I have had Deponia from Daedalic Entertainment in my steam library for some time now, as is the case with many many other games. It released last near the end of last year and I had to get it in the subsequent Christmas steam sales because the art style of it looked really quite wonderful. The Penny Arcade report even had an interview with some of the developers about their remarkable hand drawn 2d style because it really is something quite unique. Everyone seems to be going further and further towards the computer generated aspect of backgrounds and characters, and yet, here is one company re-imagining the styles of old and invoking a really strong sense of nostalgia.
And I loved all those old hand drawn games and movies, it is a style of creation that really exudes a lot of personality pity though that the game really doesn’t deserve to be compared to those classics.
Playing Deponia, the major thing I keep thinking is if nostalgia has some how taken over in my recollection of past experiences in games like Monkey Island and Myst (along with many others) and somehow they were all bad in terms of gameplay, maybe this is just a bad interpretation of those earlier classics. Or just maybe somehow during this last decade of games and their continued developmental towards ease of use and play that games that do add a certain challenge and require more thought make me more frustrated than I used to get.
I tend to think that it is because of it’s poor, and very rigid interpretation of these old adventure game mechanics leads to a rather frustrating affair. Usually there is a certain amount of frustration in adventure games, certain complex points that urge you to strive for more due to wanting to see more of the game world, the characters, and story but here I really didn’t care too much.
The world feels a little limited to me but at the same time waaay to busy. Most of the game takes place within the same limited space, the ramshackle town of Deponiaa, a place pieced together from old pieces of trash. Even though it seems like a nice concept, and that the entire town gives off some sort of steampunk type design it is entirely unremarkable. There is some much going on in the background that nothing stands out, everything is a distraction against the overall aesthetic and to points of interest.
The characters are rather unloveable as well. You never really feel connected at all to the main character and his situation as he seems more of a characterization of a certain persona rather than someone who has any depth. He is an egotistical, spoilt, delusional pig of a man – it isn’t enough to hate the person enough that you delight in his failures… you just don’t care. You don’t care if he succeeds or fails, what he has to say or his input in the situation. I honestly don’t care enough that I just stopped playing after a while.
All the characters seem rather unremarkable beings, exuding a sense of peculiarity and.. weirdness but there isn’t contrast between their eccentricities and anything resembling human feelings or emotions that allows you to relate to them at all… actually scratch that, the robot in the post office who loves bubble wrap is amazing since you see a difference between the a rule bound robot and then joy. They rest though appears like the writers have tried way to hard to make some sort of wacky humorous affair and ended up with something that comes off like a childish caricature of ridiculously overdone stereotypes.
And then there is the mechanics. There is an abundance of adventure game reasoning here in the way you use and combine items, often times which really make no sense or is not explained well enough. For a lot of times the solution to a problem will be explained by certain npc’s in conversation, which is a very long-winded affair. Many times though there is no guidance on how to use things or about where to go next, it’s just frustrating trial and error.
I know I have become far less tolerant towards complex puzzle solving due to the internet age, most times when using a walkthrough at certain points though I didn’t even feel guilty like I usually do for using them. I have liked many adventure games lately, this not so much as it has primarily abused the worst mechanics of adventure games without any sort of modernisation of them.
Frustration without the fun