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Memoria

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By Bobfish07-10-2013
MrJenssen (editor)
Memoria

The Defence

Developer:
Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher:
Daedalic Entertainment
Genre:
Adventure
Release Date:
29-08-2013

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce 8600
AMD equivalent
RAM:
4 GB
HDD:
10 GB
DirectX:
OpenGL

The Case

From the undisputed kings of the point and click adventure genre comes the latest addition to the long running The Dark Eye franchise. A franchise that spans several decades and multiple mediums, from tabletop RPGs to adventure games such as this one. With such a weighty pedigree, do Daedalic rise to the challenge and reaffirm their claim to the crown?

The Trial

A direct sequel and continuation to Chains of Satinav, this tale revolves around his (SatNav’s) arch nemesis Tomtom, who has risen to prominence and stated his firm intentions to become the ruler of all traffic systems across Aventuria. Sorry, couldn't resist.

I'm attacking the darkness!

I'm attacking the darkness!

We join the birdcatcher Geron (the hero of Satinav) as he meets with a shady merchant. In a last ditch attempt to learn a spell which will allow him to transform his faery companion Nuri, now in the form of a raven, back to her original state. From the very outset, the pressing importance of this task is made all too clear to us. First through Geron's agitation, and later when we are first reintroduced to her, injured and somewhat confused as her personality is slowly shifting from its original state to be more like the raven she has now become.

Much of the dialogue, at least initially, is written and presented as though it assumes you are coming directly from Satinav, with no clunky exposition to bring us up to speed. However, if this is your first time into the series, as it was mine, it will take very little time for you to catch up on what you've missed. The dialogue is so expertly written that everything is spoon-fed to us almost instantly, without ever feeling strained or unnatural. Geron's selfless nature is infectious, sucking you into his desperate search so rapidly that everything else becomes secondary.

Sort of.

The game actually fluctuates by two, initially, seemingly unrelated stories. The fairly mundane tale of Geron in the 'present day', and the far more grandiose adventure of the Princess Sadja approximately five centuries earlier. Her quest revolves around a magical mask which, she believes, will allow her to end the bloody conflict brewing in the realm of Draconia. It’s your typical final battle between good and evil scenario, which sounds trite on the surface, but is so well told that it never feels cliché.

None shall pass.

None shall pass.

It may sound spoilerish, but it should already be obvious, as the story revolves around both characters. You see, the events of one story are of utmost significance to the other. To the degree that they are effectively the same story. Though Geron's motivation remains finding a cure for Nuri, something which he never forgets - the particulars of what he is doing are far more significant in the grand scheme of things. This is clear to both, Geron and the player.

Given the scale and delicate subtlety of the overarching narrative, even the comparatively lengthy description above feels woefully inadequate. But by its very nature as an adventure game, saying more would spoil much of the appeal for playing it in the first place. Allow me to draw a line under this part of the review by simply saying that it is, truly, an epic tale.

The gameplay is your standard fare for a point and click adventure. You point, and you click, solving puzzles as you go. Simple. Everything is as you would expect and works the way it's supposed to. Sadja and Geron also have unique magical spells that they can employ to help them. Sadja's Vision spell, in particular, is extremely well implemented and interesting to use.

I can see the light.

I can see the light.

The puzzles themselves are a lot less abstract than most point and click games. Though some of them are still overly complicated, such as Sadja's method for catching a rabbit. I wanted to just put a snare outside its nest and be done with it. But NOOOO, she had to set up a net, a string of bait, rope, stakes and a forklift truck, just...because. The forklift may be a slight exaggeration, but you see my point. Beyond that, they are all logical, internally consistent and challenging without ever being infuriatingly oblique.

The game is also surprisingly short for an adventure game. Though I would like to stress, it is short...for an adventure game. Still clocking in at a good 12-14 hours the first time around, and still close on 10 for repeat playthroughs unless you skip through every single line of dialogue. But if you do that, why would you bother playing it in the first place?

The visuals are absolutely gorgeous. Featuring beautifully drawn, often animated, backgrounds and highly detailed, exceptionally well animated characters. Nothing stands out, in the good way. Everything and everyone you see is clearly a part of the environment. Unless it's not supposed to, of course.

