Review for Goodbye Deponia
Adventure Gamers Awards
This review contains minor story spoilers relating to the first two chapters.
Is it time to bid Deponia a fond farewell already? Not so fast! Though the main menu has a “now leaving Deponia” message splashed across the screen near the start of Goodbye Deponia, there's one last engaging adventure remaining for series veterans on this garbage-strewn planet.
As in the first two games of Daedalic's comic trilogy, the finale's story focuses on Rufus, a malcontent inventor who seldom lets reality taint his sky-high ambitions. Rufus is imaginative, reckless and wholly self-centered. “Winging it” is his trademark and he knows just enough to make an awful mess of things. Most of the people around him are simply hoping to survive him. The player’s enjoyment of the Deponia series is largely based on your reaction to Rufus – i.e., whether you find his behavior amusingly provocative or shockingly aggravating. Personally, I find Rufus's antics quite entertaining, if sometimes atrocious.
Once again, Rufus plans to use his friendship with Goal – an aristocratic young woman from Elysium, a floating city far above the planet surface – to finally bid Deponia adieu. As a parting gift, convincing the Elysians to abandon their plan to blow up the planet would also be nice. The plot resumes shortly after the end sequence in the second game, Chaos on Deponia. (The story’s ongoing complexity definitely warrants playing the first two games before attempting this one.) Rufus, Goal, Bozo (a fisherman), and Doc (a scientist) are on a coastal cutter heading toward Porta Fisco, where the last highboat to Elysium will soon depart. Rufus thinks he has found a shortcut to their destination, but of course it ends up being a detour.
Overall, the writing has improved since Chaos. Dialogs in Goodbye are snappier, and I laughed a lot more. You can click through these conversations, though the voiceovers are so good that I rarely did. As in the previous Deponia games, the script contain dollops of toilet humor, some sexual innuendo, and a few incidents of deplorable taste. One example is a woman dancing half naked in public as a substitute for an organ grinder’s monkey. (This is not a game for children.) You must access all the dialogs to ensure progress, and you may have to re-access some of them, as essential new choices occasionally appear under old dialog trees.
Like its predecessors, Goodbye Deponia fits snugly into the tradition of classic third-person, LucasArts-style comedic adventures. It features colorful, cartoon-like 2D graphics which create a quirky yet believable world. Everything on Deponia is worn-out, blotchy, and piecemeal (picture a world constructed entirely from dumpster diving). In the interiors, curtains are bedraggled, cardboard is littered everywhere, and congealed substances ornament the walls. The exterior cityscapes display acrid yellow skies, buildings with gaping holes, and jagged metal debris.
In a game with more realistic graphics, this dystopian setting would be dark and depressing, but the stylized graphics in Deponia instead exude an atmosphere of quixotic make-doism. Some of the scenes aim to trigger a double-take moment, where, if you look closely, the rough end of a beam looks like a face, giant legs are spread out across a hotel floor, and a water tap resembles a skull. In a doff-of-the-hat to Chaos, duckbilled platypus shapes roost in the rooms, with their nascent offspring hidden in the background.
Goodbye’s locations are more varied than in the previous games, including a hotel at the end of the world, a trooper ship with mazelike corridors, an enigmatic cloning facility, and a battle-worn city. Small animations enliven every scene, such as water rippling, bugs crawling, animals stalking, and lights flashing. Several brief but well-animated cutscenes offer a closer look at the main characters in action and can be replayed to further enjoy the agony, the idiocy, and even some uptown dance moves.
The game’s point-and-click interface is streamlined and easy to use: left-click to initiate conversations and interact with objects, right-click to hear descriptions. Items can be viewed and combined in the inventory, which is accessible via the mouse wheel or by an optional on-screen button. The spacebar highlights all hotspots. You have unlimited saves and can save your game anytime except during cutscenes and self-contained puzzles.
Also in the LucasArts tradition, Goodbye presents an assortment of zany challenges. The difficulty ramps up slowly at first, and eases at the end of the game. This is the pacing that story-heavy games ought to follow – giving the gamer time to become acquainted with the interface and the characters, offering significant challenge in the middle, and then letting the story flow near the end, unencumbered by the risk of getting stuck on a puzzle just as all is about to be revealed.
The bulk of gameplay involves inventory and dialog puzzles, which are often clever, sometimes thoroughly logical and other times quite whimsical. One example is the Rorschach quest triggered by a snooty psychologist who won’t give Rufus the medication he wants (supposedly due to Rufus’s lack of seriousness – the nerve!). The quest is an ongoing puzzle woven between other challenges and requires multiple steps; it held me up for quite some time because it employs one interaction that is bizarre. Further challenges arise when Rufus manages to clone himself into three parts, and his various iterations must cooperate. Two of the Rufuses (Rufi?) can exchange inventory items. A new interface near the bottom of the screen allows you to switch between the three Rufi and pass items between two of them at will.
Several minigame-style puzzles with a slightly different interface occur at key moments in the story, ranging in difficulty from easy to dastardly. My favorite was the laundry room challenge, where Rufus encounters hooded cult worshippers and must arrange the wash and dry cycle to spit out the right disguise. I also relished the tone-matching puzzle, aided by a handy bouncing ball above the musical staff. You can skip this puzzle if you’re tone deaf or haven’t had the benefit/torture of years of music lessons. In fact, you can skip any of the self-contained puzzles if you feel hopelessly stuck.
