Point-and-click games are hardly lacking on the Xbox One, mostly due to the efforts of Artifex Mundi and their several PC ports. We’ve seen a steady influx of these titles lately, so much so that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. There’s some truly solid additions (King’s Quest) and some less than desirable additions (Armikrog), so where does the port of the 2012 Chaos on Deponia sit? Despite some clever ideas and a thick layer of comedy, it doesn’t quite reach new heights for the genre due to poor optimisation and some mind boggling puzzle logic.
Developed by Daedalic Entertainment, Chaos on Deponia serves as a sequel to Deponia. The story continues the journey of Rufus as he strives to leave the planet of Deponia and move to the legendary floating city of Elysium. I’ll admit I had never even heard of this series until earlier this week, which is when the first problem with the game comes into view. Whilst Chaos of Deponia doesn’t totally alienate first-timers, there’s some character building and jokes that don’t quite translate too well if you haven’t enjoyed the previous instalment. There are also some moments of confusion that will arise if you’re not privy to the prior events but for the most part, this sequel does a fair job at pencilling you in.
If, like me, you’re new to the series, there’s still a lot of fun to pull from the experience regardless. Rufus is your everyday smart ass. He’s that know-it-all guy that’s every bit as arrogant as he is cocky. He’s not what I would describe as immediately likeable, but he did grow on me before too long. Rufus’ personality rubs off on a lot of people the wrong way, which may explain why he’s not the most popular guy in town. Rufus is a chap that’s full of ambition and imagination, but lacks the technical know-how that’s needed to execute his many harebrained plans. It precisely because of this that sees Rufus once again stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Following on from the tutorial segments of play, Rufus finds himself desperately trying to fix a problem that he has caused for Goal, his best friend. Goal’s consciousness has been split into three parts and stored to three different discs, and it’s up to main man Rufus to help Goal to become whole again and save the entirety of Deponia the process. Convincing three Goals to become one Goal is the overarching goal of the game (not sorry), but that’s a lot easier said than done. The premise may indeed be as bonkers and outrageous as they come, but its silliness is bolstered well by the endearing details throughout the course of the game. As such, you’ll be meeting a sizeable cast of characters and solving some questionable puzzle logic along the way.
It’s immediately apparent from the onset that Chaos of Deponia is a colourful and visually engaging experience. The art style isn’t too dislike The Inner World, but arguably packs a better design thanks to better detailed set pieces. However where Chaos of Deponia has one-up on The Inner World as far as presentation is concerned, it’s undeniably a few notches below that comparison when it comes to puzzle structure. Much like other games in this genre, the gameplay here consists of exploring your surroundings and interacting with anything you can mash a button with. Rufus will pick up a variety of items and attempt to use them in a range of different ways, but this is sadly where a major flaw in Chaos of Deponia makes itself known. There’s almost a complete lack of problem solving guidance.
I don’t ask for a handout or a spoon feeding session, but would it hurt to at least know what I’m trying to do so that I can attempt to make sense of my goals? I appreciate that point-and-click games can be very “trial and error” but there’s far too much reliance on that method in Chaos of Deponia. I cant completely bash the game for this because there are some genuinely interesting puzzle solving moments to be enjoyed. It’s just a shame that the translation between what you “should” do and what you “need” to do, is often lost. This was a big deal breaker for me because if a point-and-click adventure needs to nail one singular aspect of the gameplay, it’s the puzzles. Here it just seems to be too straight forward or too complex, with no middle ground offered to bridge the void.
Irrespective of its shortcomings, Chaos of Deponia manages to stand out as a unique story. The fantastic hand painted art work is diverse and magnificently crafted, which ensures the player is treated to a wide variety of backdrops. The tone of the game is further heightened by the excellent soundtrack, which sits inline with the comical mood within. Unfortunately the humour in this game can often be negated by the plethora of dialogue that you’re constantly subject to. Excessive dialogue is hardly a first for the genre, but here it can be a bit too excessive and a bit too frequent for those that just like to be left to their own devices. This isn’t a criticism, merely a preference and observation. It doesn’t help that there are moments of framerate issues to contend with too, which is mercifully not too frequent.
It’s important to keep in mind that Chaos of Deponia is five years old, which is why I’m partially willing to forgive its lack of implementing something fresh and unique for genre fans to enjoy. I couldn’t quite gel with much of the puzzle logic, which tends to lean too heavily on trial and error rather than innovation. Daedalic also needs to address the slight dip in framerate which is most dominant during screen transition. With these issues to the side, there’s a lot of fun to be had within. Chaos of Deponia is well put together and holds up nicely alongside the gameplay, the story, and the comical personality. It’s a gorgeously presented experience that does justice for the formula it adopts, and hopefully we see other games from the series ported over in due course.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.