Excuse me...what have you been smoking?

Excuse me...what have you been smoking?

The sound design is just superb. The soundtrack is suitably orchestral, building to grand crescendos at the appropriate moment and steeling into the background to be virtually unnoticeable when there are other things to occupy your attention. It maintains a suitable level of volume to allow dialogue to be clearly audible. The voice acting itself is mostly solid, with the important characters all sounding extremely natural in their diction. Nuri, in particular, being a standout performance. Though some of the lesser characters can be a little flat and wooden at times, it never reaches a cringeworthy level.

The Verdict

All in all, if I haven't already made this clear, Memoria is a fantastic game. Ample length, an expertly written, infinitely compelling narrative and a variety of unique, well rounded characters. Even some that appear for only one scene carry the weight of experience behind them, with hints of a greater history that make them feel all the more authentic, even if we never learn any of it. If I was to pick one fault, and I must because it's my job, it would be the real-time texture compression. For no discernible visual improvements, it can be so taxing that your framerate will, literally, drop to zero at points. So just turn it off and play without. It's a beautiful game anyway.

Case Review

  • Art Style: In a word - absolutely freakin' gorgeous!
  • Narrative: Superbly well written, subtle and immediately engaging. A paragon of its field.
  • Voice Acting: Barring some very minor wonkyness, the characters are all engaging and feel extremely natural.
  • Puzzles: Easy compared to many in the genre, but this is due to them being more practical and lacking the usual oblique fluff.
  • Realtime Texture Compression: 270 FPS without, 1 FPS with. Unnecessary system draw for no noticeable return.
5
Score: 5/5
Expertly written, infinitely compelling, truly epic.

Appeal

Memoria is a 2.5D, point & click adventure RPG. The game looks gorgeous, merging 2D and 3D elements together almost seamlessly in order to bring to life its high fantasy setting. Memoria also sounds great with some memorable voice performances - Princess Sadja and her magical staff being particular standouts.

The game not only looks and sounds great, but it is also quite enjoyable to play. Puzzles are challenging but only very occasionally obtuse. I’ve found myself consulting a guide once or twice, however, often find myself slapping my forehead and saying “Well, duh” afterwards. You are given subtle hints on what to do through character interaction, but the game never bashes you over the head with the solution and the clues feel like organic parts of dialogue.

Whilst the game is aesthetically pleasing, technically it could use some work. Even though the specs of my humble gaming laptop surpassed those recommended to play this game, I experienced a temporary but significant drop in FPS whenever I tried to do anything. Even after I lowered my graphical settings I still had some slowdown when moving between menus. This is a let-down, but it is luckily my only major complaint. Everything else about the game feels very polished bar the odd awkward transition between different character actions - though this is much easier to forgive than consistent drops in FPS.

4
Score: 4/5

Appeal

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we have another great adventure game from Daedalic Entertainment. Memoria is a sequel to The Dark Eye, which starts off with the hero of Satinav embarking on a new journey. It is done in such way that the fans of the previous game might rejoice by a comeback of a familiar face without intimidating newcomers who want to experience a brand new adventure.

Daedalic, again, deliver on their strengths very well. The game has a unique picturesque art style, mesmerizing music, great voicework and a captivating story. The art style is much different from few previous games, this time looking more like a painting from an art gallery than a drawing from a kids book, but considering the story this is not only appropriate it is also very fitting. The music is so fantastic that it deserves its own, separate, OST with brilliant voicework that delivers on emotions and sell you the characters and their stories. And the story doesn’t need a lot of effort in order to be sold. It is engaging and interesting with two different characters that, while seeking different goals, strengthen each other’s storyline impact.

Unfortunately, yet again, the game suffers from unjustified performance issues, which are quite frequent and very annoying, choking the framerate significantly during dialogues and cutscenes. Luckily, the actual gameplay escapes this issue unscathed. That, combined with puzzles that require some thinking, and sometimes even a guide, probably isn’t going to help attract new people to the genre. But for those that love point and click games and especially those who enjoyed Daedalic’s previous games, this is a big treat that should not be missed.

4
Score: 4/5
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