By Marty Mulrooney
Chaos on Deponia is a point-and-click adventure game developed by Daedalic Entertainment. A sequel to Deponia (and the middle instalment of a planned trilogy), the game once again follows sardonic hero Rufus as he tries to save the planet of Deponia and win the Elysian girl(s?!) of his dreams, Goal.
Chaos on Deponia continues right where the previous game left off. After a humorous recap video, clever tutorial and a brief scene involving the hopefully unintentional torture of a tiny bird (cruel but hilarious!), Rufus sets off in pursuit of his one true love Goal (of course, she doesn’t know it yet) and his arch nemesis (and uncanny doppelgänger!) Cletus.
After intercepting the pod carrying Goal and Cletus to the paradise of Elysium and making a mess of things as usual, Rufus plummets from the sky and ends up landing in the Red Rust Sea. Returning to shore, he finds himself upon the Floating Black Market. A sprawling man-made island, the majority of the game unfolds here throughout many different areas, including a harbour, marketplace and the local tavern.
In many ways Chaos on Deponia is a much more intrepid and bold game than its predecessor – its impressive scope can be quite intimidating at first. Most locations are immediately available to discover and explore and the puzzles don’t necessarily have to be completed in any particular order. The result is an experience with progression that is often dictated by the player, with the downside being a diminished sense of direction at times.
The puzzles are mostly satisfying and well implemented making good use of a generously stocked inventory, but the game doesn’t always do a good job of pointing the player towards a specific goal. Sometimes you’ll solve a problem but not be quite sure why, only to have the reason revealed after the fact. At other times, the puzzles can feature slightly twisted logic (one puzzle involving the in-game settings is admittedly rather clever) or only work in the highly specific way that the developers intended them to, reducing progress to trial and error.
The main task of Chaos on Deponia is for Rufus to put his ‘girlfriend’ Goal back together – after a series of mishaps her personality is split three ways and written onto three separate cartridges. This essentially creates three different versions of the same woman: Lady Goal (high maintenance, irritable and headstrong), Spunky Goal (energetic, feisty and tough) and Baby Goal (childlike, innocent and impressionable). It’s great fun to interact with the different versions of Goal, but the ability to switch between each personality, coupled with the initial scope of the environments and puzzles, can make it easy to feel overwhelmed.
Thankfully, the game soon settles down and later sections prove to be far more focused and linear (while still offering plenty of freedom), making progression easier and allowing the game’s many positive attributes, including genuinely funny supporting characters, the beautiful cartoony graphics and a catchy upbeat soundtrack (with more brilliant songs from Poki), to shine through.
The only real downsides by the halfway point are the overall story (which largely retreads the same ground as the original game, with added platypuses and dolphins) and Rufus himself, who just about remains likeable but continually pushes his luck (and the player’s patience) by being rude, ignorant and oafish. Of course, the idea is that deep down Rufus is a nice guy… but often Daedalic make his inherent goodness run too deep and in many ways this is a step backwards from where we left the character at the end of the original Deponia.
The end result is a game that always feels like the middle instalment of a larger whole – despite the ingenuity of spitting Goal’s personality three ways and the highly noticeable (and despite it’s shortcomings, commendable) increase in scope, the game takes very few risks and the ending feels rushed and abrupt. I also experienced a few crashes whilst playing (especially near the end) which never happened with Deponia – thankfully, the game does a good job of autosaving so that players won’t lose hours of their time replaying after being unexpectedly dumped to their desktop with an error message.
Chaos on Deponia is a gorgeous game that plays well and also sounds great, even if the translation and subtitles sometimes stumble (the game was originally made and released in Germany). The physical collector’s edition released in the UK by Merge Games is well worth seeking out too – although the packaging is nothing special, the disc includes the game’s soundtrack, along with a sticker and an additional Steam gifting key.
The final game in the trilogy will hopefully end things on a high. Chaos on Deponia is by no means a bad game, but Rufus really needs to tone down being a jerk (and the story needs to shift to Elysium and beyond) for the final instalment to end things on a metaphorical and literal high. Still – dolphins with torpedoes will always raise a smile and when it comes to production values in the modern-day point-and-click adventure game, Daedalic are second to none.
7.5 OUT OF 10