Memoria Review: Beautiful, Engrossing, Slightly Flawed

The beauty of Memoria is executing the stories of Geron and Sadja simultaneously, even though each is fairly different from the other. Sadja’s story has the woman venturing into a tomb and then puzzling her way out after being sealed inside; Geron’s story is more a slow-burn mystery as he tries to work through the information he learns from Sadja’s tale, even as weird stuff starts to happen in his time that seems related to it. One is a more immediate adventure game narrative, the other is almost a detective story and an unfolding mystery. But both work together ultimately to tell a complete tale, and Memoria does a great job of utilizing these disparate elements to smart effect. You never feel like you just got shoved out of a more interesting story for a more boring one.

That’s a credit in the writing, translation and voice acting, all of which are excellent. Though Geron’s story moves at a slower pace than Sadja’s, perhaps, its characters remain engaging. Trying to reason out what’s happening in the present as clues from the past surface keeps the whole narrative on track. Paired up with Daedalic’s signature puzzles, which are generally not so difficult or esoteric that they become altogether frustrating, and you get a rewarding sense that you are the force pushing the narrative forward — as it should be.

There are a few points where Memoria’s puzzles get a little overzealous, but they’re few and far between. Mostly the game provides you with the tools you need to succeed, and Daedalic’s standard system of highlighting interactive objects and providing a few meaningful hints will usually keep you on track. I did get stalled once or twice, but usually because of something that seemed obvious once I’d realized I had overlooked it. Some others hung me up as I struggled to figure out just what it was I was missing, but on the whole Memoria seems to have fewer of those gamey stumbling blocks than other Daedalic titles. A couple of the more intense, expansive or difficult puzzles, like a maze of paths through the forest that Sadja has to pick her way through by marking her way with colored berries, can be skipped over.

Where Memoria stumbles most is in developing a strong central conflict. Toward the middle of the game, Sadja encounters a prince she recognizes, who is being kept in a prison by a force of magic-users bracing to go to war. The prince, from Sadja’s former hometown, turns out to be the man who orchestrated her trip after the magic artifact in the tomb — apparently he wants it for evil purposes. Just what those purposes are, or who the guy is, or why he’s locked up, are addressed only briefly. When events progress further and the prince becomes more important, it’s tough to understand Sadja’s feelings or relate to them. The prince isn’t Sephiroth — more like some rando who showed up out of nowhere to say mean things.

The climax of the story, too, gets bogged down a bit in the magic-fantasy-lore stuff, at the expense of being a more character-driven moment. That might because neither Geron nor Sadja, or any of the supporting cast, are especially memorable characters. They’re decent-enough heroes and relateable, but they’re nothing like Rufus from Daedalic’s Deponia, or Jerry and the Marquis de Hoto from The Night of the Rabbit. When the stakes are at their highest, Memoria just doesn’t grab like some other games from the developer.

But Memoria is still a strong story in a deep universe, and Daedalic proves its mettle as a teller of interesting, intertwining stories here. It’s a credit to the developer that Memoria can be serious as well as funny, and that it treats its subject matter maturely and with respect. There’s a lot of magic and fantastical stuff being thrown around here, but the story is still a fairly adult one.

Memoria unfolds in an engaging, expertly paced way, and that, coupled with smart puzzles and the depth of the world, makes Memoria a worthy investment for both fans of adventure games, and the more casual player in the genre.

Pros:

  • Quality fantasy story set in the deep, expansive world of The Dark Eye
  • Beautiful hand-drawn art style is on par with anything in Daedalic’s other games; it’s pretty gorgeous
  • Puzzles mostly avoid falling into the trap of being too esoteric or gamey to figure out
  • Two parallel stories come together to create a strong, unified tale
  • Takes its fantasy world and setting seriously; manages to tell a mature story with all the trappings of the fantasy genre

Cons:

  • Lack of especially memorable characters makes it tough to really relate to the stakes of the story
  • A few important elements feel like they’re glossed over, which lessens their impact
  • Central conflict doesn’t really become apparent until late in the game
  • Conclusion feels a bit forced

Final Score: 75/100


Game Front employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.


Read more of Phil Hornshaw’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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