Deponia is a game that takes inspiration from a wide range of sources, from Broken Sword to Escape From Monkey Island, yet manages to stand apart by making bold decisions. This boldness doesn’t always bear fruit, but the results are never boring and may even hold a few pleasant surprises for the player.
Your tale begins with Rufus, the estranged and abandoned son of a scoundrel, with dreams to elope from the junkyard of Deponia to the paradise of Elysium. His latest scheme is nearing fruition, the consequences resulting in the falling of an angelic saviour and a chase across the scrap mountains and rust filled seas of Deponia. Immediately, the stage is set for shenanigans and tomfoolery of a most amusing form.
One of the boldest decisions made by Daedalic Entertainment was to make most of the characters, including the protagonist Rufus, unlikable; most are repeat offenders of some social faux pas or other. This is slightly jarring at first, but well written dialogue and excellent voice acting ensure that conversation is humorous and helps the game to avoid becoming cringe-worthy.
The quality of the voice acting is reflected in the quality of both the sound design and the soundtrack, although the soundtrack is slightly limited in scope.
It’s a strange phenomenon, but Rufus, despite his self-centered nature, does swiftly become a character that it is easy to care about. His blundering brand of heroics, inspired as they are by his egotism and his own personal desire to escape to Elysium, do earn the sympathy of the player.
The art is comprised of hand painted backgrounds and features excellent cartoon animation that evokes nostalgia for the days when point and click adventure games were more plentiful. Most of the adventure is spent on rusty scrap heaps and some color palette fatigue does occur, although new environments are introduced just often enough to avoid any serious loss of interest.
Deponia falls prey to a common problem amongst point and clicks, specifically that the art style can make it difficult to distinguish useful parts of the puzzles from the general scenery, whether items that can be picked up or fixed pieces that can be interacted with, which can lead to some frustration.
In spite of this occurrence, the puzzles are well designed and satisfying to solve, however there are a few caveats to this. The first is that the solutions are sometimes mundane and seem plausible in a real setting, whereas others seem to have solutions that require ‘magic’ to occur.
The first time this happens, whilst very obviously being a satire of the problem, it nevertheless demonstrates it well and is very early on when you need to find a pair of socks. You end up finding 3 socks of different colours and then, when putting them into the wash, a case of – to paraphrase Rufus – sacrificial coloring is the outcome of the puzzle. This can easily lead to the player missing the solutions to some puzzles and can become frustrating. Whilst only a few of the puzzles are designed in this way, so the overall quality of the game is not affected.
The second caveat is that some of the puzzles in larger areas can become confusing: it’s very easy to lose track of where you are and what you are attempting to do. A full hint system, there is a partial hint system for some of the puzzles, or a journal system recording your previous actions would go a long way to eliminating this.
Taken in totality, the puzzle system is neither too difficult nor overly simplistic and is sensitive to a range of abilities within the player-base. On the few occasions that I became stuck, I could never work out whether it was my own ineptitude or a lack of communication on the part of the game that was to blame. I suspect the former was to blame in most instances as environmental clues are often used to great effect and the more observant players should have few problems in piecing together each solution.
This sense of urgency created by the many twists and turns in the story – especially in the latter half – is not commonly found in point and click adventure games. The ending is instrumental in making the player aware of just how attached they have become to the characters; all without the aid of obvious character development that often results in a complete change in the personality of key characters. This is not to say that there is no character development within Deponia; there is, it just tends to be more subtle than a complete reversal in Rufus’ world view. The nuance is refreshing.
Deponia is a fantastic point and click adventure that will help shake the rust from puzzle solving skills and will evoke memories of the happy hours spent on nostalgic games such as the Broken Sword series. Deponia isn’t going to scratch every point and click itch, though; the brevity of the soundtrack is mirrored in the story, however, whilst the soundtrack is a missed opportunity, the story’s pacing does not feel as if there need be any improvements. Small touches, such as the bard-like narrator, provide a boon to the story and the ‘Chorus Guys’ do indeed rock.
Deponia’s unusual aesthetic and perspective on character development will ensure that it finds firms purchase in the hearts of many gamers and will help to differentiate itself from the hordes of other games that could be described as ‘quirky’ or ‘charming’ and you will almost certainly be left wanting more. Huzzah!