Memoria Preview: A Double Dose of Fantasy Storytelling
German adventure company Daedalic Entertainment has a pretty full game line-up planned for this fall, and perhaps the most ambitious title on its slate is Memoria — a game that tells two stories simultaneously.
Memoria is set in the universe of The Dark Eye, a fantasy world that originated as a tabletop RPG and has since grown to encompass other forms of media in Germany. Developers at Daedalic have described it as being the German equivalent of Dungeons & Dragons, and that’s an easy way to get a sense of the scope of the universe from which Memoria is drawing. There’s clearly a huge amount of history and lore at play in the game.
In a recent preview build of Memoria that encompassed its opening and several hours more, I got a chance to see exactly how Daedalic’s two-story approach to a fantasy world I’d never heard of might play out. In terms of the company’s usual adventure game mechanics, things are as expected — Memoria sports an intuitive one-click user interface and an easygoing control set that allows for highlighting hotspots on each screen. There’s also the usual degree of polish and beauty, as, like the developer’s other titles, all the backgrounds of Memoria are hand-drawn and stunning.
But from a storytelling standpoint, Memoria stands apart from the rest of the Daedalic catalog, proving that parallel stories aren’t only possible, they’re a great way to move players into the world of The Dark Eye.
Two Stories, 500 Years Apart
The two stories at the heart of Memoria are that of Geron, a bird catcher living in the present, and Sadja, a princess from the past who endeavored to become a great hero and fight in a war between humans and demons. Apparently, however, Sadja never quite made it to the battlefield. Instead of being remembered forever, she disappeared and her memory faded. Meanwhile, in the present, Geron is tasked with solving the riddle of what happened to Sadja so that he can trade the answer for a magic spell that will save his companion, Nurie.
Through magic, dreams and other methods, Sadja’s story is told in interjections into Geron’s, but rather than compete for attention, both stories manage to work well with one another. Geron is working on a mystery in the present, as it seems a demon is loose in his town, turning people to stone. Hints at what’s going on pop up in Sadja’s story, as she first works her way through a sorcerer’s tomb in search of a powerful artifact, and later tries to make her way to the battlefield for the big throwdown with the demonic hordes.
Both stories compliment one another in such a way that developing them both in parallel manages to stay interesting. Sadja discovers a magical talking staff early in the process of her story, and its powers allow her to make her way through puzzles in the tomb that include controlling magical stone golems. Meanwhile, each new bit of information that comes out of Sadja’s story informs Geron’s in new ways — when he discovers people who have seem to have been petrified by someone searching for the same artifact Sadja recovered five centuries earlier, it’s not hard for him to start drawing conclusions about the thing that seems to be hunting it. When he learns that Sadja’s staff can turn living things to stone, the mystery comes into starker relief.
Magic plays a part in both stories, as well. Geron has an ability that allows him to break and repair fragile objects, which plays a hefty role in the puzzles he goes up against. For Sadja, the staff gains more and more power over time, which makes it somewhat reminiscent of the progression of abilities in The Night of the Rabbit. Both sets of abilities set the characters apart, and both help to keep puzzles evolving over the course of the game.