So fair warning up top, I have not played any of the other Deponia games going into this. I didn’t really know what to expect, but was assuaged by the reports that Deponia Doomsday isn’t a sequel but a “paralellical,” so that wouldn’t matter. That is incorrect, it definitely does matter, and I don’t think if you are completely unfamiliar with the Deponia series you will get much out of this game. Deponia Doomsday is the fourth game in the Deponia series, a point-and-click adventure game by Daedalic Entertainment released this month. I sat down with it and while I saw glimpses of what has made this series incredibly popular, I can’t in good conscious recommend it to anyone.
Starting with the absolute positives, this game is beautiful and I loved every frame that appeared on my screen. There is so much detail crammed into every cartoonish scene, but it is never cramped, and brings everything to life. It never felt as if anything was added to confuse your eyes or make it harder to find the items you needed, and I appreciated that I could stop and just enjoy the story these environments and background characters were telling on their own. Also, the voice acting was top-notch. The actors did a great job with the best and most abysmal material they were given.
This is a very good thing considering there is just… so much frakkin dialogue. And maybe some of the faults can be attributed to the fact Daedalic Entertainment is a German development studio, but if you are going to make me sit through 10+ minutes of dialogue at a time, it had better be good. It certainly should not have infuriatingly long pauses between each sentence that make me pull my damn hair out. Thank god you can click through, if you choose, but it is maddening that I had to click through 8 not-solid quips to get to the next dialogue option.
Side note; this may just be a personal pet peeve of mine, but do not give me dialogue options if I have to go through all of them anyway. It is a terrible illusion of choice and wastes my time when I would just rather it play out for me because it’s going to anyway. There are some sections where you kind of have a choice, but sometimes you can only get hints or items by selecting certain dialogue options, and since you are not telling me which ones they are, game, I have to go through all of them!
Sorry, sorry… where was I? Oh yeah, dialogue! The main character, Rufus, is awful. I hated selecting any of the options mainly because they were all insufferable and, sometimes, pretty insensitive. I’m sure no one meant anything mean spirited behind it, but when a male character gets beaten into becoming a female, and I have to tell her that she’s not pretty because her legs are too hairy, well that’s awful on a many levels. There’re a few misstepped “jokes” that harken back to a time when we didn’t know better. And I would hope that when we know better, we do better, but we didn’t, and it just left a poor taste in my mouth.
I can’t really comment on the story because I have no idea what happened to it. The parts that I understood hinted at something pretty interesting, which was all the more disappointing when I lost it. There are clearly a lot of references to events that happened in the other games that went over my head and made a huge chunk of the game feel inaccessible to me as a newcomer. The fact that it was a time travel story did not help that one bit – I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who wants to play, but it really ratchets up in the last 2 hours of the game. Just a lot of time jumping and not knowing the “parallel” story, it got too much for me and I couldn’t really tell you how the game ended at all. The tone also shifted, being very flippant for most of the game and then suddenly getting incredibly serious and heavy was a shock. I started to care about these characters and what was happening to them, but it was too little too late in my eyes.
In terms of gameplay, you have standard point-and-click adventure fair here, collect and combine to solve puzzles. I wouldn’t personally call them puzzles, but before I wail too heavily on this game let’s break it up with some positivity! Some of the mechanics were not awful! I appreciated the ability to see everything interactive in the scene to give some clue of what was needed to progress. Left clicking lets you use or select something and right click lets you have a look at an item or environment object, and I think this worked really well. You click to move Rufus around, but you can double-click an exit arrow to immediately move to the next environment without having to wait for him to walk across the screen every time (which I am grateful for). This game has enough needless padding without that as well.
Yeah, the point-and-click part was annoying. I appreciate a good puzzle as much as the next person sitting next to me who loves puzzles, but that was not what these were. I’m aware that this genre of games can have pretty, let’s call it “lateral” logic, when it comes to puzzles and how they are solved. That’s great, working through to find the out of left field solution is extremely satisfying and gives a rush that is problematically addicting. This, however, is trial and error, and it’s infuriating. Some of the early solutions are not hard to work out, but then it gets absurd, and with occasional timed sections that make you restart chapter sections if you mess them up. No ma’am. I am not ashamed to admit that I had to use a walkthrough, and when I saw some of the solutions that I hadn’t been able to get, I just felt cheated that I didn’t even get an aha moment. It wasn’t a case of, “right, that’s what I was missing, of course, it’s so clear.” It was just, “oh, I missed that particular combination of things during my trial and error montage.”
At the end of the day, Deponia Doomsday is a game that many people are probably going to really like, especially for fans of the series and those who are very forgiving of these games not having thoughtful puzzles. But as a newcomer, it did nothing to entice me into playing the other games, it made me mad and frustrated in parts, and just disappointed mostly that it wasn’t better. The only part of me that would want to play any other Deponia game is the one that’s frankly baffled this is such a popular series. I wanted to enjoy along with those people, but it just wasted 9 hours of my time and almost 3.5GB of hard drive space briefly.