Reviewed On: PC
The Deponia series from Daedalic has become one of my favorite gaming franchises in quite some time, as demonstrated by the fact that I scored both Deponia and Chaos on Deponia highly. But ending a trilogy is not an easy task, as so many developers before have come to learn the hard way, and saying goodbye is harder still. Over the course of three games I’ve come to love Rufus, his antics, his bizarre world and his brilliant “friends.”, and now I must say farewell. Thus this needs to be the best game in the series, and it needs to have the ending that the characters and story deserve.
Whoops. Not quite. But damn close.
Ending a trilogy of games, especially one with such well-written dialogue and characters to whom players like myself can become so very easily attached, is no mean feat. How do you end it? Do you strive for something poignant in order to contrast the weirdness of it all? Sad? Do you perhaps go for fairytale happiness? Do you attempt to tie up everything into a neat little parcel? The key for me is simply that its well-written, makes sense, fits the tone of the game and provides ample closure so that I’m not left with vast questions regarding every character and plot point. Not everything needs to be answered, but as a player who has invested so much time into the franchise I need a degree of closure to feel like the journey was ultimately worth it.
The simple truth of the matter is that after finishing Goodbye Deponia I needed to sit back and reflect on the ending for a few days before even attempting to launch into writing a review. This is the very same thing I needed to do with Mass Effect 3, because like Mass Effect 3 the ending left me reeling and my feelings toward it disjointed and confused. While in this state it’s so easy to let your feelings toward the ending color your opinion of the rest of the game, something which I feel may have happened to many who wrote a review of Mass Effect 3. I didn’t want the final goodbye of Rufus and co. to effect my view of the 7 or so hours of play time before, and so I powered off the computer and walked away.
Yet two days after having finished the game, I’ve failed to sculpt an opinion. I’m divided and confused, and it’s made all the worse by the fact that I can’t talk about it here in any depth for fear of spoiling it for you, dear reader, rather I must talk in a vague manner, which I suppose isn’t much different from normal for me. In some ways the ending is both brilliant and bold, and Daedalic should be commended for not going for the easy way out, yet that doesn’t negate the fact that I also found it an unsatisfying reward for all of the time I invested because it ultimately leaves everything far too open. After three games spent loving these characters there’s little in the way of closure provided. Frustratingly the final minutes of the game somehow manage to actually raise far more questions than are answered, driving me to conclude that we’ve not seen the last of this world, and that in attempting to leave it open for continuation Daedalic struggled to create a fulfilling ending. There are numerous threads left hanging. There are some plot elements that simply don’t seem to tie together very well. There’s also a massive, gaping plot-hole that honestly left me slack-jawed because just minutes before a character had spent several lines of dialogue explaining how this very event could not happen this way. I don’t know who wrote that little section of the game, but good grief it was stupid.
There are aspects of the ending I love, and others that I hate. I wouldn’t hesitate to call it a smart finale in many regards, certainly unexpected and shocking, but not one that is liable to leave you feeling satisfied. I walked away feeling let-down because the fates of my favourite characters was left largely a mystery, much like I did with Mass Effect 3. My mind immediately began to try to piece together what just happened, why it happened and what certain moments meant. Why had this scene occurred? And what about that one? Did I view that moment correctly, or was that just bad writing? Did it mean what I thought? What was going on here? I began to ponder what had happened after the credits rolled, anguishing over plot points, character’s future’s and more, because the game sure as hell wasn’t going to tell me any of it. I was expected to let go of these characters with nary a moment of their fate shown to me. You can certainly argue that perhaps it’s a good thing that much of the ending is left to the imagination, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing that Daedalic had wrapped everything up a little nicer. Not every thread need to be resolved, but in this instance barely any of them were. The ending is likely to be polarizing, then, but if I had to guess I would say that more will walk away disliking it than will walk away loving it. It’s a rare instance in which an ending is praiseworthy and brave for its direction and aspects of its plot, yet truly unlikable for the way in which it handles other aspects of it. God, am I conflicted right now.
