Available On: PC
Reviewed: On: PC
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Ah, Daedalic, you’ve quietly worked your way into my heart through your beautifully crafted point and click titles. Churning out quality titles Daedalic are on a mission to prove that there’s still a place for the classic genre in this bullet riddled world of murky browns and bland greys. Their newest title Memories is yet another example of why point and click games are brilliant, presenting a wonderfully crafted world, engaging story and great gameplay.
The Dark Eye: Memoria is a direct sequel to the Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav, once again following the adventures of Geron the bird-catcher and his Faerie friend who is trapped within the shape of a raven. In order to avoid spoilers and ensure that I won’t get any angry emails I won’t go into any details regarding the plot of Chains of Satinav. Though it is a direct sequel The Dark Eye: Memoria doesn’t require you to have played the previous game as it tells a new tale using the familiar characters, allowing newcomers to leap straight in and enjoy. Of course, while it isn’t required having played the previous game will be a big help, otherwise you might feel initially confused as to why there’s a talking raven that was a faerie, and what past events characters are referring to. For this reason I would certainly have liked to have seen a short video or text explanation quickly detailing the plot of last game. Don’t worry, though, any initial confusion will vanish fairly quickly as you find yourself caught up in what I firmly believe to one of the best stories to be told in the past year or two.
Playing as Geron you’re seeking out a way to transform your Faerie girlfriend Nuri back to her true form. While Nuri isn’t the most fleshed out character her voice actor succeeds in making you care, giving you an immediate and effective connection to both her and Geron. In an effort to achieve his goal Geron learns of a travelling merchant named Fahi who promises to help transform Nuri, provided Geron helps him solve an ancient riddle in return, a riddle that relates to a princess who lived hundreds of years ago. What follows is a brilliant tale that jumps back and forth between Geron and Sadja, the princess intent on ensuring that her deeds are remembered for all time. As we meet her she is intent on acquiring a magical mask that boasts strange properties which she believes will help her win a massive war.
Geron is a solid enough character whose heartfelt desire to help Nuri provides the driving force behind his side of the tale, but it’s the story of Sadja where the game shines. Her desire to be remembered by her deeds and her reasons for that desire craft a fascinating take. Her backstory is revealed throughout the game and gives her character a real sense of depth. She’s strong, determined and yet vulnerable. She’s scared that she’ll be forgotten, and uncovering the story behind her life is one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in a game for a while. I felt invested in her and her story, as well as Geron’s, and that’s the hallmark of a well-written plot.
Geron and Sadja are also wonderfully contrasted. While Geron is the reluctant hero intent on helping his friend, Sadja is actively seeking fame and can often be cold and calculating on order to achieve that. It would have been so easy for Sadja to become an unlikable character because of this, but she is quite the opposite, her personality multi-faceted and interesting.
It’s not perfect as there are some moments of clumsy dialogue and barely concealed exposition that can jar you out of your reverie somewhat, but then it’s hard to care when the lore and world are so interesting. The Dark Eye series by Daedelic are actually based off of a German roleplaying game of the same name, giving the developers plenty of work with and that shows through the subtle, complex storyline. As you go along there’s a talking magical staff who quickly becomes a fascinating character, again with an intriguing back story, flying fortresses and even Satinav, the keeper of time who writes every event down within his book, recording each second of history. It’s a fascinating and engrossing world, and one that is brought to life through beautiful hand-drawn visuals which pack more character and detail than most triple-A realistic games could ever hope to accomplish. Oddly, though, the characters are animated in such a way that when they move they stand out considerably from the background, creating a disconnect that took me a little while to get used to. This little problem aside Memoria is eye-candy from start to finish with lovely environments bursting with color to ogle at. Hell, just look at the pictures adorning this page and try to tell me it’s not pretty.
The quality of the sound is superb as well, with lovely background music setting the mood nicely and some great voicework helps mask those occasional dialogue problems, though it must be said that there are a few dodgy examples of acting going on, too.
Dialogue trees aren’t exactly new to Daedalic’s titles but they feel more fleshed out here, offering players a chance to get more in-depth with the plot or simply skip through things as fast as they can to get back to the gameplay. Better yet the connections between your chosen dialogue option and the person’s reply feels quite natural, unlike other games where it can often feel a little clumsy as conversations fail to flow as naturally as they should.
The story setup seeps into the gameplay as well, with players taking control of both Geron and Princess Sadja through the story, allowing the developers to quickly change environments and characters and thus keep things interesting. The key component to any point and click adventure game is the logic surrounding the puzzles. They must either make sense within the context of the game itself or fit within our own everyday logic to succeed. This is where many examples of the genre have failed, expecting players to make insane leaps of logic to solve puzzles, usually leaving them to click wildly on things until something happens and they can progress, all while feeling like they didn’t really achieve anything. My favorite Daedalic title, Deponia, was guilty of this to an extend with some puzzles that defied my way thinking and even the game’s own internal logic at times. Memoria, however, has gone down the route of mostly sensible puzzle solutions, making for a rather satisfying game where sitting back and thinking about things for a second is usually more effective than clicking frantically on stuff. Take for example an early puzzle in which you must grind up some herbs. Rather than having to perform some baffling arcane ritual that requires numerous relics and a tomato you simply put the herbs in a bowl and use the handle of your knife to grind them up. Of course puzzles do become significantly more complex than that as the game goes along, but it’s a fine example of how the logic works. Another example is to distract someone not by some baffling series of events, but by simply smashing a glass. There were only a couple of times throughout the game when I found myself haphazardly trying items on absolutely everything in the hopes that something would work and magically allow me to move on.
