only way to play the game. The Long Journey home is full of alien encounters, which feel like the heart of the game. You could push through by just collecting resources, but interacting with the aliens and completing tasks feels like the more rewarding route. I searched for lost artifacts, located stranded explorers, and helped religious zealots wipe out alien infestation. It felt more righteous than that reads. Each encounter feels different and the aliens are all different, so you get real sense of the universe being inhabited by creatures who were there before you. Being able to actually talk to the aliens helps, too—it’s precisely the thing I felt No Man’s Sky lacked, and it brings this universe to life.
It’s a bright, interesting system to explore. Characters are crisply designed, and I got a strong sense of who everyone was just by looking at them. Planets are striking and varied. The music makes everything you do feel important—even asking a crewmate what they think about a medicinal slime takes on a cosmic significance. But it’s the story that stands out, adding definition and reason to a world that would otherwise seem soulless. It’s good enough, in fact, that sometimes I wished that I could enjoy it without all the broken bones, fuel ruptures, and suffocation. The unpredictability can feel punitive.
Likewise, some of the random, wear-and-tear problems your ship experiences feel mean-spirited. Mechanical failures are common, and they’re expensive to fix. There are also occasions where it feels like a solution should come quicker than it does. I foolishly accepted a gift from a suspiciously-friendly race of infectious plant monsters, because I didn’t want to seem rude—even in space, it’s important to remain civil—and I had to watch as my crew slowly became infested, aware of the issue but unable to fix it. Each playthrough is defined by the things that go wrong, which makes the game striking and memorable, but too often the resources needed to fix problems are too precious or too rare, and the game piles misery upon misery.
Despite this, I like the game enough to keep coming back, and I’m ready to start my fifth (certainly doomed) attempt to get home. Each journey is a learning experience, and the vague promise of success is enough to keep me interested, even if half the missions end up with me screaming at my lander as it blows around like a duckling on a windy day. If nothing else, I won’t rest until I find out what that bloody plant does.
Disclosure: PC Gamer contributor Richard Cobbett worked on The Long Journey Home.
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The Reeve are one of the Aliens in The Long Journey Home .
- 1 Description
- 3.3 Primitive Probe
- 4 Diplomacy
- 5 Assessment of the Entrope
Description [ | ]
The Reeve have no interest in space. They don't need it. The discovery of a Gate on their homeworld gave them access to the galaxy on different terms - in human terms, roughly at Wild West level of technology. Their pioneer spirit now thrives, allowing them to spread and survive throughout the galaxy, dealing with other terrestrial aliens on a generally friendly basis, and slowly acquiring lost technologies from other races. In recent years they've discovered TRANSCOM and begun to create mutually beneficial relations with the space-based races, mining for resources and selling devices they have no need for or have already explored. The Reeve are expert miners, and have an almost supernatural knack for finding treasure.
The Reeve's main limit is that while they've jury-rigged the Gates, power is a limiting factor. They can only activate so much of the network at once, meaning that their outposts are isolated and expected to look after themselves on potentially hostile worlds. Their cities are built by perpetually activated gates that allow free and easy transport for their people. Reeve Pioneers often gather together a group to head out into the unknown, most of them never returning. Those left behind pretend they just found something too good to return for.
The Reeve are the only species that routinely uses planetary Gates, since most of those that have crashed or landed on worlds are badly damaged and prone to terrible malfunctions.Nobody knows what happens to the Reeve who disappear during transport, but it happens a lot.
The Reeve are a cat-like marsupial race with an enormous tail. The Reeve originally spread throughout the universe through a gate they found on their home planet. Since then, they have been trying to find their way home by locating more gates, that crashed on planets. Most of the time they end up on planets where some monsters, the atmosphere, or other issues kill them all. The Reeve compensate for this by reproducing quickly and as natural tinkers adapting to the environmental conditions. The Reeve are the only producers of Tylenium, that is necessary to run the gates.
The Reeve are the only alien species, which is actually not involved in space travel. They do maintain some gates, though. The player often encounters them through primitive probes that are flying through space and contain distress signals and sometimes coordinates to a Reeve colony. The probes never actively approach the player - so it is possible to reach earth without even meeting them.
The Reeve colonies are always thankful for supplies by the player and are interested in new gate coordinates, that might help them to find their home world.
