With the recent release [in Germany] of The Whispered World, Hamburg-based publisher Daedalic Entertainment has hit a more serious and dark tone than with earlier titles like Edna & Harvey: The Breakout. A New Beginning, scheduled for next year, also has a more serious theme – the impending climate catastrophe – but the company is also working on yet another project by the name of Deponia, in which they hope to really cut loose again.
In Deponia, the world has degenerated into a vast garbage dump, in which the crotchety Rufus ekes out his sorry existence. He is part of the lowest social class, doomed to live his life in literal mountains of trash. He believes he was born for something better than this and hopes for an opportunity to get into the world of the rich, who live in floating cities high above the clouds. Fate seems to smile on the snotty good-for-nothing when one day the attractive Goal from the higher sectors plummets into one of the trash heaps. Rufus decides to help the young woman out by taking her back to her husband. When he notices that Goal’s husband is a dead ringer for himself, he hatches a diabolical scheme to gain access to the upper world. But things don't work out quite as planned, since he has feelings for the beauty which limit his usual unscrupulousness.
The story about the trashheap planet will span a combined nine chapters featuring many exciting plot twists. The details Jan Müller-Michaelis revealed sound very promising. Edna fans in particular can look forward to an interesting story with characters that are as unhinged as they are complex. Daedalic's Creative Director was positively bubbling with so many ideas it was hard to keep up with every aspect of the project he described. The story's main focus is on Rufus’ big goal of building a better life for himself far away from the trash heaps. But the love story between Rufus and Goal will also play a central part. And then there’s the strikingly similar-looking coldly manipulative husband, turning the story into a comedy of errors as well. The game world and characters were inspired by Terry Pratchett (Discworld novels), Matt Groening (Futurama/The Simpsons) and Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy).
The gameplay is standard point-and-click fare, but deliberately doing away with the usual context-sensitive pointer, and instead bringing up a small menu offering various possible interactions, like we've seen in The Whispered World. In Deponia the developers also want to add unique comments to as many individual hotspots as possible, which along with the dialogues should help provide credibility and depth. That's important, as the world of Deponia is practically like an adventure game playground. The immense dump site seems ideally suited to plausibly place items Rufus will need to achieve his goals. On the other hand, something like that can easily be taken too far and cost credibility. It remains to be seen just how Daedalic will shape their world.
Besides inventory- and combination puzzles, Daedalic wants to work a whole range of possibilities into the game. This includes jigsaw puzzles and other minigames, as well as button-pushing and other mechanical puzzles. They’ve also come up with some nice features that are very closely tied to the story. For instance, Rufus’ companion has a data disk containing her personality traits and memories. This data has been damaged in the accident and has to be repaired by local science guy Doc. The technician manages to recover the information, but it gets spread over three disks in the process. To make things worse, the disks then get spread across the world. Each of these disks makes a profound change in Goal’s personality, depending on which disk is chosen; possibilities include an affectionate Goal as well as a schemer. The third option will be so nasty she’ll put even overbearing anti-hero Rufus to shame. All of this will not only lead to funny dialogue, but will also be relevant to the game, as there are some actions and dialogue options she will only carry out when the correct disk is inserted. A crafty idea, which we're looking forward to seeing in action.
The game’s graphics take more after Edna & Harvey than The Whispered World, though the resolution and animation quality will clearly be better than the former. Both the backgrounds and the characters look a bit more like Japanese comics, as opposed to the more “European” style of games like The Whispered World and A New Beginning. This is seen particularly well in the somewhat steampunkish character art. Along with the first screenshots, this early artwork leaves us wanting more. Daedalic promises to deal with some of the rough edges in the animation seen in their earlier 2D adventures and will optimize the game for widescreen resolution (1440x900). We eagerly await the first video footage.
Daedalic intends to release the game in 2010. We can only guess if it will stay on course, because they are also still working on A New Beginning, which was originally supposed to be out much earlier. In any case, Deponia seems to be far more complex than you might expect based on the art style. It will be no small feat to bring together the many creative ideas the developer brought with them to gamescom and put them together properly. However, we believe that Daedalic will take their time with this project and hope they don't lose track of the big picture.