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Review: Goodbye Deponia

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So here we have the final arc in a scrapyard trilogy, the closing out, the switching off of lights. If you’re not familiar with the series, Deponia is a return to point-and-click adventures of old, built on the lines of The Curse of Monkey Island or Discworld II – gorgeously illustrated and following a sardonic, comical and occasionally unlikeable protagonist, in this case the self-aggrandizing and collateral murderer, Rufus. Goodbye Deponia promised to wrap up the series in spectacular fashion, and in many ways represents a refinement of Deponia‘s core design, characters and story.

But unfortunately for fans, Goodbye Deponia falters at the very last. That it does so when so much of it has been improved makes it all the more tragic.

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Goodbye Deponia is definitely the strongest in the series in terms of its mechanics and puzzle-design, with less emphasis on plumbing the creator’s comedic bent in order to locate the right approach to the problem. Puzzles are broken up between your traditional item gathering and dialogue-driven conundrums, and  logic-driven sequences involving pattern recognition, spatial awareness and other approaches. These sequences can fortunately all be skipped if required, which may prove useful given some of the less forgiving and time-consuming ones.

Due to the lush backgrounds and art direction, the game occasionally turns into a hot-spot hunt, but this will no doubt be familiar to genre fans and shouldn’t prove too much of an issue. And the game really is beautiful – you’d think that three games set on a planet made largely of junk wouldn’t provide much room for variety, but the world shines through the multitude of locations and characters, all of whom are fully-voiced, well-acted, and refreshingly unique whether they’re old favourites or the new additions. The story is interspersed with numerous animated cut-scenes that give a closer look at the denizens of Deponia, and it all feels like Daedalic hitting their stride.

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While the game is largely comedic, Goodbye Deponia drifts into darker territory with the imminent apocalypse bearing down on Deponians, and this bleaker tone has resulted in a number of jokes that really push the boundaries of taste. Rufus – and Daedalic series in general – have never been worried about political correctness, and I appreciate that humour is a very difficult thing to judge, since it’s typically about the sensibilities of the person viewing it.

But, in two examples I consider the worst from the game, in one sequence you have Rufus entering a blatant paedophile’s trailer in order to obtain an inkblot of – what is heavily insinuated – his penis. In the same screen, you end up selling the only black character in the game into basic slavery as an organ grinder’s monkey. I kid you not, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. Rufus himself has a streak of sexism which is more often used to paint him as ridiculous, but if any of this upsets you Goodbye Deponia might not be your game.

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The story itself takes a number of interesting directions, and proves riveting up until the finale . Rufus, I feel, is a much more sympathetic character in Goodbye Deponia – he remains an incorrigible, ignorant braggart, but his interactions with his friends shows a deeply dedicated side of him – deep down, he values his friendships and companions, sometimes to a fault and the general misery of innocent strangers. There are also some startling revelations throughout that flesh out Deponia’s world, tantalising… but never delivering.

Like a kitten playing with a ball of yarn, the romp proves fun but there’s a lot more loose ends than when the kitty started with it. As the game wears on, it becomes clear that several points will never be cleared up, and the fate of several characters remains in limbo. And the ending is – well, as a long-time fan, I was flabbergasted. I won’t spoil it, but it feels to me like they dropped the ball. Given that players will have likely invested some 20-30 hours in Deponia as a whole – and adventure games live or die by their narrative – this is a serious misstep.

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Players of the previous titles will no doubt pick up Goodbye Deponia for closure, regardless of what I say. For people considering picking up the trilogy as a whole as a first play-through, the series offers enough charm and wackiness to keep you thoroughly entertained for a large portion of the time. Goodbye Deponia is a great adventure game with a terrible ending, and either you’re alright with that or you’re not; it’s impossible to reconcile those two facts.

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