Interactions [ | ]
Work (planet) - Starts the Dangerous Cargo quest, or adds the Reeve Supplies topic.
Wanted Criminal - Adds location
Mizzurani - Adds evidence during the Chemtrails in the Sky quest.
Arecibo Beacon - Increases respect
Electromagnetic device - Adds clue during the The Investigation quest
Glukkt (planet) - Not enough supplies to feed more
Keystone (planet) - Reveals knowledge about it. They use them for their planetary 'Stargates'. Hints at a future use for the player.
Kliktik (planet) - Nothing
Paronychia Falcata (planet) - Nothing
Raxact - Decreases respect
Skull of P'tah (planet) - Lots of tech looks like relics
Trade [ | ]
Gates always only pay 75% of normal merchants but also sell equipment and medicine for 75% of their normal price.
All purchases have an increased price of 10% so that each decision counts and reselling in the same system comes at a loss.
In rogue mode all the prices are 75% of the ones in story or adventure mode.
- 150% for common resources
- 50% for rare resources
- 200% for technical devices & Glukkt Salvage
Whenever they make a first offer they will always offer 80% of the real price.
Reeve are the only race, that sells the Wormhole Device and the Miner's Buddy .
Starports and ships [ | ]
Primitive Probe [ | ]
The primitive probe is the only Reeve ship and is actually unmanned. It only contains a recorded message, that is played automatically, most of the time telling a story about how another Reeve expedition died. Primitive probes are the only alien ships in the game, that the player cannot actually talk to.
Primitive Probes have no weapons or shields and will always try to escape when attacked.
Diplomacy [ | ]
Friends: Cueddhaest , Glukkt , Ilitza , Logos , Meorcl , Wolphax , Subbeq
Enemies: Raxact , K'schar
Friends will get offered more items in the shop and might receive a Hull or Lander Repair Kit as a token of friendship.
Assessment of the Entrope [ | ]
(only accessible with Admin-Device on Entrope Stations) Refuse spacefaring technology. Planetary source unknown. The entrope began the 'Gate Scatter Program' to encourage their emigration.
Notes [ | ]
- 2 Resources
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“The way it moves between moments of wonder, humour and tragedy makes The Long Journey Home a rare pleasure among science fiction games.” Kotaku “Interacting with different alien races makes the universe in the game feel vivid and alive – that’s something The Long Journey Home does way better than other games in the past.” 90% – Gamereactor “The game can’t teach you everything in tutorial after tutorial. Thank goodness. You’d never start your doomed mission. But you’ll have to be patient with yourself. You know so little going into this.” 80% – GamingNexus
About This Game
- OS: Win 7, 8, 10, 64-bit
- Processor: 3 GHz Dual Core CPU
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 650 Ti / AMD Radeon HD 7790
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 16 GB available space
- Sound Card: DirectX 11 compatible sound card with latest drivers
- Processor: 3GHz Quad Core CPU
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 970 / AMD Radeon R9 380
- Processor: i5 3GHz
- Graphics: AMD R9 M380X
- Storage: 15 GB available space
- Additional Notes: SSD and Controller recommended
- Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 560
© Copyright 2017 Daedalic Entertainment Studio West GmbH and Daedalic Entertainment GmbH. The Long Journey Home is a trademark of Daedalic Entertainment Studio West GmbH. Daedalic and the Daedalic logo are trademarks of Daedalic Entertainment GmbH. All rights reserved.
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Wot I Think: The Long Journey Home
It's not all that long, the journey, but it is very busy. About six hours might do the trick, but you're likely to get distracted along the way. Part Star Trek Voyager and part The Odyssey, The Long Journey Home [ official site ] puts you in charge of a small crew who have been stranded far from Earth due to a tech malfunction, and must make their way home, making friends and enemies along the way. Though it's clearly inspired by the likes of Star Control and Captain Blood, I've found myself thinking of No Man's Sky as I play. Here's wot I think.
TLJH is one of those games that feels like lots of mini-games stitched together. There's some basic resource management, Thrust-like planetary landings, conversations with alien races, combat, and star system navigation. It's a game that could easily end up being less than the sum of its parts, but the structure of the journey itself ties everything together and makes each decision and challenge important. Whether you're figuring out if a diversion to save a plague-ridden planet is worthwhile or even a realistic possibility given how limited the essential resources needed to keep your ship running might be.
