Goodbye Deponia – Preview
There’s a lot of pressure that comes with the final part of a trilogy, and it’s not one that everyone comes out of with flying colours. Return of the Jedi receives a lot of ire for the dreadfully-slow opener and ‘that bit with the Ewoks’, The Dark Knight Rises is a plot-hole-laden struggle and Austin Powers in Goldmember was mostly rehashed jokes and a feeling that we’d seen it all before long before the credits rolled. Last year, I referred to Daedalic’s stellar Chaos On Deponia as this series’ Empire Strikes Back, but after spending some time with the final instalment, it’s clear that such a comparison was made prematurely, as Goodbye Deponia could easily become the trilogy’s defining chapter.
Leading straight from the events of Chaos on Deponia, the start sees incorrigible protagonist Rufus and co attempting to reach an Organon Ascension station, so they can make their way to Elysium and prevent the planet of Deponia from being destroyed. Meanwhile, the Elysians are entirely unaware of the existence of the Deponians, and don’t seem to mind as it means that the water-slide can remain open for just a bit longer. However, disaster sticks to Rufus like flies to manure and, in his attempt to get to Elysium, he inadvertently destroys the boat they’re sailing in and recklessly endangers Goal’s life yet again. So far, so familiar, as once again Rufus’ attempts to save her only make the situation worse, and it’s not long before they’re trapped in an Organon installation as Goal is left perpetually spinning between the rotors keeping it attached to the sky-lines.
Those who are new to the series and find themselves a bit confused should have no fear, as this is when players are also introduced to Barry – Rufus’ biggest fan – and are given the chance to catch up with our hero’s dubious adventures. After deftly taking out an Organon guard, players can choose to regale Barry with tales of derring-do, bad and good luck tales (woo-oo!) and it’s through this that newcomers can inform themselves with a – highly exaggerated – recap of the series so far.
It’s also a great way to re-establish just how irredeemable he is as, despite Goal’s multiple cries for help and Barry’s repeated insistence that maybe you should save her, Rufus is more concerned with impressing his fan than rescuing the love of his life. When he’s finally convinced that a picture of him rescuing Goal wouldn’t unnecessarily detract focus from him as the protagonist, the transpiring sequence is one with the ethic that veterans of the series will be all-too familiar with – anything that can go wrong will, and everyone but Rufus is left in the lurch as a result.
As the opening sequence finished, the preview fast-forwards to the gameplay that I’d seen during E3; Rufus has lost Goal, cloned her, and also himself into the bargain, but for reasons unknown everything goes pear-shaped, resulting in Goal coming out of the machine as a baby. All three versions of Rufus are separated and forced to venture forth alone – one Rufus is trapped in the sewers with Goalie, one emerges at an Organon security checkpoint, and the final clone emerges from a toilet just as it becomes occupied.
From here, the action is reminiscent of Lucasart’s classic Day of the Tentacle, as you can swap between all three characters at will and exchange items between them. Aiding this latter mechanic is the fact that, once you establish their location and trade with them in person, the different versions of Rufus are then able to exchange items remotely so you’ll never have to travel to their location again, with the process as simple as opening your inventory, selecting the item, then clicking on one of the alternative Rufus commands at the bottom of the screen. Having this short-cut is inspired, as it allows the gameplay to progress at a much faster pace, as I found when I started a sequence of puzzles to open a crate, retrieved a crowbar from another Rufus, and then was able to open the box without having to walk back to their location and start all over again.
Apart from this trading mechanic, there’s plenty that will seem familiar to players who’ve delved into the world of Deponia before. The music is still an eclectic mix that will keep your head bobbing and focused on the action in equal measure, and one guitar-led track prompting me to pause for several minutes just to hear it from start to finish. The art-style still keeps the junk-yard aesthetic of before, but there was plenty of variety between the environments each Rufus was trapped in. The Rufus stuck with Goalie finds himself deep in the sewers, with everything shrouded in darkness, while another one stuck on dry land instead finds himself walking through homes destroyed by the raging war around them.
The puzzles are also a fiendish mix, with plenty of moments where I found myself scratching my head, and at least a couple of occasions where I had to stop playing and do something else until the ‘Eureka’ moment hit and I could continue on my journey. Those puzzles weren’t tied to an insane logic or ill-thought solutions, but do require the player to think in a way fit for the series, and if you’re new you may find yourself going through a slight baptism of fire. For those who’ve been playing the Deponia franchise from the beginning there’ll be far fewer moments where you need to stop, collaborate and listen, but uncovering the right solution is still as satisfying as before.
The mechanic of swapping items between characters gives new life to some of the puzzles, and some of the solutions are absolutely ingenious as a result. I don’t know if there’ll be a hint system in the final build, but it couldn’t hurt to have one, as it’d be a great way to keep the action going; Goodbye Deponia flows beautifully as you move from one puzzle to another, but getting stuck for too long on a single puzzle can halt that somewhat. Even then, if you’re struggling to find one solution, you could always work on one of the several other puzzle threads, and in the preview there were so many side-quests to work through that you always felt like you were making progress.
Where the most questionable changes occur are with the humour. There’s still a great deal of irreverent, anarchic humour, and even with the English voice-acting absent from the preview build, I lost count of the amount of times I laughed within the first few minutes. Goodbye Deponia is on track to being one of the funniest adventure games ever, and I couldn’t even go a minute without finding something new to laugh at. Unfortunately, not everyone will feel the same way, as a lot of the humour will be very problematic to some. The same zany antics and characters you’ve come to know and love are present, but the humour walks a very fine line and pushes plenty of boundaries in the search for chuckles, so there’s a chance this could become a very controversial title.
In the preview content alone, there were jokes about periods, suicide and an encounter with a paedophile that may make many players more than a little uncomfortable. Although I found myself enjoying the jokes and laughing my head off at how dark Daedalic are going for this final chapter, there were plenty of moments where I would find myself chuckling, pause, and then realise what I’d actually just been laughing at, and question if I actually should have. While these encounters make sense in context, they feel like a significant jump into darker territory, and not everyone is going to enjoy the transition.
The paedophile in particular was one that gave me significant pause; the joke is that the kids in Rufus’ care are well aware of the creepy man’s intentions, but Rufus genuinely believes there’s a petting zoo in the back of his van, and the player can’t progress until you – ahem – stroke his animal. Humour is always subjective, and it’s a sequence you should definitely play through before making your own judgement, but Goodbye Deponia is going to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable more than any other title I can think of.
This potential controversy aside, Goodbye Deponia is almost certainly going to be the biggest, best, and funniest chapter in the trilogy. The puzzles are some of the most intelligent yet, the art and music are the best they’ve ever been, and with the story flying full-pelt towards its conclusion, it’s hard not to be excited. The humour may cause some contention and will be potentially controversial but, even with those darker moments, I found myself nearly collapsing from laughter every few minutes. As sad as I’ll be to see the Deponia trilogy finish, it’s clear that Daedalic have another masterpiece on their hands.
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