Reviews

Chaos on Deponia – Review

Platforms: PC/MAC
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Daedalic
Developer: Daedalic
Singleplayer: Yes
Multiplayer: No

This game was provided free of charge by Daedalic Entertainment.

You might remember that a little while back I became highly enamored with Daedalic Entertainment’s Deponia, a massively funny, charming, pretty and fantastically designed point-and-click game that provided some of the best gameplay the genre has to offer this side of Monkey Island. As a planned trilogy my only truly major complaint with the game was that the cliff-hanger ending felt rather abrupt and unsatisfying, but now the second game in the series is here to right the wrongs of the first game and provide an even better experience. Needless to say, I was pretty excited about this one, and as it turned out I had every right to be: Chaos on Deponia is bigger, funnier and just as good to play.

Unlike the slow beginning of the first game Daedalic wastes absolutely no time in throwing you into the action this around. Things kick off with our beloved, self-obsessed, slightly delusional, totally ego-driven anti-hero Rufus complaining bitterly that the opening tutorial is exactly the same as the first game’s, setting the scene nicely for the type of humor you can expect going forwards, and rather ironically for the simple fact that Chaos on Deponia feels rather… familiar. After that you’re straight into a cutscene with Rufus, in his own unique way, explaining to his beloved Goal what’s been going on and why there’s now a massive sawblade embedded in the side of her Escape Pod.  We’re then  whiskedoff to a prologue and your very first puzzle where you doddle around the house of a familiar character and proceed to trash their kitchen, kill their bird and accidentally set fire to the house, all while they happily chat about Rufus and how he has grown and wouldn’t do such things as trash their house, kill their bird or set fire to their house any more. It’s a fast paced, fun and, far more importantly, absolutely hilarious introduction to the game. The sense of humor that made Deponia so great prevails here, providing even more laughs than the first game, whether it’s from the sales robot with its creator held captive in its glass dome of a head or acquiring a magic cucumber from a blind pharmacist.

 At the centre of it remains Rufus, the deluded “hero” of the story who has a complete disregard for the safety of other people, a massively inflated opinion of himself and doesn’t really understand that the world doesn’t revolve entirely around him. In other words he’s a bit of a dick and you shouldn’t like him, and yet just like the first game you’ll be hard pressed not to. He’s got an undeniable rough charm, although it is a shame to see that the better aspects of his personality which slowly emerged during the course of the first game have been repressed somewhat here, or at least for the first while. Very late in the game he once again begins to exhibit the beginnings of genuine decency, just like he did in Deponia, giving the sensation that as a character he was almost reset for the sequel.  His cast of quirky supporting characters are even better than before bringing to the table a variety of personalities that are distinct and well written, although none of them quite match the brilliance of Gizmo, a character who I had a great fondness for. Several familiar faces return along with some great new additions. The wacky conversations you often find yourself in with these odd people provide some of the best moments in the game. The situations that Rufus finds himself in and the solutions he comes up with for many of them are simply hilarious, with quite a bit of 4th wall-breaking humor thrown in as well, including Rufus’ himself referencing the fact the has to come up with absurdly contrived ways of doing things. Hands down this is the funniest game since Monkey Island. High praise, indeed, but justified. There were few moments when I wasn’t grinning like an idiot or chuckling away to myself. No doubt, though, the style of humor on offer here won’t be to everybody’s taste.

