The Dark Eye: Memoria may feel like a little known new title, but it is actually the sequel to the well received The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav (also available on Steam). It’s the latest in a long line of ‘point and click’ titles from German developer Daedalic Entertainment, and I was eager to check out the final build after some issues in our earlier preview.
To say Memoria is story driven, would be an understatement. The developers have really focused on creating a compelling story that merges beautifully with the stunning artwork. Unlike some other ‘point and click’ titles, Memoria takes itself quite seriously. You step into the shoes of either Geron, a bird-catcher (though this is only a ruse) or Princess Sadja. Geron is on a quest to turn his beloved Nuri back into a fairy, after she has been transformed into a raven - all before she loses her powers and her memories. Princess Sadja on the other hand is on a quest to win a great battle with the aid of a enchanted mask.
Geron and Princess Sadja are separated by thousands of years, however both their stories intertwine. Geron must discover the secrets of Princess Sadja’s existence if he wishes to have any hope of saving his Nuri. The story is dark, powerful, and consequently, extremely gripping - compelling you to press on and discover more as you traverse the beautiful world. Unfortunately the story doesn't take long enough to play through, but nonetheless it is still one of the most compelling reasons to play The Dark Eye: Memoria.
In addition to the great storyline is some rather impressive voice acting. You can even change up the languages if you feel like something different - which could well be interesting for some. But it’s really the graphics that pull you in. The village marketplace, lovingly and spectacularly recreated as if in a drawing - however alive with animals and other adornments, or a beautiful forest glade. They could hardly have made it a more fitting environment for such a compelling story, and in this sense Memoria becomes quite a rare gem.
Now while this sounds great - it’s predominantly the gameplay mechanics that gives us a good dose of reality. As far as ‘point and click’ adventures go, the usual elements are present. You have access to an inventory where you can store things you pick up on your travels, and at times are required to combine with one another. You also have access to some magical powers, both as Geron or as Princess Sadja. Finding the right moments to use an item, or a power, is key to moving forward in the storyline.
While this is nothing new in a ‘point and click’ adventure, unfortunately in Memoria the gameplay is such that it is possible to use an item out of order. This destroys your chance to progress, unless you’ve got a previous save game to revert to. The puzzle elements too are really varied, some puzzles are more or less straightforward, while others seemed to involve too much random trial and error. This of course wasn’t helped by the fact that on occasion I no longer had a required item in my inventory, due to the aforementioned issue.
So while the difficulty curve in Memoria is such that you can pick up and play within seconds, it can become excruciatingly frustrating. The very strong storyline and beautiful backdrops really help to keep you engaged, but at times this was only barely enough to stop me from throwing my fists in the air in rage. Maybe I’m simply not clever enough for a ‘point and click’ adventure (maybe Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards is more my style) but the occasional stalemate the game and I arrived at did sour the experience.
Now while these issues did crop up on occasion, there were also periods where the story flowed smoothly and was particularly enjoyable. The varied puzzles were also great, moving away from a pure “point here, use this item here” approach. It was these moments that made me glad I kept calm, and came back to Memoria. Without a multiplayer, the story is the incentive - particularly if you have played through The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav. Even if you simply love adventure games, or love a puzzle challenge, Memoria will have something for you.
There are a number of aids you can utilise to help with the playthrough, and it’s great that the developers have attempted to cater for a wider audience. I imagine as time goes by a FAQ or walkthrough will become available which will allow some of us to fully enjoy the story, without quite as many frustrations. And maybe, just maybe, the issues will be ironed out and we will be left with one of the soundest adventure ‘point and click’ titles in recent years. You’ll find out soon as Memoria is set to release on Steam on 30 August 2013.