A leading character in The Longest Journey series of adventure games, April Ryan is a unique individual capable of freely moving across the Divide between the twin dimensions of Stark and Arcadia. Her ability to “shift” from one world to another is never directly explained, but it is likely the result of her unusual parentage as her mother is a member of an extraterrestrial species known as the Draic Kin.
Oblivious to her heritage or latent skills, April was adopted and raised by an American family in Stark. Her early years were marked by suffering, however, as an accident at the hands of her drunken father left her physically handicapped and facing a long, slow recovery. April’s body was eventually mended, but her relationship with her parents was rocky and diminished steadily throughout her teenage years. Their final confrontation ended with her decision to leave home forever at the age of 18.
Ironically, April’s physical hardships gave rise to the bright imagination and artistic talent that landed her a full scholarship to the Venice Academy of Visual Arts in Newport, where the events of The Longest Journey begin.
She is voiced in both games by actress Sarah Hamilton.
The Longest Journey
Having stepped off the train in Venice with nothing but a suitcase and a timid expression, April quickly became fast friends with Emma and Charlie, two other tenants at the Border House where she rents a room no. 201, and secured a job working with them at a trendy local coffee bar known as The Fringe Café. It’s a sweltering summer in a room without air conditioning and annoying come-ons by another boarder named Zack, but April is so happy to be out on her own and planning for the future that she loves it all the same.
Unfortunately, the first school semester hasn’t even started yet when the dreams begin: intense visions of a foreign landscape where she’s attacked by a gathering black cloud and awakens as though she hadn’t gotten any rest. April keeps these nightmares to strictly to herself, but when elements of this alien world start manifesting themselves to other people in the waking world, she seeks out an enigmatic man named Cortez who seems to know what’s happening to her.
Cortez reveals that these apparitions are not hallucinations, but real beings from a parallel dimension which are starting to leak through the barrier between the two worlds. He also informs April that she is a Shifter, a rare individual who can cross the Divide, and it’s her destiny to uncover why it seems to be breaking down.
April’s quest leads her on a winding journey through her own technologically advanced world of Stark and the fantastical world of Arcadia, meeting a variety of distinctive characters and uncovering a lot about their lives and cultures along the way. Sadly, April also discovers that her path is also leading away from the life of school and friends she was just starting to build for herself, and struggles with the realization that she has to sacrifice so everyone she cares about can survive.
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Approximately ten years after the events of the first game, another young college student named Zoe Castillo inadvertently crosses into Arcadia after receiving an eerie and urgent warning to “Save April Ryan,” someone she has never heard of. There, she discovers that April has forsaken her shifting ability and considers herself a permanent resident of this realm where she wages a hard guerrilla-style war against a xenophobic occupying force known as the Azadi.
April has changed significantly over the intervening decade. Thoughts of school and artistry are memories from another lifetime: instead of the uncertain, curious, wry young woman from the original adventure, the reality of conducting violent raids against a superior force for critical supplies has made her demeanor cold and uncompromising. Nevertheless, when an encounter with an elite Azadi acolyte named Kian Alvane shows her that even the most hardline fundamentalist can be swayed by the reality of his people’s oppressive regime, April’s faith in people seem to be rekindled once again.
April gains many names and titles during the games. They are following:
- Venar Kan-ang-la. This name is given to her by Abnaxus.
- April Bandu-embata of the Banda. This name is given to her by the Banda.
- Waterstiller. This title is given by the Maerum.
- Windbringer. This title is given by the Alatien.
- Wave. This title is given to her by the Dark People.
- The Raven. This name is given to her by fellow rebel Marcurians.
- The Scorpion. This name is given to her by the Azadi.
Lady Alvane is a mysterious elderly woman who resides in a sort of “pocket dimension” that was left splintered in the Divide during the original schism between Stark and Arcadia. The events of The Longest Journey are presented as a story she relates to a couple of curious youths garbed in Arcadian clothing.
Although her precise nature is never explained, Lady Alvane’s familiarity with the subject matter and long friendship with a certain aged talking bird have lead many fans to believe that she is actually April Ryan many years in the future.
April Ryan is noteworthy among video game protagonists because, unlike the familiar cliché of a young person yearning for a life of high adventure, she was a already happy with her treasured friends and a bright future before this “destiny” was suddenly thrust upon her. Over the course of her adventures she’s seen people she cares about get hurt and killed, been maliciously betrayed over petty jealousies, and watched the world spiral downwards all around, and these experiences have taken a natural toll on natural sense of optimism.