Chaos on Deponia Review
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Static explorable scenes. Check. Arbitrary clicking on every interactive object. Check. Overflowing inventory of seemingly unrelated apparatus. Check. Idiotic and haphazard main protagonist. Check. Slightly off the mark attempts at comedy. Check. Excellent, everything is in order, let the adventure gaming begin.
With an efficient, if a little suspicious, turnaround of only three months, Chaos on Deponia sees us return to the titular land and our ignoramus hero Rufus. In the previous game - Deponia - Rufus managed to use his completely imbecilic approach to solving problems to prevent a catastrophe that would have wiped out life on the planet. He also got the girl, named Goal. Only things didn't quite work out, and at the start of Chaos on Deponia we see that the world is still in peril and Goal has had her mind split into three interchangeable personalities, all of which understandably hate Rufus.
The plot turns out to be both incomprehensibly obtuse and entirely irrelevant. Goal’s race, strange androids called the Elysium, inhabit a world above Deponia and intend to destroy the planet if it turns out to be uninhabited. Goal was sent down to investigate, and had the ascension codes to return with news, however various elements including the nefarious mechanical Organon race and her fiancé Cletus try to exploit her for their own goals. It makes slightly more sense if you have played the first game, but not much. All that really matters is that there is some problem that needs to be solved, and some lady that needs to be rescued and so our idiotic hero Rufus plunges into the depths of bizarre adventure gaming conventions to save the day.
Arguably, the plot is only a backdrop for the adventuring and puzzling fun. Following very closely to the lines of the classic Monkey Island or Sam And Max series, Chaos on Deponia uses a combination of backwards logic and join-the-rather-blurry-dots to forge a satisfying experience. There are of course stumbling blocks and many opportunities to smash one’s head upon the desk in exasperation yet, considering the general buffoonery of the game puzzles, they still generally make some kind of sense. Often characters will mention off the cuff that they require some seemingly incongruous item, or that they happen to possess a certain skill and usually this heavy hinting is enough to work through the proceeding idiocy. That being said, the solution to some puzzles (such as one involving changing in-game settings) are such leaps of logic that dips into a walkthrough become all too tempting, if not a necessity.
The greatest problem with Chaos on Deponia’s adventuring is that the areas available to explore are enormous. Very early on the game opens out into a section combining dozens of scenes all connected to form a complex labyrinth. With three separate avenues of plot to solve (trying to court each of Goal’s separate personalities), yet all still interrelated and intertwined, it becomes confusing extremely quickly. The inventory fills up with dozens of seemingly unrelated items and it is not long before the situation is completely overwhelming, with the player constantly having to travel across several scenes in an attempt to solve the baffling puzzles.
Fortunately the flow of the game is helped by the particularly efficient user interface. Taking feedback from the previous release, the controls of Chaos on Deponia are so smoothly oiled that the anger from constant pointless travelling is quickly quelled. Double-clicking any exit to a scene will instantly teleport our cretinous hero to the next area. Flicking the mouse wheel will quickly lower the inventory, and just as easily it is dismissed. Furthermore, and something I feel should be enforced for all similar games, hitting the spacebar will thankfully inform the player of all the interactive items on the screen. This completely eliminates the insanity of pixel-hunting, which is possibly the greatest sin a game developer can enforce. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the most efficient user interface I have ever seen in an adventure game is created by a German developer.
Speaking of casual racism: the humour of Chaos on Deponia is particularly hit and miss, rather like a blind man doing shooting practise: sometimes it hits the mark and genuine laugh out loud moments do occur, but far too often the bullets o’comedy stray off target and may well hurt the audience in the process. Blind men, speech impediments (though I was never sure if it was just a someone doing a silly foreign accent) and particularly women are all damaged in the crossfire. It is never particularly aggressive or heavily demeaning, but for some it may well jar. Others that do not mind puerile humour, slapstick comedy and general buffoonery may well be amused. It all depends on which side of the comedy fence you find yourself.
The low-brow status of the humour is dragged down even further by the voice acting which seems to have been created by a cast of failed impersonators. Each actor seems to be attempting an idiotic voice every time they speak which, given the status of the game, may well be the case. Sometimes it is just about serviceable but this, combined with the repetitive and inane background music, may well have you reaching for the mute button fairly quickly. I have heard that the German language version is actually far more professional, so if this is an option for you, then I recommend playing in its native language.
that cute seagull is just about to be consumed by a vicious crustacean.
All this disparagement aside, Chaos on Deponia can be a fairly enjoyable adventuring romp if the goofy main character, the off the mark humour, or the terrible voice acting does not get to you first. The middle part of (what is likely to be) a trilogy is always tricky in terms of plot progression, and there is a real sense at the end of the game that nothing has been resolved, which is a shame. Despite this lack of plot progression, there is enough depth to the game to keep you entertained for five to ten hours depending on your competence. Developers of the genre should pay attention to what Daedalic Entertainment have achieved with their interface and wonderful graphical style, but perhaps stay clear of the overwhelming complexity and hit and miss humour.