Geron: I found this cucumber…
I recently did a news post on the trailer for Memoria from Daedalic Entertainment, who have also brought us Night of the Rabbit, the Deponia series, A New Beginning, The Whispered World, the Edna & Harvey series, and Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav, which Memoria is a direct follow-up to. Both games were written by Kevin Mentz. I unfortunately have not played Chains of Satinav yet (despite owning it), but I was lucky enough to get my hands on the preview build for Memoria. The preview covers the first four chapters, about half the game. Both games are based on The Dark Eye, which has been Europe’s most well-known fantasy RPG universe since 1984 and outsells Dungeons & Dragons in the German market. There are three English-language rulebooks out there if you’re curious, all fourth edition: Basic Rules, The Secret of the Blue Tower and The Witching Hours, and World of Adventuria.
Watch the trailer again if you missed it the first time:
Memoria tells the story of the young and no less fierce princess Sadja from Fasar, a faraway kingdom. In a past time, during a dark age of Aventuria’s history, she set forth to fight in the great battle of the Gorian Desert. A battle against mighty demons, meant to make her one of the greatest heroes of all time…but she vanished, her fate lost in the sands of time. Five centuries pass, until the young fowler Geron cuts a deal: to break a curse cast on his friend Nuri, who has been trapped in the body of a raven, he has to unravel Sadja’s enigmatic past. But his search sets events in motion that will cast a long shadow over his homeland and turn his present into a twisted image of a long lost time…
You get the opportunity to play as both Geron and Sadja, who are both excellent characters. Sadja in particular is a very strong woman, letting nothing stand in her way of her ultimate goal of being “the greatest heroine the world has ever seen.” This adds variety, and Geron and Sadja live in very different times and have different goals, so it’s pretty unique. Both characters also have talking companions – Geron has Nuri, a raven who used to be a fairy (the events of which were covered in Chains of Satinav), and Sadja has a mysterious talking staff, whose nature becomes clearer as the story progresses. The plot is absolutely compelling, and Geron and Sadja’s stories become more and more entwined in a way that makes you keep going.
Graphics and Sound
The game is gorgeous. It’s largely 2D, with character models being somewhere between 2D and 3D. There are very nice animation effects (water, smoke), and everything has an old-fashioned point-and-click adventure feel to it, which I love. There are also some very nice close-up dialogue shots, which are basically animated paintings. Daedalic makes beautiful game art, and Memoria is no exception.
The preview build I played was in German with English subtitles. You have three options when it comes to voice: voice only, subtitles only, or voice and subtitles. The German voice overs all sounded excellent to me – but I don’t think I can make a definitive comment on them, because I am by no means a native German speaker. Still, reading the subtitles and listening to the overall tone of the actors made the story work for me – it was just like watching a foreign film. Subtitles are also color-coded. English localization is still being recorded, which is why I was unable to play an English version. Music is almost non-existent and not very memorable – but surprisingly, I didn’t really realize that until I sat down to write the review. I didn’t miss it much. I assume that a soundtrack will be available, so I am unsure what will be included on it. They may also add music to the game between now and release.
There’s a quick tutorial at the beginning, but even a beginner to adventure games probably wouldn’t need it – left click does everything except examine/observe, which is right click. Very simple. The inventory and menu are both accessed by moving the mouse to the bottom of the screen, where they will pop up. You can also access the highlight hotspot button from here and the questlog/journal, which contains backstory and a hint system. The hints are more like nudges, but they can get you going in the right direction more often than not. A nice touch is that the hotspot system can also be activated using the spacebar or by clicking the mouse wheel. I really liked that, because a lot of games force you to keep moving to a button – this doesn’t take you out of the game as much. You can also turn the hotspot helper off in the menu if you don’t want to be tempted. Another helper that Memoria adds that I haven’t seen in adventure games is the combination helper. This can only be turned on from the menu, and when on, an item glows when placed over a hotspot where it can be used. No more using everything in your inventory on everything you can see! This is pretty great, in my opinion – it adds a level of accessibility to newcomers (or people like me with a low frustration point/are playing for story), and people who don’t like it can turn it off.
Memoria also has a spell system (as did Night of the Rabbit). Both Geron and Sadja start out with one spell each, but I was up to three each by the time the preview was over. These add another element to puzzle-solving, and it’s easy to forget about them – but if you’re stuck, most of the time it’s because you forgot that you could cast a spell! Dialogue is done through a wheel system that reminded me of Mass Effect (except you know exactly what you’re going to say).
Puzzles mostly make sense, but sometimes there’s one that comes from left field (like the cucumbers I alluded to in the opening quote). There’s also a maze puzzle that feels like it was tacked on to make the game longer and is just annoying – it doesn’t really add anything to the game. However, the hint system, hotspot highlighter, and combination helper are going to help you get through pretty much any roadblock you have.
Memoria is a gorgeous adventure game with a few puzzle issues that keep it from being perfect. Otherwise, the storytelling is wonderful and it’s absolute eye candy. I can’t wait to play the full game (the preview build ended on an evil cliffhanger) – and I’ll definitely be playing Chains of Satinav to get all the backstory.