A) The World of The Longest Journey
The whole environment in The Longest Journey series goes back and forth between 2 worlds. The first one is called Stark which is based on reality, reflecting our world with the existence of real cities and the various occurrences of the human lifestyle with a cyberpunk touch, going from the most mundane of things to the most bizarre. On the other hand we have Arcadia, which is a world based on magic. This world looks and feels like your classic medieval fantasy setting consisting of villages, dungeons, exotic places, townsfolk, warriors, priests, warlocks and even dragons. On this world we also have different types of living beings that populate the realm and are not exactly human.
If we are going to name the notable villains in the first two games, we have a giant mega-corporation called Wati-Corp on Stark and a corrupt religious empire called The Azadi on Arcadia. Both of them will try to stop April and Zoe (See characters) from doing what they need to do in order to restore the balance between both worlds, but they are not connected in any obvious way. Giving any more details would spoil the fun of getting to know these crooks up close and personal, but you will see how each of them have their own beliefs / big scheme and how they put their respective plans in motion to basically enslave their corresponding worlds if they can't destroy them.
The main characters in the series go as follows:
April Ryan: April is the protagonist in the first game (The Longest Journey) and a secondary character in Dreamfall. She starts in the first game as an Art student in that discovers that she has certain powers that enable her to travel into another world. This discovery turns her life upside down as she finds herself in a struggle to save both worlds and ensure that neither of them meets a premature end. She will also discover that she doesn't know herself as well as she thought.
The Draic Kin: The Draic Kin are a race of mystical dragons that have the purpose of protecting the balance between worlds without directly interfering. Most of the time they will give messages and remind April of how important she is to both worlds. In some ways the Draic stand as the benevolent and wise gods of Arcadia and can take a human form at will if it serves their purpose.
Crow: Simply put, he is a magical crow that talks. He becomes April's friend in the first game and follows up to meet Zoe on Dreamfall. He is kind of corny and throws a lot of bad jokes, but he is also very helpful, giving clues to the both girls when they need them the most.
Zoe Castillo: Zoe is the protagonist of the second game (Dreamfall: The Longest Journey). She is a kind of depressed young woman who is living without any purpose in life. When the game begins she is already having it rough after recently dropping out of college and breaking with her boyfriend Reza. Her life takes a very different turn when in another one of her "dull and event-less" days, something happens that makes her share April Ryan's fate although not through the same means.
Reza Temiz: He is Zoe's ex boyfriend and one of the most mysterious characters in Dreamfall. Based on what it is known about him, he is some sort of a journalist that is involved with Wati-Corp in Stark. We also know that he is involved with the company's secret agenda (been the one that sets in motion the whole ordeal that Zoe lives through) and for some reason he vanishes without leaving a trace.
Kian Alvani: Alvani begins a warrior for the Azadi in Arcadia. He is sort of a paladin who fights to defend "The Goddess" which is the main icon of his religion and to destroy a resistance movement that threatens the empire. His faith is admirable, but his iron clad loyalty will become a problem to him as the story progresses and you will see why he is not as great and important as he think he is in the beginning.
The Vagabond: This mysterious being lives in a rift between both worlds and seems to serve as a guide to Zoe. This mystic will make few appearances, but will prove instrumental at giving you information about the grand scale of things. See him as a sage who will reveal what needs to be done and why.
There are many other characters in the story of The Longest Journey series, but these ones are the most significant.
C) The Story (Synopsis)
In The Longest Journey, the story start as an art student called April Ryan visits Arcadia by mistake and meets the White Dragon (See Draic Kin) who tells her that she is the heroine that will bring balance to both worlds. Just after that, she gets attacked by some dark force called "chaos vortex" and that's when she gets back. That surreal experience turns her world upside down as she discovers that she is a "shifter" (person who can travel between worlds) and begins her quest in her own world (Stark) even when nobody believes what she says. Soon, she starts turning skeptics into believers (mostly her closest friends) and as she gets used to crossing between worlds and begins solving problems on both of them, she becomes a threat to the dark forces that want to destroy the balance between worlds, so they will do whatever is needed to stop her. Her journey will take her to the deepest parts of Stark and Arcadia as she tries to solve the riddle of how she can save the so called "balance", involving her friends, new found allies, the Draic Kin and a magical crow that helps her through her journey.
Next in Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, the story shifts to the life of a girl called Zoe Castillo. In the beginning Zoe's life has no purpose or direction as she dropped out of college and broke up with her boyfriend. Living in this predicament leaves Zoe with all the free time she could want, so as her dad leaves to a business meeting in another country she plans to make a party in her house with some of her friends. All seemed well, but while she was organizing the event her ex boyfriend Reza Tamiz appears and asks her to look for an important package in his apartment. Seen that they are still good friends, Zoe agrees, but after getting to his apartment she becomes involved in a big conspiracy that will lead her all the way to Arcadia where she meets an older April Ryan that has become somewhat of a leader in the fight against the Azadi.
Now Zoe who has become her own kind of "shifter", becomes an even more important piece of the puzzle as she struggles against both the Azadi and Wati Corp in the fight that will decide the fate of both worlds.
D) The Connection With Dreamfall Chapters
This part of the starters guide has big spoilers so if you really want to read it, click the show button, otherwise play the games first.
In the end of Dreamfall, Zoe Castillo is left in a coma by her own mother (she connected Zoe to a device called a "Dream Machine" that keeps her permanently connected to the dream world) because she did not wanted Zoe to reveal her newly discovered secrets. Now on Dreamfall Chapters Zoe begins in a comatose state while April Ryan appears to be dead and Kian Alvani is trapped in the Azadi prison at Marcuria, waiting to be executed. The story goes on, once again stressing the importance of Zoe to the balance between both worlds as The Vagabond sends her back to the real life so she could fulfill her duties. Up until the point where Zoe comes out of the coma, she had been living in some sort of limbo where she had developed special powers and used them by helping others when they had a nightmare while using a Dream Machine.
Wrapping it up
I hope that this little story guide helps to spark your curiosity even more so you can give a chance to this great series of adventure games. I wouldn't suggest you to skip the previous games and just start on the new one, but I'd be glad if this little insight into the story of The Longest Journey series of games gets you on the right track so you can understand what you will be seen and experiencing in Dreamfall Chapters.