So with the tutorial out of the way and the prologue handled, it’s on to Chaos on Deponia’s storyline. One of the greatest things about the original Deponia was that underneath all the insanity and… more insanity, there was a genuinely engaging and fun story filled with great characters and that brilliant humor, underpinned by a simple love story. The only flaw that I had noted in the storyline was that the ending was both abrupt and rather unsatisfying, leaving us with a massive cliffhanger and nothing else. The great news is that Chaos on Deponia doesn’t do the same thing: the game’s final hour builds toward a nice climax and we’re left again with a cliffhanger, but also with enough resolution to make seeing the end rewarding. The bad news, though, is that while ensuring a better ending Daedalic fell foul of one of the biggest trilogy pit-falls, a slowly advancing plot. Chaos on Deponia doesn’t move the overarching story of the Organon attempting to blow the snot out of Deponia all that much, and it does it slowly. This is largely because  in structure it’s a copy of the first game. Allow me to explain: the stage is set, Deponia is going to be blown up, Rufus is trying to stop it, mostly because he’s still it, and he still wants to get to Elysium with the love of his life Goal. As we all know things didn’t exactly go to plan in the first game, but he’s ready to get going once again! Everything is there for a great continuation to the story, but that gets cocked-up by the fact that in the opening minutes Goal gets her implant damaged for the second time in two bloody games, with the end result being her personality getting split into three individuals that the player can swap between with a remote. Rufus’ goal is  then to get Doc to reunite these aspects of her personality, but to do so involves a round-about method wherein he has to complete lots of pointless tasks. The end result is that you feel like you’re narratively back pretty much where you started: in the first game you spent the majority of your time wandering around a town doing lots of daft tasks to try to get Goal to wake up so you could get on with the plot, and in this one you spend the majority of your time wandering around a town doing lots of daft tasks to try to put Goal back together again so you can get on with the plot. Sound familiar? Yeah. Even after you’ve done all that, the structure continues to feel pretty similar to the first.  As a result of this Chaos on Deponia’s narrative barely even gets off the ground until well into the game when you suddenly get a small blast of information that advances the storyline and then nothing again until the very end. Still, when these two moments do come they deliver some great twists to the overall storyline and ensured I was eager to find out what happens in the next game, but in the end it leaves the game’s story feeling a little like filler before the big finale in game three.

But okay, while it doesn’t show as much of the big picture as much and as fast as I would have liked, at least the rest of the story is pretty enjoyable. As I said, narratively it does feel like things are back to square one a little with any character growth Rufus achieved in the first game getting reset and Goal spending a lot of the time as three different people, but there’s some genuinely great moments between them, as well as some fairly dark moments later in the story that contrasted the otherwise lively and bright humor of the game nicely. It puts me in a bit of a strange position in regards to how I feel about the story, because the humor, dialog and characters are all superb and there’s plenty of fantastic moments. But I just can’t shake the feeling that it all feels like we’ve taken a step backwards leaving the overall narrative hanging. Upon reflection, then, I felt that Chaos on Deponia told a weaker tale than the first game, but still very a very enjoyable one.

 In my review of the first game I talked avidly about how the game felt it had been built and designed by people with a genuine passion and love for the genre, and once again that shows through in the puzzles and general gameplay in Chaos on Deponia. The gameplay in the original Deponia was an outstanding example of the point-and-click puzzle genre, and nothing has changed here. Like before the name of the game is point and click your way through the game, picking up and pocketing every item you possibly can in the sure knowledge that it can usually be combined or used in conjunction with something else to solve some ludicrous puzzle down the road. As any lover of the genre knows the trick to a masterful point-and-click game is that puzzles have to make sense within the context of their world and have enough of a basis in logic, however mind-bending that may be, to make solving it a matter of brainpower rather than simply clicking on everything until something happens. The first game understood this well, and so does its sequel. This time around rather than spend ages trying to tinker and change the formula, which would have been rather pointless, they’ve simply focused on creating a wider and better variety puzzles for the player, and they’ve succeeded, up to a point, anyway. For Chaos on Deponia Daedalic have gone with a slightly more open structure to their game, allowing you to solve several different puzzles in whatever order you like rather than the first game’s more linear progression. It’s a small but welcome change to the gameplay, although it does seem to have come at a slight cost as the dialog doesn’t feel like it’s as good at dropping hints as to what you need to be doing as the original, sometimes leaving you bumbling around until you accidentally wander into something helpful. Still, there’s a wider variety of truly fiendish and ingenious puzzles in Chaos on Deponia,  from a cheeky challenge involving music, which may be one of the best puzzles ever seen in the genre  to patiently putting together a plan that can be summarized by a rebel leader with a speech impediment this is a masterclass of design. The mini-games also make a welcome return and retain the option to skip them should you be finding it to hard or just plain frustrating. However, you’ll probably only need that option in one particular mini-game involving fighting, because like the puzzles the rest are fantastic to solve. Both puzzles and mini-games alike almost always feel like there’s enough logic for you to solve them by thinking about it, and you’ll almost always enjoy doing so because of the sheer insanity of most of them. However, in their ambition to create a wider variety of puzzle styles and better challenges Daedalic have also created a few moments where logic flies out the window, into the river, clambers onto the boat and sails away for a distant country, leaving you to just randomly click on some stuff in the hopes that it’ll let you progress. And then there’s a few moments where the stupidity of what you’re doing doesn’t even make sense in the game’s own context. A flag-mast that needs human ashes to work? What the hell is that about!? Little things like that and the sometimes absurd stuff you end up doing do sort of leave you with the impression that at points Daedalic were just creating daft hoops for you to jump through simply to flesh out the game, rather than for actual gameplay purposes.