If I had to force myself to write an opinion, though, then I’d say that ultimately I didn’t enjoy the ending. I believe that there are some great moments contained within it that do absolute justice to the character of Rufus and are a credit to Daedalic, that are clever and great, but that there are far more moments that feel poorly written, and others that simply don’t make a whole lot of sense. Top it off with a lack of resolution and you have an ending that left me feeling disappointed, not because it was sad nor happy, but because it simply doesn’t come together properly. But if nought else it is at least a compliment to Daedalic and these games that I’ve been left reeling. The very worst thing that could have happened would have been if I’d seen the ending and really felt nothing. It’s a compliment to the series that I’ve become so invested that I’m still thinking about that ending. I’m still switching between being let-down by it and sort of liking it. Who knows, maybe in another month my opinion will have changed.
But enough time has been devoted to writing about the ending, how does Goodbye Deponia stack up in other areas? How does the story fair? What about the gameplay? Goodbye Deponia has some of the best and worst moments of the series, both in its narrative and its puzzle design.
Things pick up shortly after Chaos on Deponia with our hapless hero Rufus once again attempting to make his way to Elysium by any means possible with the lovely Goal in tow, all while trying to prevent the destruction of his planet at the hands of the Organnon. It doesn’t take long for everything to descend into mayhem and for a number of elaborate plot-twists to get thrown into an already mind-boggling storyline. As always the dialogue and humor shine, this time managing to smash the fourth wall numerous times by referencing other Daedalic games and the fact that critics mentioned how the some of the humor was lost in translation from the original German in the prior Deponia games. It’s a crass game most of the time, thoroughly making the most of the ludicrous scenarios that Rufus creates and the misery he ends up inflicting on others to draw a laugh from the player. You’ll tempt a giant monster that’s sworn off of eating tasty kids, discover Mario in a pub, stay at a strange hotel, meet a ghost with a thing for watching people sing in the shower, take part in a strange ritual in the laundry room, sell a woman into slavery and impress an adoring fan. The dialogue is well-written, every conversation eliciting a smile, and the jokes are brilliant and rude, but like before there’s also a number of times when the jokes fall flat on their face. This isn’t a game with razor-sharp wit nor a sophisticated palette, it’s a game of one-liners and absurdity. And yet mixed throughout are the occasional dark moments. The humour in the Deponia games has always been dark to a degree, and here it ventures into the realms of nearly black a few times, include one or two moments that were actually a touch uncomfortable. But the game doesn’t quite steps over the line, instead dancing wildly on it, perhaps teetering dangerously a few times but never placing a firm foot on the wrong side.
And then there’s Rufus himself. As before he remains the centre of the games humour, his cocky, arrogant, selfish attitude bringing dismay and destruction to all those he meets along the way. He’s a ego-driven douchebag in almost every sense, and the game relies entirely on that for its humour, and thus also relies on the player enjoying Rufus as a character. Many people have found that they simply couldn’t enjoy the Deponia games because they couldn’t relate to Rufus at all, which is a valid criticism, but one that’s moot for this review since we’re three games in. Rufus has the firm belief that he’s a heroic savior of the world, destined to get the girl and save the day. But the game itself never paints him as a true hero, it just thrusts him into the precarious position of being the only one that might be able to save the day, probably by complete accident.
His personality has shifted slightly in this and the previous game, though, and not for the best at times. In the first game he was a lovable asshole who never deliberately set out to hurt people. In his own arrogance he concocted insane plans that inevitably failed, leading to others being hurt, upset or angered, but despite the fact that he never apologised for these things he never actually set out to actually harm anyone. It was Rufus’ inability to think this his plan through in its entirety and the possible consequences that led to disaster, not some sadistic desire to see others hurt. It was an important line drawn in the sand, painting Rufus as a jerk, but a fun jerk. But in the second game it seems that the writers got caught up a little and he displayed a few moments where the lovable bit went away. In Goodbye Deponia there were also quite a few instances when Rufus went from being a lovable asshole to just being a regular asshole, seemingly going out of his way to hurt people in plans where he quite clearly knew what he was doing and taking a small amount persevere delight in it. Rufus is normally a douchebag, but not quite in this way. These moments tend to come in those brief scenes of near-black humour that I mentioned earlier and are thankfully rare. For the rest of the time Rufus is his usual manic, barmy, selfish, cocky and unapologetic self, causing carnage wherever he ventures with his haphazard schemes and rarely failing to make me grin.
