In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the character JR is preoccupied by the concept of kipple—sinister human trash that reproduces on its own. He claims that “the entire universe is moving toward a final state of total, absolute kippleization.” While we slowly wait here for the eventual junk takeover, Daedalic’s Deponia is an adventure game that supposes a world where it has already happened, and one giant pile of junk as far as the eye can see envelopes the planet’s surface.
To Daedalic’s credit, they’ve created a gorgeous trash heap to behold as Deponia’s production quality, while uneven, mostly trends towards the good. Character animations are canned, but the light 3D modeling that pops up with the Organon ships, the fully animated cut scenes and the gorgeous, colorful, in-game locations, are a joy to look at. The voice delivery is as equally well done, though there are a handful of instances when the characters seem to be speaking in a recording booth as opposed to speaking to each other. A couple of translation hiccups come up as well. While the flaws are noticeable, they’re few and far between and don’t really take anything from the game’s overall aesthetic direction.
Mechanically, Deponia doesn’t break any new ground in the adventure genre. The game will offer some unique challenges every once in a while that include twisting knobs to align lights, arranging broken pieces of glass and lining up a crosshair, but these are rare. Most puzzles are inventory recipes that vary between completely logical- like using soapy water and a mop to clean something- to downright baffling- like using picture of a cow to get a robo-bull’s attention, then enraging said bull to draw it’s vital liquid. While I enjoyed the logic puzzles that littered the game and the inventory recipes were rote at worst, the confusing puzzles that aimed to make a joke and thus step out of the bounds of logic were a bit frustrating. While tricking the main character’s ex-girlfriend by bringing in a parrot may allow for amusing dialogue, I was too irritated by the complete lack of clues to figure this out that I just wanted to move on with the next step. But considering the main character, maybe I’m supposed to feel irritated.
I’m of the mind that a successful adventure game consists of giving me a fascinating world to explore with an engaging character to serve as my tour guide. While Deponia has the first in spades, it’s sorely lacking in the latter. The game focuses on Rufus, an arrogant, egocentric, unlikable young man who manages only to succeed because of dumb luck rather than proficiency and is consistently attempting to leave the junk planet he hates for the idyllic Elysium. During one of these failed attempts, he happens upon a damaged Elysium girl whose fiancee promises Rufus passage to the fabled city if he can return her safely to him. While all this sounds promising, Daedalic managed to muck up the story so much that it essentially ruins what should be their game’s strongest quality.
For instance, a first act that I was able to sum up in two sentences takes far too long in the game. Out of my five hour experience, finally getting my character to leave the familiar for the unknown took around two hours. While there is a valid discussion to be had in how long an opening act should be, most well made, traditional plots don’t make the expositional parts of a story forty percent of the whole experience. It’s unfortunate that it drags on so badly, as once Rufus starts encountering the ruins of the world he hates so much, it gets rather interesting. But again, the story fails. Once the stakes are appropriately raised and our hero has made the important change that will propel him to either victory or death… it ends. Abruptly, unsatisfyingly, and—as one last insult—an “or is it?” style question mark that made me want to quit video games.
Rufus himself has problems beyond just being an unappealing person. An interesting character feature develops as it’s revealed that his father, a brilliant man and the town’s founder, made an attempt to reach Elysium when Rufus was young, but never came back. This brings up the tantalizing prospect of how perhaps Rufus hates Deponia not because of the landscape, but because of his father. Or how his own bumbling attempts at ingenuity are just him standing in his father’s shadow. But none of this is ever explored. It ends up being another unfulfilling element to an unfulfilling game.
If I were standing on a hill of kipple made up of adventure games, digging through the mound in some long trench coat whose plethora of pockets allow me a large carrying capacity, Deponia would compel me to pick it up. I would admire its visual splendor, but only for a minute. It would placed back where I found it as there are other, more worthwhile games hidden in the vast depth of the kipple.
Here’s the Rundown:
+ Wonderful visuals
+ Great premise
+ Some interesting puzzles…
-…but the games is hampered by terrible ones
- Character development is weak
- Production quality is uneven
- Story drags and is unsatisfying
Deponia was developed and published by Daedalic Entertainment for the PC. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.