By Brad Williams / December 23rd, 2013
|Title: Goodbye Deponia
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Release Date: October 15, 2013
Platforms: PC (Windows), Mac
Age Rating: 12 (PEGI)
Goodbye Deponia is a very pretty but very ugly game. The third and final act in the Deponia series sees main character Rufus and his friends, Goal, Bozo, and Doc, trying to save the titular world before it is destroyed at the hands of Elysium. Through the course of the adventure, Rufus will encounter characters from past games, both friend and foe, and have to thwart the Organon military to save the world.
Rufus accomplishes his mission through standard adventure gameplay – find items, use them to solve puzzles. Point the mouse, and Rufus can look at or interact with whatever item you highlight. Daedalic helps remove some of the tedium by allowing double-clicking a location to instantly move Rufus to the next scene rather than making you watch him walk through each door. Puzzles are standard fare for the adventure genre, involving inventory items that interact with locations or people in the environment. Some puzzles make sense, like using a space heater to heat up a cave for people to sleep in. Others are more boring and nonsensical, like when you have to play a tile matching puzzle game to change a hotel’s heater into an air conditioner. Why is the hotel’s central air controlled through a match three puzzle? Because why not.
The failure in puzzle designs is not just due to strange solutions. A big part of an adventure game’s success is that the solution to one puzzle will usually lead to another puzzle that requires solving. Around halfway through Goodbye Deponia, the game opens up to a huge area with multiple puzzles. In other genres, opening the world up is a good thing, but in this case the game becomes a bit of a confusing mess. And when puzzles are already solved using less than intuitive methods, the openness of the world means the player wastes a lot of time randomly trying to find solutions to puzzles by combining every possible object. The game already feels long at around 8-10 hours, and this wide open area drags on pretty badly. And, other than finding hidden easter eggs for achievements, there is little reason to play this game more than once.
Developer Daedalic Entertainment clearly put a lot of love into the world of Goodbye Deponia. Deponia is a world covered in trash tossed down from the orbiting Elysium, but regardless of the junkyard surroundings the environment design is beautiful. Everything is hand drawn with bright colors and a lot of detail peppered throughout. Cities and other structures look like junkyards, while the Organon structures have a more sterile look. Characters are equally well designed, colorful, and charming looking.
Any game that begins with a song promises a great time to come, and those songs, while a bit odd, serve as fun chapter breaks throughout the game. The rest of the music is quite good as well, with appropriate and memorable themes playing at all the right times. This is a soundtrack that I would almost be tempted to buy separately. And, Daedalic clearly knows how to direct a cast. On top of the great music, the characters are well voiced, and some of them make you care about their plight thanks to how believable they sound.
However, Rufus is as unlikable as main characters come. He is dumb as a brick, and treats his friends terribly. Not only that, but he is incredibly misogynistic, suggesting that women have no role in the resistance, and just generally treating the people around him poorly. Somehow, Goal ends up falling in love with Rufus over the course of the three games, even though he is a terrible human being.
The way Goodbye Deponia treats mental illness is equally offensive. Two characters in the game suffer from depression. One is treated like a lazy crybaby by Rufus, and the solution is to get medication from the local psychiatrist to fix him. Rufus accomplishes this by lying about his own mental state, then forcing his friend to take the medicine. The other character, an ex-girlfriend of Rufus’, is driven back to the psychiatrist after Rufus pushes her over the edge. The psychiatrist, so tired of dealing with this one patient, prescribes rope to her so that she can kill herself.
When you think it can’t get any worse, the game defies all expectations. One series of puzzles involves getting rid of an organ grinder’s “monkey” to get the crank from the grinder. The replacement you find happens to be one of the game’s very few black characters, and the game refers to her as a “monkey” for the rest of the game. The way you get her to do the job? By destroying her life and literally selling her to the organ grinder.
Deponia featured some decent comedy, while Chaos on Deponia showed a downward slide toward the offensive, especially in regards to how it treated women. I’m really disappointed to see Goodbye Deponia take this madness even further. There is even more that I haven’t detailed here, including an interaction between children and a pedophile that is more than a little disturbing. I don’t know if these jokes play better in Daedalic Entertainment’s native Germany, or if something is lost in translation, but after three games I tend to doubt it.
The way Goodbye Deponia deals with racist, sexist, and otherwise offensive material to the player is infuriating because the developers clearly have it in them to make a great game. This is a beautiful game, the soundtrack is great, and the voice actors are well directed. Daedalic Entertainment showed that they can put love and care into storytelling with The Night of the Rabbit and The Whispered World, even if they need some refinement. But the tone of Goodbye Deponia makes it something I just can’t recommend to people, even at its lower price of $19.99. If you’re looking for an adventure game there are much better options out there.
Review copy provided by publisher.