There are four things to consider. Your crew are a primary resource and as they pick up injuries, your journey becomes more perilous. Those injuries come from rough landings, risky flying, certain encounters and ship-to-ship combat. People are your most precious resource, and are irreplaceable, though they can be healed if you find the appropriate items.
The other three resources you'll need to trek across the stars can all be picked up along the way and the core loop of the game involves ensuring you gather enough of each at each stop along the route.
First of all, you'll need fuel to move within systems, and to send your single-seater lander craft down to the surface of planets. It's planetside where you'll find the gases, metals and minerals that are used for refuelling and repair, but you might also want to visit some planets as part of a quest chain, or on the off-chance there'll be some mystery to uncover. But, yes, fuel is of vital importance, and you'll use it to move between planets and find it on planets.
And then there's a second kind of fuel that lets you jump between systems. The ingredients for that are found on planets as well, and you'll always have a fairly good idea what you're going to find once you settle into orbit. A scan tells you what kind of resources to expect, and what quantities they might be found in, and information about inhabitants, atmosphere, weather and overall threat level.
If a planet has firestorms, high winds and scarce supplies, it's probably not worth risking your lander and crew. You can repair both your ship and lander, and that's where the third resource, metal, comes into play.
On one level, that's how The Long Journey Home works; you travel from place to place, gathering enough resources to ensure you can make the next jump, or survive the next tricky landing in order to get the fuel to make the jump. That's where it reminds me of my hours with No Man's Sky, a game in which I never cared for the journey so much as the destination. The lure of discovering new species and biomes was powerful, for a few days, and part of the attraction was knowing that everything I saw mine and mine alone. Discoveries born of code and procedural design.
There is randomisation in The Long Journey Home as well, but it affects the order of things rather than the things themselves. The systems you'll pass through on your way back to our solar system are different each time, but the things within them are hand-crafted. There are several species to encounter, all with their own stories, dialogues and quest chains. Those quests range from delightfully silly interstellar quiz shows and tests of strength to genocide and flirtations with transcendental beings. What they all have in common is a sense of mischievous wit in the writing, which is courtesy of RPS columnist Richard Cobbett, a man who has forgotten more about RPGs and their tropes than most of us have ever known.
The combination of resource-gathering and wordy adventures is an odd one, but it's mostly successful. At worst, the actual business of scooping up fuel and minerals becomes busywork, interrupting the flow of a quest, and the limited number of encounters means that you'll start to see repetition after a few playthroughs. Thankfully, running into aliens you've already met on a previous journey doesn't mean you're in for an identical story – some encounters have fairly predictable outcomes, but some branch and twist, and there are even emergent qualities to some stories, which can be derailed or unexpectedly collide with one another.
There's a lot to like in those encounters but it's hard to escape from the feeling that the actual machinery driving the game is simpler than I'd like it to be. If you come for the stories, you still have to do the work in between them, as if visiting a library with a byzantine membership system that requires you to sign up again every time you want to borrow a book.
Take the lander sections: they're beautiful and simple enough, rarely taking more than five minutes to complete, even if you actually explore the surface and have a mini text adventure rather than just scooping up resources before jetting away. But they're also repetitive and a couple of mistakes can make the cost of landing heavier than rewards. I'd describe The Long Journey Home as a difficult game, given how hard it is to get home, but it's an oddly pitched difficulty. I'm more likely to peter out than to explode in a blaze of glory or perish in a calamitous misadventure.
Simply put, getting home is hard work and even though there are loads of amazing adventures to be had along the way, you'll also be carrying out a lot of maintenance. Think of this more as a warning than a condemnation because I'm still enjoying the game after thirty-five hours of playing. There's something quite soothing about the repetition that puts Long Journey Home into my Podcast Pile – which is to say, the pile of games that I play while listening to podcasts. That's not a bad pile to be in given how many podcasts I listen to every day.
