Tuesday, January 28, 2014

3 days of...Deponia!

I've never felt like more of a dick.

This is Rufus, trying to fix problems he created.
There hasn't been a game lately, that has made me feel like more of a dick than Deponia by Daedelic Entertainment. I played the first game of their Deponia series today, an adventure game along the lines of the old Lucasarts and Sierra legacies from the 90's. Strongly nostalgic, Deponia follows all the old idioms and intricacies of its predecessors, lacking some polish, but making up for it in commentary.
At first glance, you play a man on a world of trash, heaps of it everywhere. My first thought was of all the different things that I could rummage out of the mountainous heaps everywhere. Unfortunately Deponia is very scripted, and only lets you take specific things from the landscape, letting you know full well that you'll need these items later, until they're taken away from you by another scripted event. That I can manage, I can understand the need to keep clutter at a minimum, and give the player some direction, but Deponia takes this to a whole new level. There are choices where it seems as though the main character is asking himself what to do next, and instead of giving you choice, they take that away with more scripted lines. Carefully directing you through every choice, ironically taking away your choice completely.

This direction I can forgive, since I played those old adventure games, and I understand how hard it is to make a balanced branched plot system. The problem later on is that you need to do certain things in order to accomplish a goal, and though the goal is clear, where to go to get the tools that you need is not obvious. I found myself mindlessly clicking on every object I came across and attempting to combine every item in my inventory in a vain attempt to progress to the next illogical puzzle. Some item combinations are nonsensical and unapparent even to abstract thought. I had to give up and look to a guide to help me figure out what to do, since the npc's the game were no help.

Discovering my girlfriend was cheating wasn't a surprise.
That's what I truly enjoyed about the game though, everyone absolutely despises the main character, Rufus, who you play. And as the game points out, it's well deserved. Rufus runs around pillaging and taking everything in sight, because he needs it in puzzles later on. These puzzles often include forcing people into locked closets, flooding basements, and causing blast alarms to go off in neighbors homes to cause chaos. Rufus, and you by extension, do this in the name of saving a damsel in distress, even though you're the one that put her there. All this animosity is great for pointing out the flaw in adventure games. Most of the time you can rifle through possessions that aren't yours, and still end up on the right side of the law. In Deponia, they point out that you do these things because you're the asshole, and just can't seem to trust other people, taking things into your own hands.

Rufus says things like "I make my own destiny!" then continues to destroy everyone's lives around him to do so. I felt like such a tool believing the things that he told himself, the same things that every hero archetype says, and then watching my village fall apart because I had to lay ruin in my wake to get there. The lack of choice in the game, and structured nature, help feed into this commentary on games, and heroes in general. If it were just his story, Rufus would be the anti-hero, coming around to save the day. As Deponia points out though, he may just be sacrificing the lives of many to fulfill his own desires, bringing into question the entire philosophy of how we feel as the hero when we play these games.

After a few hours I honestly deserved to be here.

The game is quite humorous, treating this hatred of you lightheartedly, even though the other characters are quite persistent at it. You start out laughing at the beginning, realizing how despicable your character is. Then you start assisting in ruining lives and causing chaos, and the laughter begins to die out as you begin to see that you may not be such a hero, or even a good guy, after all. Though still, the humor is well placed and understated, which helps in it's tone as dry humor.

I enjoyed seeing this commentary on heroes, through the beginning of the game. But I might not finish Deponia right away. It's worn on me with frustrating puzzles, and the consistent disparaging remarks. So I'll have to put it away until I can come back with a refreshed outlook, preferably with a guide right next to me.

You'll like this game if: You enjoy frustrating adventure games, with sarcasm and dry humor abound. Just don't forget to pack your Prozac, and a VERY open mind about puzzles.

(If you had a different experience or a new video game to suggest, leave a comment below!)

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