There is a dark side to this more sensible logic, though, which is that the game can’t account for any of the other solutions that your mind tells you should work. Going back to the herbs there was a pot in the corner which my mind figured would work perfectly for grinding up herbs in, but the game refused this logic because it wasn’t the exact pot that it had intended for me to utilise. This isn’t a huge problem but can catch you off sometimes.
There are, as you might expect, a few duff puzzles along the way where the sensible logic takes a short break in favor of slightly more baffling thought processes. These, however, are the exception to the rule, and for the most part the puzzle design in Memoria is great with some real head-scratchers coming along that are incredibly satisfying to solve. However, as enjoyable as they are I there’s no puzzle that really sticks in my mind, nothing that makes me think back and say, “Damn, that really was ingenious.” There’s nothing like that classic puzzle in Monkey Island where a weight is holding you underwater and the solution is so damn simply that it takes you a while to think of it.
Should you find yourself banging your head on a wall out of sheer frustration due to being stuck there is actually a hint system in place to sooth your tortured soul, but much like Night of the Rabbit, Daedelic’s previous charming adventure, it fails in that it’s just not very helpful. On occasion the hint system does provide a helpful hand, but a lot of the time it simply didn’t offering no help for the puzzle I was stuck on and instead offering advice on something else completely. What’s more the hint system is bafflingly hidden away in a menu located with the journal and the game never tells you it’s there, trusting that you’ll simply wander into the journal, which you likely won’t as there’s never reason to, and notice the small logo. Given the nature of the game it would have made more sense, I feel, for the developers to inform players that the system is there and ready to help. Well, sometimes.
If you played Daedalic’s previous title, Night of the Rabbit, and I sincerely hope that you did, then you’ll find a common theme running through Memoria in the form of the magic spells at your disposal. Geron himself begins with an unimpressive magical ability that lets him break and mend objects, though the game is carefully selective in what things you’re actually allowed to use the spell on. Though a spell like that may not impress Gandalf it does make for some rather interesting gameplay. As you progress through the game you’ll get to use more spells, such as one that can petrify certain things. The most interesting spell can send visions to a person provided you have a personal item of theirs. Cast the spell and you must pick out any three of the highlighted objects in the environment, objects which will get across an idea or emotion in order to influence your desired target. The inclusion of spells is great, adding an extra dimension to the gameplay, but I would have liked to have seen them used a little more. I only used the vision spell a couple of times, and felt that more could have been done with and the others.
Holding down the spacebar at anytime during play automatically highlights every object you can interact with in the environment, putting an end to old point and click curse of having to carefully prowl the screen with your mouse in an almost sad attempt to ambush an unsuspecting item that was just minding its own business. This isn’t a new mechanic as it has been present in Daedalic titles since…eh, I don’t actually know, but the point is that new or not it’s still welcome, and is completely optional so that those who feel pixel hunting is part of the charm of the genre can continue to do just that.
There are a couple of problems I did encounter throughout the game. The subtitles quite often did not match up with what the characters were actually saying, while a few spoken sentences were delivered in the game’s native German. Likewise a few lines of subtitles popped up in German as did a few of the options in the dialogue wheel. These things are easily fixed with a patch, however. I also noticed the occasional stutter during cutscenes, and the pauses between leaving one area and entering the next took a few seconds. That might sound like nitpicking, but considering the nature of the game it really should be nearly instantaneous. Still, this isn’t going to ruin your experience with the game.
And that’s just about it, really. That’s the thing about point and click games, there’s not actually a whole lot to talk about. I’m in danger of sounding like a broken record here but Daedalic have yet again crafted something beautiful, a game that tells a story which surprised and delighted me at every turn, always taking unexpected routes without ever doing so for no other reason than trying to surprise you. It’s engaging and emotional, and as the ending played out shivers went down my spine. I have no problem admitting that as the credits rolled I was saddened to be leaving the world, So what is stopping me from just giving the game a five and being done with it? As solid as the puzzles are, they’re not brilliant. They’re good, even great at times, but not brilliant.
I wrestled with it for some time, but I just can’t quite give it a full five. I admit it, I’ve copped out by falling back on the time-honored decimal point, but in this case I do feel justified in doing so. I recommend this game with all that am to anyone who has ever enjoyed a point and click game or to anyone who loves a well crafted story. You’ve done it again, Daedalic.
+ Fantastic storyline.
+ Good puzzles.
+ Looks amazing.
– Some glitches.
– Occasional dodgy logic.
The Verdict: 4.5/5
Another outstanding point and click game from a company that truly deserve to be called masters of the genre.