Indeed, Goodbye Deponia firmly chooses to focus nearly entirely on Rufus this time around, giving us some opportunities to learn just a little more of his personality and in turn making him just a little more sympathetic. There’s a brilliant scene involving Rufus lying on a psychiatrists couch that’s both incredibly funny and illuminating. Little snippets of information simply flesh him out a bit more than before.
While the focus on Rufus gives ample opportunity to explore his personality more, it does come at the expense of the supporting cast of characters, most of whom barely even get a look in throughout the story. Doc appears in just a couple of scenes with only a few lines of dialogue, while Bozo and Toni get a bit more time but still far less than you would expect. Even Goal is largely ignored, barely getting any screen time due to the fact that Rufus once again manages to find a way of inflicting absurdity upon her. With this being the last game it’s a real shame that we don’t get to spend more time with them all, especially Goal since the relationship between her and Rufus has always been, to me, at least, the core of the story. Sure, there’s saving the world to be done, but ultimately I always viewed the Deponia games as a love story at their heart The good side to this is that both Argus and Cletus get to have their presence felt more as they play a far more integral part of the story this time around.
What’s a puzzle game without the puzzles. Like always you wander through the beautiful environments and pilfer everything and anything that isn’t nailed down, while acquiring any handy object that might also allow you to pilfer the stuff that’s nailed down. Once you’ve got a coat full of things it’s time to start trying to combine them with other objects in order to get results. Standard stuff, in other words, but as anyone who has played the past games know the key to the Deponia series is that it does this classic formula well, managing to capture the essence of what made the old point and click games great. It’s the Monkey Island of the modern games, a high compliment from me indeed considering my love of that series.
As any point and click veteran knows the key to a good puzzle game is that it must have a consistent brand of logic that you can attune yourself to, otherwise puzzles can become a frustrating experience as you’re left to simply click on things until something happens. Aside from a few mishaps throughout the series Daedalic have done this well by putting players into the shoes of Rufus and gently nudging them into his mindset. Solutions to puzzles may indeed be truly barmy and defy our own, every day brand of common sense, but once you understand how Rufus’ energetic mind works things begin to fall into place, and carefully placed hints within character dialogue and item descriptions help you unravel even the most absurd methods. For the most part Goodbye Deponia also succeeds in its puzzles, but there are also quite a number of conundrums where any semblance of logic that the game has simply vanishes, leaving obtuse solutions to the problem at hand that do little more than annoy and bring the pace of the game to a grinding halt.
Mini-games also return and include a couple of ingenious challenges, like pretending to be someones reflection in a mirror by mimicking their movements while they brush their teeth, although my own favourite involves trying to redirect the gaze of security cameras. They all provide a welcome break to the usual flow of item-based puzzling, although that tooth brushing one is damn finicky, and unlike said puzzles can also be skipped by clicking the small X on the screen, should you find yourself struggling with them a bit. By all that is holy I wish there was a skip button on some of those annoying puzzles.
Pacing does remain a problem for the series with the opening hour or two set entirely within a strange hotel that while damn funny has zero impact on the overall plot nor developing any of the characters. And then a long section during the middle of the game drags on as you perform a seemingly endless supply of pointless tasks for little progression. This prolonged lull in the game is due to the fact that our hapless hero manages to wind up with three versions of himself running around, leading to roughly 3x the mayhem creating potential. As a gameplay mechanic it works pretty well: three portraits at the bottom of the screen allow you to flip between Rufuses at will, and not long after being introduced to that you’re also presented with the ability to share items between them. It’s a fun idea and one that is at its very best during the few scenes on which the Rufuses get together, their banter producing some of the most memorable scenes in the game.
