When I reviewed the original Deponia, I desperately wanted to love it. The point-and-click adventure’s junkyard-steampunk art direction, hand-drawn and gorgeous, had me interested at the very first screenshot. However, I came away only sort of liking it. It was, and remains, great to look at, but every time a character opened his or her mouth it became painfully clear that its German-to-English translation was sorely lacking. The result was humor and identity that both showed seeds of delight, but fell flat and awkward on execution.
Since then, European developer Daedalic Entertainment has already released one sequel, Chaos on Deponia, and is already priming to fire another, Goodbye Deponia. While I can’t speak to the first sequel’s improvements (I never got around to playing it) my preview of Goodbye Deponia has me at least hopeful for a more well-balanced time to be had.
Candidness is a rare thing in developers at media-focused expositions. The folks in the Daedalic booth, however, seemed quite self-aware concerning the original game’s failings. When I asked the one running my demo if the original game’s voice actors would return for the English translation (the demo I was shown had no voice work), he caught wise to my meaning immediately.
“Ah, yes. We’ve definitely taken into account a lot of the feedback from players and reviewers,” he said, shifting his eyes downward slightly while he spoke. He confirmed the English voice actors for the series’ two primary characters, Rufus and Goal, would return. Then he went on to explain that more time and care was being put into the localization this time, and that a more professional hand was being applied to how voice work was recorded this time around.
It was odd to witness his practically apologetic demeanor regarding the first game’s localization, as if he was personally responsible for it. Without hearing the audio for myself, I can’t say whether or not it will sound any less stilted. I also can’t tell if the translation itself will be much better as, while there were subtitles overlaid throughout the demo, most spoken parts were skipped through in the interest of time.
That time saved was spent showing off things I can report do look a lot better.
For instance, while the original Deponia brought to mind Curse of Monkey Island levels of hand-drawn beauty, repeated use of the zany junkyard aesthetic wore thin in the late game. During the demo, I saw a seaside town centered around sewer runoff, a massive mushroom forest, and, of course, the aforementioned junkyard architecture of Deponia itself. Daedelic promises there will be even more variety than that, with Rufus, the series’ playable protagonist, eventually leaving the trash coated planet.
The variety of environments is also distributed in a new way. Due to a plot-related incident earlier in the game, Rufus is actually twice cloned near start of the game. This provides a twist on the crushingly traditional adventure gameplay of Deponia (as well as Chaos on Deponia, according to the developer). At any time, the player can swap between among the trio, each of which exists in a discrete portion of the game. At points, any two of them can pass off information and items, as well as effect each others’ zones. Mercifully, anytime something is altered in an area other than the one you happen to be loitering within, the game swaps to a cutscene to showcase exactly what’s changed. It certainly beats deja vu, as early warning systems go.
The concept of swapping between multiple characters isn’t new to the point-and-click genre (see: Resonance), but it should add a much needed layer of depth to the familiar formula.
I’ve still got reservations about the game’s localization. Several points showed misspelled words in the subtitles, and the lack of voice acting in the demo means I have no idea how everything will sound. That being said, Goodbye Deponia looks to be yet another stunning-to-look-at entry in the soon-to-be-trilogy. With a bit more variety in play and playground, I imagine it will be a bit more appealing to burned out adventure gamers this go ’round the carousal.
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