I love Daedalic Entertainment. They’re single-handedly showing that Point and Click Adventures are still a viable source for thoughtful and engaging entertainment. While Deponia Doomsday isn’t my favorite of the series, it’s still worth journeying through once again. The story isn’t as focused as it could’ve been and spends most of its time justifying the trilogy’s ending in some moments that feel more like lecturing than fun. While I agree with the message that the franchise needs a change in order to feel fresh, this entry ends up proving its own point by delivering a product that feels a tad stale. Despite this, Doomsday has only increased my hopes that we get a new trilogy, and if this is the beginning of a new era, I look forward to what the team has in store for the future.
WHAT WE LIKED
º Another entry in what was believed to be the Deponia Trilogy- a real surprise.
º Fantastic artwork, audio and voice work keeps up with the consistency of the series.
º The devs have experimented around with new ideas for segments, and it really pays off.
WHAT WE DISLIKED
º The game’s message of accepting Rufus’s fate feels like beating a dead platypus.
º Overly linear for a series that prides itself on having massive areas to explore.
º The humor is a little barren, mostly due to a lack of jokes and the tone of the game.
Doomsday isn’t the first game in the series to bend spacetime, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. After what some would call a disappointing conclusion to the Deponia franchise, some fans had difficulty letting go as the lead character Rufus had. Surprisingly, even to a games journalist who has covered the company, the developers felt they had more to say and announced and released the series’ fourth entry in the span of a week. It would appear Rufus, the man who sacrificed himself at the end of the trilogy, was somehow alive and well. Playing the game from start to finish, I can say with all certainty it’s a game made for the fans, but it also has a message you might not enjoy.
Deponia starts out with a somber narration from Goal, declaring that “the end was never our creation” over a beautiful time-lapse of the world of Deponia being built. Lush green plant life being cut down to make way for huts, as the walls grew and buildings developed, the trash eventually overtakes the majesty. She recaps the audience on the history of the previous three games in the series, finally landing on how Rufus died. “Oh, you don’t like this ending,” she asks jokingly, “hoping for something more upbeat?” She goes on to ask if she, and in turn the audience, really wants a better ending, or just that it’ll never end.
The game starts out with an unusually tense segment, a man in an Inuit coat stepping out onto the frozen wasteland of what appears to be a Deponian ice age. Voiced by David Hayter (who I would’ve loved to hear more from), the man enters an Organon installation with horrifying creatures on his heals. He fights them off and makes it up to the top room where a huge bomb and big red button lies before him. He takes off his gear, revealing and older and more bearded Rufus. He hits the button which causes the bomb to fall, accomplishing the original plan of destroying the planet.
This, of course, all turns out to be a dream in the mind of a young Rufus, still living in Kavaq and dating his soon to be ex-girlfriend Toni. Obviously, this is the earliest part of the story- but in a game where time travel is clearly present, this is hard to not expect. Without going into too much more of the story’s specifics, you spend the rest of the game jumping through time with the help of a scientist named McChronicle. Your goal is to, at first, prevent a small accident, but as the game progress and you discover more about your fate, you work towards correcting not only the mistakes you’ve made in previous games but the new ones from this journey as well.
The series has always discussed the impossibility of changing one’s fate, and having just played the games again, I found it quite impressively called for the destruction of Rufus throughout the whole experience. Alas, even though I knew these facts, with one character even telling Rufus that he “has no future,” I still can’t help but hate the conclusion that we had. I’ve grown to care for Rufus, despite him being an awful person- and I don’t want to see him die. However, the story could possibly switch over to Goal, or perhaps another person entirely. I imagine that’s the overall point of the game is that no one likes a story they love ending. As a creator, I know the fear of committing your characters, as well as you fans, to a purgatory of similarity. Is it better to continue on with characters in a never-ending time loop, or to end their narrative and think of the fun that we once had?
While this would’ve been a perfectly acceptable subtext had the game kept their cards closer to the chest, sadly the developers go into full tilt mode with their motivation for the game. In an almost trolling way, the developers spend the entirety of the game reminding you that you’re playing something that you know is going to end, once again, in disappointment. You jump through a portal, only to end up surrounded by broken clocks in a barren desert they call the “Waste Of Time.” You repeat the same segments in time loops over and over again, as the game repeatedly confirms that everything you do will have to be cleaned up for the real timeline to happen. While your character runs in circles, so do you; but sadly these ironic and not-so-cleverly hidden jokes will ultimately leave you slightly disappointed in what I would describe as a light entry.
