Game: Chaos on Deponia
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Available on: Windows PC and Mac OSX
The first Deponia game may have been delayed and suffered a little in localisation hell, but all that has meant is that fans of the game have only had to wait a very short time for its sequel. Indeed, only two months after an English-language version of the game released on Steam, the next game in the series – Chaos on Deponia – is already itching to be played. So how does the second part of the planned Deponia trilogy shape up? Can it shake some of the shortcomings of the original, whilst managing to maintain its cartoon charm?
STORY: Carrying on right where we left off after part one, we once again take on the mantle of Rufus, the scruffy yet well-meaning pauper who has found out about a diabolical plot to blow up his home planet of Deponia, by the evil Organon, a group of Stormtrooper-like baddies who police the luxury neighbouring world of Elysium. Rufus must get to Elysium himself and prove that there is life on Deponia that needs to be saved. To do that, he needs the help of Elysian lovely Goal, but her memory chip has been damaged so she can’t clearly remember the actions of Clefus, her fiancé, who is in league with the Organon.
All sound a bit confusing? It probably does when written down like that, but the game does a good job of re-capping things for those who haven’t played the first game, although the whole title will be far more enjoyable for those that play both games. The story is developed quite well in this second title, and we learn quite a lot more about Elysium, Goal herself and even Rufus’ father, who we heard about in the first game, and left him when he was only young. There are some real twists and surprises along the way, and the pacing of the story has a lot more oomph than the first effort, keeping things moving along at a more exciting speed.
We are treated to an array of new places to explore, and meet lots of new characters – as well as a few familiar ones – who will both help and hinder your plans. There are some really funny new people, and whether the translation team have improved or the writing is just a little better in this episode, the game does have more genuinely funny moments and witty remarks than the original game. On top of that, the character of Rufus has now grown on us a little. He may still be irritating or a bit self-centred at times, but he has developed into someone more likeable, and is more heroic than in the past; even if that is sometimes only mistakenly.
GRAPHICS: The visuals, once again, thoroughly impress. The cartoon-style sprites are bold and vivid, bringing the characters to life very effectively. Each character has a very distinct look and style, which makes them all stand out from one another, creating an extensive and varied cast. Something that some games seem incapable of, with a host of bland, uninteresting NPCs. That, coupled with some truly expressive character animations – even for some quite inconsequential actions – makes the game as close to an interactive cartoon as you are likely to get; especially from such a small, independent development team. The backgrounds are deep and detailed, benefiting from the high-definition finish so that you can make out all the little extra touches. Everything you look at in the title has been created with care and it shows, as the whole thing is visually striking.
SOUND: As I mentioned before, the translation team must have been working in overtime to get this game completed so quickly after the first, but thankfully that doesn’t result in a slap-dash result. In fact, the voices and scripting seems better than before, and it is rarely noticeable when something has been lost in translation or badly adapted, the jokes hit their mark more often and the voices that have been cast fit the characters very well. There is one character in particular who is given a comedy Dutch accent, which actually forms the basis of quite a complex language-based puzzle. This is all pulled off brilliantly, and is very funny.
The music is also, once again, one of the stars of the show. The same main themes from the first game remain, so it is bound to still be good, but there are some new pieces of music added to help bring some of the new areas visited in the game to life. These all fit the areas well, and the different themes assigned to individual characters also help to flesh out their personalities further. The best part of the soundtrack, however, is perhaps the strange songs that are used to separate each chapter. All sung by the creator of the game, these rhyming folk-style ballads are unlike anything you would find in any other game; so strange, yet oddly funny and rousing.
GAMEPLAY: Nothing has really changed from the first to the second game in terms of the basic gameplay, it is all traditional pointing and clicking, with an easy to use two-button interface – one for looking, one for interacting. There are also a lot of inventory-based puzzles, combining several items to make a new one, for example. More so than in the first game, you will have conversation tree puzzles, where Rufus needs to select certain speech responses in order to solve a puzzle or to convince a character of something, one in particular is quite tricky and also involves reading the body language of another character, but luckily you can skip this if you struggle on it for too long.
There are still some maze-like puzzles and even a chess-based one, but there probably aren’t any that are as fiendish as the mine cart puzzle from the first game, and none of the ones on show here are likely to irritate you too much. They can mainly be solved at least through trial and error, and you won’t often have to resort to skipping any. None are glitches either, which was a slight problem in the original Deponia. There is even a basic arcade mini-game that has been added in, which works a little like a very basic 2D beat em up, which is fairly easy to get your head around, and can also be skipped if need be. It is nice to see some variety in the game, but the title is at its strongest with its regular adventuring.
Thankfully, I would say that the puzzles are more sensible and logical than last time out. Whether that is the better translation, the puzzle design or just the fact I’m getting used to the style of the puzzles on offer, the things you have to do in the game seem to make more sense and can be reasoned more logically than before. They are still wacky, but objectives are more clearly stated and there are some hints in the dialogue to help you more than before, so that gamers aren’t likely to become as frustrated.
LONGEVITY: The game is even actually a little longer than the first title. One of the main niggles with Deponia was that it all seemed to end just as it was getting into gear, but this sequel will last you a good few hours longer, as the middle act in particular is quite lengthy. This is welcome, as now the game is likely to last a few hours longer for players of all skills, of course differing a little depending on how long the puzzles take you. There is still very little to make you replay the game more than once though, as the game is very linear and players will want to wait for the third title to conclude the story, rather than play this one again, but that isn’t a bad thing, as it creates anticipation for the third chapter and does its job as part of a downloadable series.
VERDICT: Chaos on Deponia manages to take many of the problems and issues that troubled the first game in the series and rectify them successfully. Puzzles are less insane, the localisation effort seems improved and the longevity of the title is certainly better. On top of that, the game remains a visually impressive one that possesses a captivating score and has the ability to actually make you laugh; a rarity even in so-called “comedy” games. As such, players who enjoyed the first title will be pleasantly surprised as things get even better here, and although players new to the game might not understand the story entirely, this is a much better adventure for the uninitiated than the first was. Can we even hope that the third instalment will see more improvements when it sees release? Even if it can’t, it will be exciting to see how this unconventional love story will end.