It almost feels as though like we’ve reached a renaissance in the point & click adventure genre over the last couple of years. From Telltale Games’ fantastic The Walking Dead series to Double Fine’s Broken Age and a new Broken Sword game, it’s almost like we’re back in the genre’s heyday.
Daedalic Entertainment have been flying the flag for Europe in this latest surge; based in Germany and developing a string of popular and well received titles for the PC including the comedic Deponia trilogy, and just a few months ago, The Night of The Rabbit. They release games at quite an alarming rate, now that I look at it!
The upcoming Memoria is a sequel to Chains of Satinav, both based in the world of the pen and paper role-playing game, The Dark Eye – an RPG particularly popular in Germany.
It sees the continuing adventures of Geron, dropping you in the midst of his search for a transformation spell, to return his love from the first game back to her original fairy form. Nuri is currently stuck as a talking crow, and it’s a race against time for him to save her from losing all of her memories and personality. Yet we don’t play as him for very long, and almost as soon as he starts talking to the mysterious travelling trader who is camped on the outskirts of Andergast, we’re sent to a vision of 450 years ago, to try and solve a riddle in exchange for this spell.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the game’s art style at this point, which is quite simply gorgeous. Even in motion the game looks like a digital painting, with beautiful backdrops which so often stretch for miles into the distance, and a lot of detail to the scenery.
Characters are animated quite simply, and do walk a little stiffly and sometimes look like they might have started as 3D models, and yet there’s a pleasing life to many of them. My only complaints would be that background characters can lack this level of motion, and that during close up conversations, the facial movements change at a rate barely passable for speech, both things I’d hope are improved for release.
It’s far in the past that we first encounter Princess Sadja of Fasar, and very quickly discover her to be a particularly tough and ruthless character. We find her with a small crew, trying to break into a tomb and retrieve the Mask of Malakar, an artefact of immense power which could turn the tide of a war against demons and forces from the Nether Realms.
In doing the process of breaking in, Sadja ends up trapped and alone – her comrades dead – and talking to a seemingly demonic being in the form of a staff. She actually seems quite unnervingly happy to deal with him, in her attempts to get out of the tomb and embark on her quest, wherein the central thrust of the plot lies. She never did enter the annals of history and folklore, as she had intended, so what happened to her?
As you jump from Geron’s time to visions of Sadja in the past, events occur which will bring the two time periods colliding together. The trader with the transformation spell is chased off by a mob, but they’re discovered having been petrified into ghastly stone columns in the present, and this sees Geron quickly becoming wrapped up in the mystery and another quest to save the realm.
There’s definitely a sense of foreboding, as the game quite artfully tucks away little hints for the player, so that you can quickly grasp how these two timelines are becoming ever more entangled.
The game itself holds true to many of the classic tropes and mechanics of the genre, as you move through a variety of locations and have to solve various puzzles in order to progress. You might need to find and use a cloth to clean another object, or combine a hammer and chisel to break some stone.
These kinds of puzzles, and this genre as a whole, require you to make various logical leaps to get the right combination of items for the problem, and though I love point & click games I do often struggle with these hurdles. By and large the game is quite good at giving you sufficient information to find the solution, but the preview did see me eventually resort to combining every object with every other on a few occasions.
The range of possibilities is expanded by Geron and Sadja’s respective magical abilities. Geron’s is fairly mundane, with the ability to repair or destroy certain object, whilst Sadja is first able to control stone guardians via the staff, before gaining the ability to send visions, and much, much more.
Though it quite unapologetically sticks to this rather classic formula, it does lend a slight helping hand if you become stuck. You can bring up a journal, which will give you the key points of the plot, as well as offering up a hint to whatever puzzle it is you’re struggling with.
That’s fairly standard, but somewhat more interestingly, you can have the game show all of the interactive points in an area. It really helps to avoid the old method of having to scan a screen with your mouse cursor, and lets you just get on with figuring out what you’re meant to do.
Having said that, on a couple of occasions I found myself completely adrift through the game’s design. I had to find the exact right set of statements to confound another character, and later tried to navigate a foggy woodland with just berries to help me know where I’d been. It’s at these points, when the game takes away the landmarks and effectively turns into a guessing game of trial and error, that it becomes annoying, though I’d expect that these kinds of annoyances are polished out in the time before release.
However, this game has certainly grabbed my attention, regardless of these hiccups. The art style is something to behold, and depicts this fantasy world very well. More importantly, I found quite an intriguing and compelling plot running through the first few hours of game time, and puzzles which generally felt tough but fair.
In the end, it won’t revolutionise the genre, but it should deliver an adventure which point & click fans will enjoy.
Memoria is set for release on PC on the 30th of August.