Deponia – Preview

Title   Deponia
Developer  Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher  Daedalic / Lace Mamba Global
Platform  Windows PC
Genre  Point & Click / Puzzle Adventure
Official Site

Deponia is one of those games that leaps up and grabs your attention with its looks and then ensnares you with its story, characters, and humour, ensuring your full attention until it is done with you.  Of course, this being a game from Daedalic Entertainment, we expected nothing less when we finally got our hands on a preview build after eyeing up its tasty looking charms for the past year.  This latest release from the makers of the gorgeously quirky Edna and Harvey: The Breakout is a point and click adventure that takes Daedalic’s staples of humour, odd characters, and an eye-wateringly alluring art style and conjures up a game that looks to be one of the most promising releases on this year’s adventure calendar.

Deponia is a trash planet, choked in junk and debris, with its residents living in towns amid the heaps, utilising and recycling what they can, seemingly content and resigned to their lot in life.  With one exception.  And this is where you come in.  Enter Rufus, slacker extraordinaire, with the work ethic of a dead slug.  Workshy, and with an ego the size of some of Deponia’s trash heaps, this fantasist and sometime inventor spends his days mooching off his ex-girlfriend Toni and devising ever more dangerous ways to escape the dreary life in his hometown of Kuvaq.  Our charmingly deluded anti-hero has his sights set on a bright and even lazier future in the paradise-like floating cities, drifting far above the planet’s surface, and is intent on getting there by any means.

We join Rufus as he is about to execute his latest plan – to harpoon a passing cruiser with a spear and chain and winch his rickety escape pod on board.  Of course, despite his (and your) best efforts, the plan goes awry, and not only does he end up crashing back to Deponia, but he causes the fall of one of the inhabitants of the cruisers, namely a girl called Goal.  With the young lady suffering from a blackout, Rufus is intent on getting her safely home and, of course, tagging along for the ride, not quite abandoning his hope of a cushy life in the clouds in the company of an ‘Orbit Pixie’.  Yes, they sound tasty to us, too.

The usual point and click gameplay is in place and working smoothly, and this time out, Daedalic have offered a choice of inventory controls, from Classic mode (clicking) to the perhaps easier method of scrolling the mouse wheel to summon the gorgeously themed panel from its hiding place at the top of the screen.  For the uninitiated or returning genre ex-patriots, Deponia (rather surprisingly) features a tutorial, walking the player through some of the basics of interaction, while introducing the protagonist and showcasing the game’s humour.

While it was a shame that the depth of humorous dialogue spawned by Edna and Harvey’s style of play was absent, Deponia makes up for the lack of wide object interaction and surreal conversations with pot plants and fireplaces, with its characters and dialogue.  Rufus may be a grumpy slacker but his self-importance and belief in his non-existent abilities and noble attributes delivers much of the game’s humour, with the reactions of the weary townsfolk to his comedic fantasising also providing much humour.

Of course, the game’s more significant charm lies in the graphics.  Visually, Deponia is a blisteringly vibrant punch in the eye, with bright colours and robust lines, but then we’ve come to expect nothing less from Daedalic, whose trademark cartoony art-styles are something to be savoured, and this game is no exception.  Details spill out of every scene, as the cobbled together town of Kuvaq is realised in fine (almost cel-shaded) style, and the inventive artwork is often something to linger over.

The junk-yard theming is carried throughout the game, from the main menu, to the inventory and finally the locations themselves and resembles a patchwork junk style that is like Steptoe and Son met the Jetsons and created a settlement that rose from the trashy ashes of a futuristic world.   The characters are equally well rendered, from Rufus’s wide eyed form, swaddled in a worn duster and buckled boots, to the bizarre cross-dressing town official, Lottie, complete with lipstick and a large bosom, (although we suspect that her Adam’s apple is somewhat more ample).

Overall, the theming was a constant delight, and although the makers were keen to underline influences from Terry Pratchett, Matt Groening, and Douglas Adams, we saw more of a resemblance to the busy and vibrant style of Hewlett and Martin of Tank Girl fame – also responsible for creating a broken down futuristic setting, with worn, anarchic environments that also boasted smart details and no small measure of surrealism.

The puzzling can be suitably surreal at times, as befits such a setting, and can present a fair challenge until you get your head around quite how the game plays, with it often meting out subtle environmental clues if the player pays attention.  Some of the larger puzzles are tricky until you get that blissfully satisfying ‘click’ with a solution, but others are skippable if you are fed up or stumped, meaning that players won’t give up in frustration and miss out on the rest of the game.  Each puzzle we encountered worked well within in the game’s ‘logic puddle’, and the mix of environmental to inventory puzzling seemed fine and not over-balanced.

As far as sound goes, due to the early build that we had access to, there was no English voice acting in place, merely subs, so we cant tell whether Deponia  will succumb to the classic Waterloo of the genre or whether it will tread the same path as Edna and Harvey and deliver a solid, all round vocal performance, but we suspect the latter.  Still, we didn’t mind the lack of English vocals to be honest – getting to hear Lottie’s wild swings from gruff male to outrageous falsetto (often in the same sentence) were most enjoyable, especially in German.

Our time with Deponia was highly enjoyable, and everything about it, from the art-style to the humour, and even the lazy but lovably deluded Rufus cemented our belief that Daedalic have created yet another piece of absorbing, gaming eye candy, blending comedy and surrealism to create a must play title – even if it has taken long enough to see a UK release.

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  1. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I love love LOVE this game. Got to see it previewed twice and adored the humour, the art style and just how mental some of the puzzles were (cutlery… that’s all I’ll say). There was something very “second hand” about the whole atmosphere of the game and having capsule-based rooms was an inspiration. Love the voice-changing Lottie; I hadn’t got that far with it before so I’m looking forward to that. You’re dead on the money with the Pratchett reference though as there’s a very definite Ankh Morpork and almost junkyard-fairground feel to the vibrancy of the world.

    As soon as my feet are cleared, I’m all over this. Hopefully in the next three or four weeks.

  2. Steven G says:

    I really love how this looks but not sure if I can run it, do you know the min specs for it? never heard of it before so thank you for writing up about it, I cant wait now

  3. Lorna Lorna says:

    @ Mark – The theming is superb, and every scene has something to linger over. Very much ‘worn down futuristic meets Steptoe and Son’. :) The art really reminded me of Tank Girl, but the other influences, with the ‘busy’ feel of Pratchett are there too, you’re right.

    @Steven – Thanks. Don’t know the minimum specs just yet, but as soon as we have them, we’ll get them up in some form or other. Hopefully it won’t be a system hog, point and clicks aren’t often too demanding, so I expect you’ll be fine :) Keep an eye out for more surprises in our upcoming adventure roundup piece.

  4. Edward Edward says:

    I want this game in, around and on top of me.
    More seriously, I love point and clicks, and while I didn’t majorly love A New Beginning (which I believe is the same studio) I’m in love with the art style and the humour sounds like my kind of thing. More of these games can only be a good thing. :D

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