And, yes, it still reminds me of No Man's Sky, but with these discrete mini-games instead of the arduous walking and gathering and crafting and inventory juggling. It also feels like a successor to Digital Eel's Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space, and a stronger one than the actual sequel. There's not quite enough here to win me over completely, but there's more than enough to make the numerous trips I've made worthwhile, and part of the charm is in never knowing if there's anything left to discover. The stars are strange and home to many mysteries and it's tempting to stick around until I've seen them all. But keep in mind that there's lots of work to do along the way.
The Long Journey Home is available now for Windows, via Steam and GOG .
Disclosure: Richard Cobbett wrote the words and has a regular column on RPS that I edit most weeks. The fact that I have to look at so many of his words as part of my day-job and actually enjoyed playing a game that was stuffed with even more of them could probably be seen as a compliment.
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The Long Journey Home Review
Never tell me the odds..
According to one of my playthroughs of the roguelike The Long Journey Home, humanity's first meeting with an alien species took place between the crew of our first interstellar vessel and a squat little glukkt trader named Mendarch. Here it was: the chance of enlightenment and the promise of advances in science beyond our wildest dreams. There was a whole unspoken history in his calling our place the galaxy the "prohibited sector." And what were the fruits of that first mission? He offered to loan me 600 galactic credits and only told me that he expected 200 credits in interest after we finished the transaction. Aliens will be human, I guess.
The Long Journey Home Screens
Unfortunately, those interactions turn out to be a fairly small part of The Long Journey Home. The vast majority of a playthrough involves either easing the ship into a planet's orbit or sending the lander down to a planet's surface to scrounge for gases and metals needed to refuel or repair the craft, or to pick up the "exotic" matter needed to power the jump drive when I wanted to port to a neighboring star. Both minigames are 2D and factor in a given planet's gravity, which appeals to the science nerd inside me in a simplified Kerbal Space Program sort of way. Both require a careful dance of the left and right mouse buttons; in space you use the left button to fire off lightweight "thrusts" for precision maneuvering and the right for "boosts" that guzzle fuel and propel you from a big planet's orbit. When you visit a planet with the lander, you use the left mouse button to thrust upward and the right to thrust downward.
The bumps and bruises you get from botched attempts aren't mere "aw, shucks" moments. They're life-threatening, damaging not only your craft but often breaking the bones of your crewmembers in the process. Upgrades you can pick up from quests of vendor help, yes, but it's always challenging. (And using a controller is far worse as far as I'm concerned, though I've also heard people say the opposite.)
When The Long Journey Home focuses on interactions with a diverse and entertaining cast of aliens across its procedurally generated star systems, it's possible to find a degree of wonder and personality that many roguelike seldom achieve. Unfortunately, such interactions take a back seat to a barrage of frustrating minigames with rewards that rarely match the risks. The experience as a whole suffers for it.
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The Long Journey Home Review
by Alex Fuller · November 30, 2018
Are We Nearly There Yet?
Originally released for PC last year before making its way onto consoles this November, The Long Journey Home is a different title from what many have come to expect from Daedalic Entertainment, a developer and publisher more renowned for its various adventure titles. Tasking players with guiding a ship across the far reaches of space, The Long Journey Home never attempts to make its journey particularly thrilling, but the deliberate pacing combines well with its risk-versus-reward elements and the simple enjoyment of travelling the stars.
The Long Journey Home begins with players selecting the crew, spaceship, and universe seed for a mission to test a new faster-than-light drive. There are ten potential members to fill out the four available crew slots, each with their own item and skill set, as well as three spaceship and lander options providing different attributes in terms of speed, cargo space, and so forth. As the title alludes to, the test does not go quite as planned, and the crew find themselves and the ship far, far away from home. Left to their own devices, the crew must try and find the way home while dealing with dangerous locations, limited resources, and aliens of the friendly and not-so-friendly varieties.
The universe seed is the primary factor that will affect a playthrough of The Long Journey Home . It determines what players will be able to encounter, from the alien species present to the general makeup of the stars and galaxies they will be roaming in. This leads to a wide variety in difficulty between playthroughs, with certain seeds being far more welcoming to new players than others. However, there is always an element of luck to things, and even on an easier seed and with the game’s story difficulty setting, there will be many opportunities for the journey to end prematurely.
Successfully slinging the ship between planets is highly satisfactory.
