Deponia Review: Humor to Distract From Confusion

Note: We didn’t fall into some kind of time warp — we just felt this review of Deponia was necessary to reviewing the newly released Chaos on Deponia, the second game in the Deponia series. Since the titles will be the first two parts of a trilogy, it seemed necessary to review the first game first. Check back for our Chaos on Deponia review this week.


Here’s the premise on which most of this review hinges: Deponia is often pretty damn funny.

A point-and-click adventure title from German developer Daedalic Games, Deponia perfectly nails an adult, cartoonish tone. And while the story might expect a little more forgiveness from players than it ought to, dropping them into the middle of a weird setting and asking them to go with it, the game makes up for it with a group of goofy characters and a sarcastic, dimwitted protagonist who manages to carry the whole thing on his back.

Deponia suffers from a few of the logical leaps that plague adventure titles, and its story comes in fits and starts, but protagonist Rufus and the overall tone of the entire experience manage to make the game a worthwhile way to spend a few hours — especially given that it represents the start of a trilogy, and seems to be improving.

Deponia
Platforms: PC (Reviewed)
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Release Date: Aug. 6, 2012
MSRP: $19.99

Rufus is a bit of a self-centered, self-involved train wreck of a guy. He’s still living with his girlfriend despite the fact that they’ve split, even though she nags and he’s a slob. He desperately wants to cut loose of Deponia, a garbage planet, in favor the nearby Elysium, where beautiful people live in high-tech luxury. But nobody ever escapes Deponia, as Rufus well knows — and he’s determined to be the first, spending his time engaged in creating one dangerous apparatus after another to reach the distant other world.

Things get a little crazy for Rufus when he actually nearly does achieve his goal. He winds up on a cruiser belonging to the fascist and militaristic Organon, a group of stormtroopers sporting mechanical beards. There, Rufus witnesses the Organon threatening an Elysian woman named Goal. She falls from the cruiser, Rufus rescues her, and he sets about spending the rest of the game trying to revive her and return to Elysium with her.

The stakes get higher over the course of the game, but Rufus goals stay the same — he wants off Deponia, and that’s the extent of things. Players spend the rest of the game trying to make that happen, and as is the case in adventure games, that means solving a variety of puzzles along the way to help Rufus achieve his goals. Like the tone of the rest of the game, all of the puzzles are adequately zany, and everything has a goofy vibe, from the scenarios to Rufus’s various voice overs.

Humor permeates Deponia from front to back, but it’s primarily the realm of Rufus, who remains the only memorable character for the majority of the game. Daedalic’s writing and acting for Rufus are great, and as mentioned, he carries the game and its story on his back; not only because he’s the protagonist and player character, but also because he’s the most interesting person in the whole game. Rufus’s home town of Kuvaq is packed with characters, but they’re mostly forgettable and not nearly as funny as the primary character.

Deponia is divided into three major locations. Most of the game is spent in Kuvaq, and there are tons of things to be solved here in order to move forward. For the most part, Deponia keeps things moving forward in terms of its puzzle-solving; you know, generally, where you have to go next and what your overall goal is. Despite Kuvaq being a big place with a lot going on, you’re not inundated with all the puzzles at once.

Unfortunately, Deponia’s puzzles suffer from that adventure game syndrome that can make them rather opaque and sometimes almost nonsensical. There are plenty of things in the game that are actually pretty confusing, and there are a few puzzles whose solutions are actually pretty difficult to come by in a natural way. For example, one puzzle requires occupying various phone lines in order to overwhelm an obnoxious operator. Doing that requires doing things like placing a cat on a telegraph machine. No, really. You find a cat, and you need to intuit that not only does this typewriter-looking device pertain to your puzzle, but that the cat is the solution. It helps that clicking the telegraph machine brings up a mention of cats, but that off-handed joke that’s actually a hint wouldn’t mean anything until you’ve discovered cats and tried to add them to your inventory.

These kinds of puzzles bog down the game a bit, and I found that there were a few places that frustrated me to the point that I hopped online to find a guide. It’s a fine line for adventure games to walk, really, in order to keep their puzzles challenging but still logical; Deponia walks it often, but there are definitely times it slips too far to the “illogical” side.

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2 Comments on Deponia Review: Humor to Distract From Confusion

Matt

On December 3, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Why is background explanation needed? I don’t think everything in games should be served to us on a pretty little plate like that. It doesn’t really encourage people to figure things out for themselves.

Phil Hornshaw

On December 3, 2012 at 8:23 pm

@Matt

I agree. I just found it jarring in attempting to follow along with the world that I was missing a lot of context. Sometimes that storytelling technique works, sometimes it doesn’t, and in this case I felt like too much was left unsaid or vague, to the point where I was a little too lost.