It took me 24 hours to complete Goodbye, about 5 of which were spent ambling about while stuck on one-or-another of the multi-stepped inventory puzzles. Thankfully, although timing is involved in a few of the tasks, the designers have not resorted to requiring quick reflexes as a way to increase difficulty.
Daedalic has become very good at the art of distraction – focusing attention on something that seems important but (at least at a certain part of the challenge) is really incidental. This is entirely fair. The problem in a few of the puzzles, however, is that they rely on a couple of unexpected conventions (at least, I didn’t expect them). For instance, Rufus’s position on the screen can sometimes affect the cursor and dialogs in a way I’ve rarely seen in a 2D game. Also, the cursor suddenly becomes available in certain sequences where it usually isn’t the case. These techniques reward the gamer who thinks “outside the box.” As for me, I would not have completed the game without occasionally consulting a walkthrough.
I played this game on Steam, and though I usually find achievements to be immersion-breakers, the ones here were so droll that, for the first time in any adventure game, I found myself caring about them. I sincerely regretted missing the Saturday Night Fever achievement, so I went back to a saved game, re-strategized my business with the security cameras and floor tiles, and completed the puzzle. I am now the proud owner of the mirrored disco ball icon.
Each chapter in Goodbye Deponia opens with a hobo minstrel who musically speculates about upcoming events. These interludes, with their over-the-top lyrics and strained rhymes, are highlights of the entire trilogy. Cowboy Dodo’s country music performance, in contrast, is purposely ghastly here. As for the background music, it helps to amplify the atmosphere of the different locations, at least at first – after a while, in areas with lots of backtracking it gets rather repetitive. A disco tune during the security camera challenge was a surprising addition. Other mood-enhancing tunes include solemn orchestral music in the introduction, and harp and chime music in a sewer pipe forest.
The people in the Deponia trilogy are its most intriguing aspect – assuming, of course, that you enjoy quirks and absurdities. The characters have exaggerated features, strike odd poses, and are found in unusual places (the postman stuck in a window, for instance). Lip sync is reasonably good, and the animations suit the characters’ cartoon-like quality. Rufus slumps with boredom and plays air guitar if you ignore him for too long. Hermes’s hand and face twitch spasmodically as he rides a conveyor belt, while Baby Bozo sucks his thumb and crawls about on the construction beam as vultures circle nearby.
Much of the cast from the previous two games returns in Goodbye Deponia, though sometimes in different roles. Goal has settled in and confirmed a key choice – she also spends more time fully conscious and in her right mind. In addition, a TV sitcom-like sequence in the dysfunctional Bozo household explores embarrassing truths about the blustery fisherman. A tantalizing picture of the Elysians and their representative, Inspector Cletus, also unfolds. Cletus, once Goal’s fiancé, was sent to Deponia to confirm that all life there is now extinct before the Elysians destroy the planet. To say that Cletus has mixed motives is an understatement – he remains a mystery to the end.
A few of the new characters are particularly memorable: Hermes, for instance, who looks like death warmed over and understands the origins of what is happening in Deponia. Also, the Seer, obsessively grooming himself for his big pre-apocalypse speech. And Cowboy Dodo, a country music artist who is rather lucky to be on Deponia. (If he struck up a tune in, say, The Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville, he wouldn’t make it out alive.)
Finally, Goodbye delicately drops some compelling tidbits about Rufus and his past. At the end of each of the two previous Deponia games, Rufus seemed to have grown as a person. At the beginning of each sequel, unfortunately, he has regressed right back to his former habits – ruthlessly ignoring the needs of others and indulging in rampant self-promotion. I found this disappointing in Chaos, and felt the same way at the beginning of Goodbye. However, as the game progresses, a believable explanation for this character fault surfaces.
There is a deeper level to Goodbye Deponia than seen before, though delivered with a light touch. It's a commentary on consumerism, the many “faces” of selfishness, and the dangers of advanced technology when it falls into the wrong hands. The game also flirts with the idea that good things come in threes, while positing that the efforts of a single, persistent individual – however flawed – ought to be vindicated.
Goodbye Deponia’s colorful, wacky story and out-of-the-box puzzling come to a rewarding end. The plot throughout the series has undergone several transformations, contained multiple twists, and hinted that various characters are harboring secrets. By the end of Goodbye, most of these have been explained and revealed – a difficult feat, given the number of characters and their changing roles. And in the denouement, Rufus seems to have finally achieved the character growth he only showed glimpses of earlier – and in a fashion that’s likely to stick.
Daedalic has clearly stepped up its game in the concluding portion of this trilogy. Fans of the LucasArts classics are likely to have a field day; gamers who favor Myst-like quests wrapped in solitude may find the plot too twisty and the characters too chatty. The former should keep in mind that the Deponia games effectively function as a three-part adventure – story intricacies will only make sense if you start with the first one and work your way through. Gamers who do are likely, in this final game, to experience a challenging, outrageous, and satisfyingly long goodbye.