This, however, doesn’t mean that the game is bad. I still enjoyed it completely, but I would be lying if I said it was one of my favorites. It’s too stretched out for its own good and needed more meat on its bones in order to justify one of the longer experiences I’ve had. There are some fantastic moments however, especially when you get to step foot on the floors of Elysium and speak to their people. What a bunch of idiots. Surrounded by technology and resources, they spend the entirety of their time in leisure, relying on their robotic servants to handle everything. They spend their days having fun in the ‘Fun Zone,’ or scrambling up genetic coding to make cute animals. One of the elders explain their lack of self-efficiency by declaring they have “a machine that prevents problems; it’s called a ‘Computer’!” They live as Gods, and you know what playing around like one gets you. Needless to say, the floating city doesn’t fall because of Rufus- or at least entirely because of him.
The story is more narratively focused this time around, with less time being spent in one place. Going from one new location to another is interesting, but makes the experience feel more linear, and as such makes the puzzles much easier to figure out. Several of these locations, like an amusement park that serves no real purpose other than padding, could’ve been cut to really focus in more on building characters and ideas. Goal, after speaking with a wiser version of herself, confronts Rufus about his possessive nature, but the team at Daedalic doesn’t spend any substantial time on the subject before running through the next portal. It’s a shame because the subject matter they broach throughout is fantastic, but they brush it all aside to continue reminding us that like a Linkin Park song; it doesn’t really matter.
Because this is a more somber entry as well, the game feels less humorous than it could’ve been. Of course, there’s still jokes to be had, but they feel much more bitter this time around. I couldn’t help but loudly proclaim my sadness as I blended up a smiling and oblivious giant maggot into a smoothie. While the shock value of how awful Rufus can be is still there, the writing has sadly taken a backseat to these antics. Jokes just aren’t nearly as funny as they’ve been in previous installments, with the majority of chuckles coming from Rufus refusing to say McChronicle’s name right; examples like MacMuffin, McCrumbdible, McChronipants and McMacmacmacmcmac. There’s also humorous insider references to popular films and television, but when it comes down to fundamentals, sadly this entry suggest they might be losing a step in that department.
The Chorus Guy, the man who serenades you in between acts in the first three games, only shows up once this time around, right after the bombs drop in the beginning. This is slightly disappointing, but for a game that feels fundamentally different than the previous entries, perhaps this was a wise move. His song is one that laments the previously mentioned notions of denying the trilogy’s conclusion. “At this stage it’s evident, there will be no happy end. Suck it up princess, no one cares for your tears.” It’s musical accompaniment taking inspiration by Dr. Who, obviously part of the motivation for this game’s wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey approach to the entry.
The music and audio are of course wonderful- it always is. It would seem the developers have a fantastic localization department, because everyone speaks their lines with conviction and they’ve only gotten more comfortable as the series progressed. While I was disappointed to hear so little of David Hayter’s voice, especially after the Metal Gear Solid V debacle, I’m at least glad the rest of the cast is just as talented. There’s also brand new background music, some of which only hangs around briefly but ranks up with some of the best music put out by a series that already has a fantastic catalog. Hats off to the composer.
Visually, the game looks fantastic as usual, with the developers tackling more angles and more locations than I think the series has ever tried before. The team has done some segments that are heavily experimental but end up paying out in the end, including a montage where you control four characters’ actions at once. This scope and complicated nature of the scripting may be the reason this installment is the buggiest I’ve ever experienced in Deponia. I had moments where the game drifted off to the side and froze in place, random lines of text doubling up on screen, and segments that would hide my cursor. Most of these are during the Fun Zone section of the game, but I had some earlier and later in the experience as well. I don’t think I ever had a problem before with any of the previous chapters, so finding these were overly surprising.
As a whole, Doomsday is another fun entry in the Deponia series, but fans and newcomers alike will feel like something is missing. It’s length and price point suggest that we should take this as a full entry, but the conclusion and message of the game come across more like a spin-off than a full fledged continuation. As Rufus says at a crucial part of the game, “consequences are important, or nothing matters.” After my full playthrough, I’m questioning if anything mattered in my pledge to hold my review until I was done. The entry felt more like a retcon, to change some small particulars before the developers come back with a more ironed out and narratively focused experience. As a fan, I would perhaps wait for a nice Steam sale before shelling out thirty dollars on this surprise entry that answers fewer questions than opens.