The structure of the game has players jumping from star system to star system, stopping off at planets, space stations, and asteroid fields to find resources, investigate points of interest, or take on small jobs. Gravity plays a big part in travelling between locations in the star system, and players are heavily encouraged to make use of gravitational slingshots wherever they can to ensure they don’t needlessly waste fuel. Once players have successfully gone into orbit around a planet or moon, they can send the lander down to the surface, where it will have resource points that can be gathered and maybe other points of interest such as an alien settlement or set of ruins to explore. The structure is decently paced, with planetary stopovers always being a quick in-and-out, and it makes for an engaging journey where it can be easy and enjoyable to get sucked into a mindset of “just one more system…”.
The game’s controls are nice and straightforward, but one of the few annoyances comes with controlling the lander. Some planets are more hostile and difficult to land on than others, some having high gravity or winds, others prone to earthquakes or lightning storms, with players able buy and attach modules to the lander to help against these. However, the game always seems to enjoy throwing the lander down at high speed, so that even a lander that has in theory been modified to cope with the conditions will still be flung onto the surface despite the player’s best attempts. In these cases all players can do is hope the damage isn’t too severe and just carry on. It’s understandable that the game is promoting a sense of risk-versus-reward on using the lander, but it’s nevertheless frustrating, particularly given how much more enjoyable and comparatively friendly interplanetary travel is.
Combat encounters are not worth actively seeking out.
Though there are some interesting quests and pieces of lore to discover, there isn’t much of a narrative to The Long Journey Home . Part of this is because quests and jobs often require that players go out of their way to complete them, which is generally a high risk to take considering the limited resources available and the propensity of the ship to be damaged through wear and tear when it jumps. Even on the friendly seeds, money needed for repairs can be hard to come by and so time spent going back and forth in one sector can be very costly in the long run. There are very few named characters in the game, and those that are named generally appear for a single quest before they disappear and are never heard from again. The Long Journey Home is undeniably more about trying to survive the journey above anything else, but there’s some interesting variety to the alien species that can appear, with some enjoyable writing and inconsequential banter between the crew that appears from time to time.
Crew members don’t gain any new skills on top of those they come with; anything they can do to help depends on items picked up throughout the voyage. The main concern is keeping them alive, as various things such as radiation from stars and heavy lander impacts can cause injuries, five of which will cause that crew member’s death. Instead, any progress comes from what helpful items players are able to attain, and crew members can be help get these. For example, Ash is able to turn alien flora into medical items, used to heal aforementioned injuries. Meanwhile, players can also buy new modules for the ship or lander that will provide bonuses such as improved radiation shielding. It all follows the theme of survival above anything else.
Combat is not very interesting and more often than not best avoided. Combat will see the ship come up against another ship, usually bigger, which may itself spawn additional smaller ships. The ships then fly around each other, shooting in pre-defined directions — the default weapon has the player ship fire up to four projectiles directly port and starboard, with players able to buy upgrades from a very limited selection of weapons and shields — then recharging before firing again. If players win, they may be lucky enough to receive a paltry set of credits or resources that may just about cover any repairs. If players lose, then it’s time to rewind back to the start of the star system or start the entire journey anew. The combat itself is straightforward, but is rarely worth the time and effort.
Some planets have very pretty backdrops, but be prepared to see similar ones elsewhere in the galaxy.
There’s not too much to say about the audio in The Long Journey Home . The best thing to say is that the atmospheric music tracks do a nice job combined with the gravitational simulation to make the journeys between planets nice and chilled out. Sound effects are fine, but there’s no voice acting, though given the general lack of narrative in the game, there isn’t much to be gained even if it was present. Visuals also do the job well, with a nice and clear UI, but the positives reduce out over time. Some planets are pleasing to look at, but by the time players are through they will have seen all the templates multiple times. The same goes for the alien species, there is good variation between them, but just one design for each species and nothing to distinguish individual encounters.
The Long Journey Home doesn’t outstay its welcome. A successful journey should take most players around ten hours, which is a good length for those who just want to get home and enjoy the accomplishment while the gameplay cycle remains enjoyable. Meanwhile, the way the universe is generated with seeds means that those who are interested in seeing everything the game has to offer as well as find new challenges have many reasons to keep coming back. It never offers the most in-depth or exciting gameplay moments, but the overall experience of The Long Journey Home is an enjoyable one.