However, considering how the idea of having three Rufuses around the place was one of the key selling points of the game the entire concept feels oddly underplayed, the interaction between each of them is kept basic. Mostly puzzles come down to handing a few items back and forth or something that one Rufus does conveniently helping out another, and while this does add a little more the gameplay as you try to keep track of everything that you’ve got stowed away in your seemingly infinite pocket-space, all it essentially amounts to is having one big inventory split into three parts. It does also of course open up plenty of room for awkward progression. Indeed, it’s within this section of the game where some of the more obtuse and irritating puzzles pop-up as you attempt to figure whether your inability to do certain things is because you’ve not come up with the correct solution or because you’ve not met certain criteria with one of the other Rufuses yet. But perhaps above all else Daedalic also missed a prime opportunity for some greatly funny banter between Rufus, Rufus and Rufus. The very few opportunities they do get to talk to each other are highlights of the game, and yet sadly they’re kept apart most of the time.
Don’t get me wrong, though: having three Rufuses doesn’t damage the game. The section may drag on a little longer than it really should but there’s also some great moments within it and jumping between each Rufus does at least manage to bring a little more variety into a genre that otherwise has barely changed over the years. I’d simply have liked to have them interact a little more for the fun banter it produces, and feel like swapping between them had more of an impact on puzzles somehow, although I freely admit that I have no idea how that could have been accomplished. But hey, I’m not a developer, I’m just the bloke poking at stuff with a stick and commenting on it when it wobbles or shakes an angry fist at me.
Sadly the hint system we’ve seen appear in the past couple of Daedalic point and click titles (Night of the Rabbit and The Dark Eye: Memoria) hasn’t made the transition to Goodbye Deponia to try and help alleviate some of those brain-damaging puzzles. But the patented Daedalic highlighter is at least still present and correct – hold down the space bar and everything that you can interact with in a scene will be highlighted for your convenience and putting an end to those dreaded pixel hunts of point and click games from the past.
Of course we’ve got to stop and chat about the games beautiful graphics. I’ve gushed about them in my reviews of Deponia and Chaos on Deponia as well, so it hardly seems necessary to do it again here, but I’m going to anyway. Deponia has become of my favourite game worlds, all thanks to Daedalic’s wonderful hand-drawn art style which brings every single scene to life, managing to inject every location and character with more personality than any number of photo-realistic shooters could ever hope of achieving. I could be imagining things, here, but the colors seem a little deeper in Goodbye Deponia, and the animations during cutscenes are considerably smoother than they were in the past two games where they could be a bit jerky. The game simply looks glorious from start to finish. However, to play devil’s advocate a few criticisms of mine do remain: animation transitions can still look a bit clumsy and Rufus could really do with having a broader range of animations as well, just to make him look a little more fluid.
On the audio front things remain great with a cast of voice actors who rarely miss a beat. Rufus has never sounded more condescending and Goal has never sounded more thoughtful and reserved. There are a couple of minor characters where the acting is a little questionable, but all in all the cast do a damn fine job of bringing their characters to life, something which the dialogue of course helps with immensely. The backing music isn’t anything special but it’s pretty catchy and fits the on-screen stuff well, while the ballads sung by the hobo remain hilarious, if not everyone’s cup of tea.
Goodbye Deponia weaves into its brilliant story and cast of characters some of the best puzzles the series has seen, and yet also hides within itself some of the most obtuse and annoying as well. In the end Goodbye Deponia simply isn’t as consistent as it’s predecessors, exhibiting signs of brilliance and bloody-minded stupidity, but happily for all of us the scales tip in the direction of brilliance more than stupidity.
Goodbye Deponia isn’t the perfect farewell to what I view as one of the best trilogies in gaming, but then this is not a perfect world and such things don’t truly exist. Nor is Goodbye Deponia the best game in the trilogy – that honor is a tie between Deponia and Chaos on Deponia. It’s a funny game filled with good puzzles and brilliant moments, but it also has quite a few frustrating challenges, loses sight of some of the best characters and finishes with a sour note that is both clever and yet unsatisfying. Even with these problems, though Goodbye Deponia is a lot of fun, and even as the weakest of the trilogy it remains one of the best point and click games around.
+ As funny as ever.
+ Some truly memorable puzzles.
+ Looks amazing.
– The ending will be polarizing.
– Obtuse solutions to puzzles.
– Side characters get ignored.
The Verdict: 4/5 – Great
Not quite the perfect send-off for Rufus and his chums, but still a great adventure filled with brilliant characters and quirky humour.