The game’s overall presentation is once again absolutely outstanding, with the trademark graphical style that made the first game so recognizable bringing the world of Deponia to life. Everything is hand drawn in a quirky and vibrant style, and like the first game I often found myself stopping simply to soak it all in. That’s the great thing about point-and-click games; you can stop to smell the roses without getting shot in the face or stabbed or beaten up or blown up or run over. There’s definitely more of it to soak in as well, with Daedalic creating even more environments this time around to enjoy, each of which is packed with detail. My only true complaint, more of a gripe really, is that it would be nice to have more dynamic backgrounds as they’re mostly static currently. It’s not just the environments that look pretty, either, as the character designs once again ooze personality from their every pore. Rufus himself has also had a bit if improvement with some new animations being added into his repertoire, although to be honest he still needs a few more yet as sometimes his facial expressions don’t really do justice to what’s going on. The background music is also absolutely fantastic with much of it having been copy and pasted straight from the first game; it’s catchy, just as quirky as the graphics and suits the game well. Oh, and those epic ballads between chapters make a happy return!

I’ve struggled to write about Chaos on Deponia, as you may well have already noticed. The simple fact is that everything I want to say about this game I said in my review of the original. In fact I got quite carried away talking about it. This is more of the same, from its gameplay to its story structure. This is by no means a bad thing: Deponia was a fantastic point-and-click game with very few flaws, so there was really no reason to try to change the formula all that much, and anyway, there’s no a whole lot that can be changed in the genre. Chaos on Deponia improves on its predecessor with a better and wider variety of puzzles, a great cast of characters and an even funnier sense of humor, but also disappoints just a little with very little overall story progression and a structure that feels like it was lifted straight from the first game, leaving you with a sense of deja vu. It remains one of the best point-and-click games around, capturing all the joy of the likes of Monkey Island while maintaining a modern feel. Bring on the third one, I say.

The Good:
+ Still looks beautiful.
+ Still plays great!
+ Some fiendish puzzles.

The Bad:
– Overall story progression is slow.
– Feels like you’re back at the start again.
– Still some moments when logic goes out the window in favor of trial and error.

The Score:

Graphics: 10
While no technical marvel, Chaos on Deponia features the same beautiful art style that made me fall in love with the first game. The new environments are largely static but are pretty as can be and a few new animations help make things a bit slicker.

Sound: 9
Catchy background music keeps things fun and the voice acting is terrific.

Story: 7.5
The overall narrative only gets two real areas in which it progresses, but at least they do keep things interesting. Otherwise the plot is fun, but weaker than the first game.

Gameplay: 9.5
A wider and more cunning variety of puzzles are sure to keep you scratching your head. This is the genre at its finest, but there are some frustrating moments when simply clicking on everything rather than skill feels like the answer.

Lifespan: 8
Longer than the first game, clocking in at around 12-15 hours, depending on how much you get stuck or struggle, which isn’t bad for a point-and-click game.

The Verdict: 9
In some ways weaker, in other ways better, Chaos on Deponia ends up being just as good as the first game, which is to say pretty dang good! If you’re a fan of the old point-and-click adventure games, and Monkey Island in particular, then you owe it to yourself to play Chaos on Deponia.

 

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