Preview: Memoria PC

Memoria

It’s August, which means the wave of new games is beginning to pick up. August is the month that leads towards the back end of the year where all the AAA titles come out fighting for your hard earned money. While big titles will surely hit the spotlight in the news, we shouldn’t forget about the smaller games that don’t have such a huge following. One such title is an adventure game by Daedalic Entertainment, the developers that brought us the beautiful looking The Night of the Rabbit and a host of other joyful adventure games, such as Deponia and Harvey’s New Eyes, are now bringing us a sequel to Chains of Satinav.

Chains of Satinav, and its sequel, Memoria, are part of The Dark Eye universe. What makes these two games a little different is that The Dark Eye video games are often entries in the RPG genre, as The Dark Eye is the name of an extremely popular pen and paper RPG in its home country of Germany, where it has a bigger following than the other big pen and paper RPG series, Dungeons & Dragons.  The start of the demo preview threw you back into the shoes of Geron – a bird catcher – as he looks for a tent site in the middle of a forest. After some quick tutorial demonstrations, Geron meets up with a merchant named Fahi, who has the potential to help Nuri return to her true fairy form (you’ll know what happened to her if you played Chains of Satinav) in exchange for helping Fahi solve a mystery riddle of the fate of a princess. This is where things get interesting, as the story telling shifts back 500 years and the player controls Princess Sadja, who is in the midst of stealing a mask in the tomb of Malakkar. Princess Sadja comes off as a woman with strong motivation to become the greatest heroine that the world will ever know.

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If there is one thing Daedalic Entertainment has got right it’s that the game has the classic representation of the point-and-click genre spot on.  You move about the world by clicking the mouse cursor, with the right button used as a way to investigate objects and people, while the left mouse is used as the interaction tool. This feature was missing in Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded and it really irked me. Modern day adventure games should be adapting a more streamline approach – I don’t want to have to go through loops to do the exact same thing one button press could solve. The inventory is easily accessible by moving the cursor to the bottom of the screen and watching the inventory box slide up from the bottom. In the inventory, you are allowed to investigate items or try combining them with others, which of course is needed for some of the game’s puzzles.

Speaking of puzzles, Memoria allows you see all the objects that can be investigated or manipulated by holding down the space bar. This is a helpful mechanic that has featured in a few Daedalic Entertainment games, either as part of a magic ability, or in the case of Memoria, just as a way to help the player find objects that could easily be missed by a player lacking a keen eye. A hint screen is implemented, so that you can look for clues in there if you forget your task or are struggling to resolve a puzzle. In the preview build, the quest log already helped me more than any of the hints in The Night of the Rabbit, so the developers are on the right track in coming up with a better way to help struggling players, but it still could do with giving more hints, as not all of them are helpful.

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The puzzles featured in the preview build – bar one (damn you forest maze puzzle with your lack of a map) – were often easy enough to solve without much time wasted with exploring. The developers made sure the player is locked within a specific area, allowing time to be spent focusing on solving the puzzle ,rather than walking around aimless clicking everything because the developers were too lazy to shut off the unimportant environments until you solved the problem. Puzzles are what you’d probably expect from the genre – standard inventory management blended with the magic abilities of the two main characters. Geron has the capability to break down or repair objects, which is demonstrated right near the start when he is asked to solve a puzzle relating to a poor girl trying to keep her toy sticks upright. Princess Sadja learns activation magic, which allows her to turn on or off objects, such as the stone golems that litter the tombs. She also learns other spells further into the game, which are related to the story. From what I played so far, out of the two characters, the preview certainly gave off a sense that Sadja had more interesting puzzles to solve.

One thing I can’t comment about is how the English voice acting is. Daedalic Entertainment has often found some decent voice actors to portray their characters, but all the voices in the preview build were German, with English subtitles implemented so that I could understand what was going on. I know very little German, so it’s hard for me to comment on how the voice acting is. With the banter that goes on between the main characters and their partners (Sadja finds a staff that can talk and Geron has his raven) there is potential for some great dialogue. After playing The Night of the Rabbit, I trust Daedalic Entertainment to do the right thing and find some great voices to fit the characters in this game.

The soundtrack doesn’t seem to be featured much, as ambient sounds play to offer a background noise. There’s certainly nothing here that is memorable at the moment.

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Memoria is a beautiful looking game, especially its backgrounds, which are once again hand drawn in trademark Daedalic Entertainment fashion. Little effects animate in the background to add those supplementary touches to the overall environment’s feel. It’s dark in tone, and the art demonstrates this. One thing I’m in two minds about is the characters. They are moulded in what looks like 3D, but with a 2D layer on top to keep it similar to the 2D adventure games of old. It looks good in some parts, but then animates robotic in others. It’s something that I will most likely adjust to when playing the full game, but for now, it’s something that stood out for me.

Daedalic Entertainment seems to have another solid point-and-click title on their hands. The story is interesting – I like the idea that the plot incorporates both characters, even though they are 500 years apart. The hint system is improved and the puzzles seem to include logic behind them. Fans of Chains of Satinav will no doubt enjoy what’s to come, while people interest in this title might want to pick up Chains of Satinav to see what led the hero to this predicament. I’ve been told by the developers that Memoria is within its final stages of testing and should be out at the end of August on Steam and other digital distribution platforms. Expect a review in the near future, until then, enjoy this short trailer below.

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