Deponia Doomsday a return to the Deponia series of adventure games, as well as a return to the classic adventure style of the 90s – in good and bad ways. Here’s our review.
When we visited with Daedalic during 2014’s Gamescom convention, we were given an art book entitled “The Art of Deponia”. Familiar with the games, it was a nice reminder of a series that had ended with 2013’s Goodbye Deponia, as well as a way to emphasize the game’s vibrant and colorful art style. Luckily, it wasn’t the last time we’d see it, because 2016 is bringing back the series with Deponia Doomsday – a prequel of sorts.
Although not a direct continuation of the storyline in the original trilogy, Doomsday is very much a Deponia game in nearly every way. The art style highlighted in the aforementioned book is back, most of the cast returns for another adventure, and the game’s narrative and humor develops much like they did in the previous games. Cartoon-styled adventure games with humor as one of its main ingredients have been around since the days of Day of the Tentacle (or even Maniac Mansion), and the Deponia games are a love letter to that generation of games.
Of course, as with any game (or medium) that leans on humor to deliver its message, it can be a little hit and miss. The recent Not A Hero features a very British blend of comedy, and the Sam and Max games also have their own style. The Deponia games have been developed in Germany, but mostly stay on the safe side when it comes to humor – preferring silly to outrageous. This is true for Doomsday as well, and makes the game easy to digest in terms of the narrative experience and comedy. Some of the jokes feel a little lackluster or too drawn out, but there’s a natural charm to the game which makes playing it fun. This is partly due to some excellent writing and voice acting, both of which are well done and add to the atmosphere.
Deponia Doomsday harks back to the era of classic adventure games in more ways than that though, for some of the gameplay design is also fairly traditional. Inventory management often revolves around collecting (seemingly) unrelated items that can be used as creative solutions to problems and puzzles you face. In some cases, items need to be combined into other items to create the object you need. This is nothing new, but in terms of gameplay design there are a few classic flaws that pop up in Doomsday as well. Acquiring one item might require you to get another first, so you have to travel back and forth. You might then discover that you need to travel back once again, in order to combine your newly acquired item with something else. This can go on for a while, and if you throw ‘randomness’ into the mix you sometimes can’t help thinking this could have been handled more efficiently. As for randomness… this relates mainly to how items can be used in ways you wouldn’t have expected, resulting in a bit of trial and error.
Still, if you’re a fan of the classic adventures of the 1990s then this is a series of games you definitely need to check out. If you look past its small flaws there’s a fun storyline here with a rich and endearing cast of characters. Deponia Doomsday weaves an alternative timeline to the events in the original trilogy though, so if you haven’t played that then you might want to hold off until you do.