Good at sucking players into the journey
Using gravity is fun
Combat feels like an afterthought
Some lander annoyances
Tags: Daedalic Entertainment PS4 The Long Journey Home
Alex joined RPGamer in 2011 as a Previewer before moving onto Reviews, News Director, and Managing Editor. Became Acting Editor-in-Chief in 2018.
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The Long Journey Home
Game length provided by HowLongToBeat
- Endless Space - Explore a living, procedurally generated universe inspired by both classic and modern Science Fiction. Meet different aliens. Find different stories. Take different risks. Learn the secrets of the universe and with them, new possibilities.
- Hidden stories - Raid alien tombs full of traps and treasure. Compete in the galaxy’s greatest combat tournament. Find and research strange artifacts, and use your crew’s skills to find out whether that old skull is just a piece of bone, or the Holy Grail of an aggressive new species.
- A crew worth leading - Choose four out of ten experts, all with personality as well as specialties. Far from just stats, you’ll come to know them as they share their feelings, their fears, their excitement and their concerns on the trip and your decisions. Learn how best to use their skills to help the others… and who might be willing to sacrifice themselves to get the others back Home.
© Copyright 2016 Daedalic Entertainment Studio West GmbH and Daedalic Entertainment GmbH. The Long Journey Home is a trademark of Daedalic Entertainment Studio West GmbH. Daedalic and the Daedalic logo are trademarks of Daedalic Entertainment GmbH. All rights reserved.
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The Long Journey Home
Ursprünglich geschrieben von Scrooge : ok spoil me already WHAT can u do with the skull?
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The mystery surrounding the origin of crystal skulls has drawn supernatural speculation.
Crystal skulls are not uncommon or terribly mysterious. Thousands are produced every year in Brazil, China, and Germany. But there are a handful of these rather macabre objects that have fueled intense interest and controversy among archaeologists, scientists, spiritualists, and museum officials for more than a century.
There are perhaps a dozen of these rare crystal skulls in private and public collections. Some are crystal clear, others of smoky or colored quartz. Some are actual human size and of very fine detail, while others are smaller and less refined. All are believed to originate from Mexico and Central America.
Many believe these skulls were carved thousands or even tens of thousands of years ago by an ancient Mesoamerican civilization . Others think they may be relics from the legendary island of Atlantis or proof that extraterrestrials visited the Aztec sometime before the Spanish conquest.
Stories about the skulls focus heavily on their perceived supernatural powers.
Joshua Shapiro, coauthor of Mysteries of the Crystal Skulls Revealed , cites claims of healings and expanded psychic abilities from people who have been in the presence of such skulls.
"We believe the Crystal Skulls are a form of computer which are able to record energy and vibration that occur around them," he writes. " The skull will pictorially replay all events or images of the people who have come into contact with them (i.e. they contain the history of our world)."
Most archaeologists and scientists are skeptical, to say the least.
Skulls were prominent in ancient Mesoamerican artwork, particularly among the Aztec, so the connection between these artifacts and these civilizations is apt.
"[I]t was a symbol of regeneration," says Michael Smith, a professor of anthropology at Arizona State University. "There were several Aztec gods that were represented by skulls, so they were probably invoking these gods. I don't think they were supposed to have specific powers or anything like that."
In addition, recent electron microscope analyses of skulls by the British Museum and the Smithsonian Institution revealed markings that could only have been made with modern carving implements. Both museums estimate that their skulls date to sometime in the mid to late 1800s, a time when public interest in ancient cultures was high and museums were eager for pieces to display.
A British Museum study in fact pinpointed the manufacture of most of the skulls to an area of Germany famous for manufacturing intricate quartz and crystal designs in the late 19th century. The crystal is said to be found in Brazil or Madascar and thus inaccessible to pre-Columbian indigenous civilizations.
Its examinations and the fact that no such skull has ever been uncovered at an official archaeological excavation led the British Museum to extrapolate that all of the famed crystal skulls are likely fakes.
There is passion on both sides of the issue, and the fact remains that no one knows for sure who made these skulls and when. And since there is currently no way to accurately determine the age of such inorganic objects, the mystery will likely continue. In fact, it got a boost in 2008 with the release of the action-adventure sequel Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull .
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