"The sense of wonder mixed with melancholy that made Chains of Satinav such a lovely game appears to be here again in Memoria."
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR CHAINS OF SATINAV
When I was a much younger lad in the Sierra age of adventure gaming, for a good while my family didn't have a computer capable of running the latest and greatest technical marvels such as the King's Quest games. This didn't stop me from playing them, however. My dad worked in an office building near our house, and sometimes he would let me install and play games on his computer at work, before a time when such things were capable of being monitored by the company itself.
It was on my dad's work computer that I played King's Quest V, one of my favorite adventure games of all time. The circumstances probably contributed to that — there was something clandestine about playing the game at the place where my dad worked, a sense that I was doing something I shouldn't be in an empty building on a weekend, playing a game with beautiful, hand drawn backgrounds running on a computer capable of processing feats that were simply unimaginable at home. The memories of the circumstances in which I experienced King's Quest V are indistinguishable for me now from the game itself.
Most importantly though, playing King's Quest V was one of the first times I remember connecting with the actual characters and story in a meaningful way. Other games before and since did and have exhibited such feats, but on a personal level this was a first for me.
I bring all this up because, while playing a preview build for The Dark Eye: Memoria, I had this feeling again.
Perhaps it was the feeling of playing a game I probably shouldn't be playing — this is, after all, a very early press build containing only the first few chapters of what will be a much larger game on release. Perhaps it was the beautiful, hand painted characters and backgrounds that, just like Chains of Satinav, reminded me so very vividly of Sierra adventures. Perhaps it was the unabashedly old school pointing and clicking. Perhaps it was the way Daedelic makes you care so much about their characters.
Whatever it was, the feeling I got when the preview build ended far sooner than I wanted it to reminded me of my dad saying it was time to go back home. You see, Memoria, as the title implies, is very much about memories and how they shape not only the present, but who we are. I suppose it's only reasonable that while the game explores this theme in itself, it made me reflect on my own.
Memoria is the upcoming sequel to Daedelic's wonderful The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav. Chains of Satinav starred the humble bird catcher Geron and a precocious and unpredictable fairy girl named Nuri. The game featured sometimes challenging, but never impossible puzzles, and ended on a poignant but melancholy note as Nuri and Geron had to sacrifice things very dear to them to claim victory over evil.
Memoria picks up the story shortly after where Chains of Satinav left off. Geron has dedicated himself to finding some way to return Nuri to her former state, and the arrival of a mysterious traveler offers a new hope that a cure may be possible.
But the traveler won't help Geron unless he can solve a riddle that has origins in a war fought many centuries ago, and it's here that Memoria introduces to us a second protagonist, the fiery Princess Sadja. The traveler tells Geron a piece of Sadja's story that seems to start in the middle, and, as players, we're likewise thrust into her shoes as the game alternates between Geron's present day pursuit of the answer to the traveler's riddle and the story of Sadja — which somehow contains that answer.
To delve too deeply into the plot would be a disservice to what is surely one of the strongest aspects of the preview. What I learned is this: Memoria promises not just to be more of the same from the team that made Chains of Satinav, but it promises to be MUCH more of the same. The scope of the story crosses two separate timelines, the number of characters that play a large role is bigger, the puzzles are more complex without being impossibly challenging — everything that was excellent about Chains of Satinav is present in the first few chapters of Memoria.
The gameplay itself doesn't deviate much from the classic pointing and clicking we became accustomed to in Chains of Satinav (and a whole generation of adventure games before that). Pressing the spacebar reveals hotspots, which is always helpful in making sure you haven't missed anything. Right clicking something examines it, left clicking interacts with it. Memoria also features something of a journal and hint system in the form of the "quest log." Images of important events and characters appear in the quest log, and clicking them provides a refresher on their significance. A hint system is also available in the quest log, and will come in handy for those that lack the high degree of patience and experimentation required in some of the puzzles. The preview even features a section in which I actually ended up pulling out pen and paper and doing some old school mapping as I attempted to navigate a massive forest, once again conjuring memories of King's Quest V when trying to navigate the desert.
The sense of wonder mixed with melancholy that made Chains of Satinav such a lovely game appears to be here again in Memoria. The world of The Dark Eye is often a harsh place, but it's also full of magic and surprises. Watching Nuri begin to lose her identity as her affliction causes her to lose her memory of what she once was tugs at the heartstrings, but also illustrates one of the major themes at play in Memoria, one made quite obvious by the title: the importance of memories to one's identity. For you see, many centuries ago there was a magical mask that could steal a person's memory, making them thralls to the one who put the mask on them, and...
But, these are things I hope you will experience for yourself and create new gaming memories with when Memoria is released. But my advice is this — if you haven't played Chains of Satinav, you should do so. And if you already have and enjoyed it, you should absolutely put Memoria on your watch list. The best games we have played and will play are the ones that stir something within us, and just an early piece of Memoria did that for me.
And now, if you don't mind, I should give my dad a call.
"Players take on the role of both Geron in the present and Sadja in the past, and will slowly uncover a tale which binds them together across time."
I was fortunate enough to get a chance to chat with Daedalic Entertainment during E3 this year, during which I was caught up on a bevy of their upcoming releases. One of those was among my most anticipated titles at the show this year, Memoria. This graphic adventure is the follow-up to The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav, a fantastic game from 2012 which I also reviewed
This new sequel takes places some time after the ending of Chains of Satinav and sees that game's hero, a birdcatcher called Geron, searching for a way to return his recently birdified girlfriend Nuri to human (technically fairy) form. The team was quick to point out that they are designing the game and the story in such a way that playing the first game won't be necessary, though of course players will appreciate Memoria more if they have.
In the course of his journey, he stumbles upon a mysterious merchant in a forest claiming to have a magical solution. He presents Geron with a puzzle, and if the birdcatcher can solve it, he promises to free Nuri from her avian form. The puzzle revolves around a princess called Sadja, a woman from thousands of years ago who swore she would become the greatest hero of all time, yet mysteriously vanished from the pages of history. It is through this narrative framing device that the journey of Memoria begins, as players take on the role of both Geron in the present and Sadja in the past, and will slowly uncover a tale which binds them together across time.
Those familiar with Satinav (or any point and click adventure, really) should know what to expect. You'll explore a variety of locations, grab everything you can find, and solve puzzles using inventory items and creative combinations. In a carryover from Satinav, Geron can cast destruction and repairing spells to aid in puzzle-solving. Sadja also has access to spells, though her powers are more varied. In the demo, she had a spell that allowed her to operate devices from afar. One such instance saw her controlling a variety of stone golems in order to activate several door locks beyond her reach. It seems as though the addition of the second character and storyline will give the game a flavor of its own in the shadow of its excellent forebear, and I was impressed by the puzzle design I saw in the demo.
Unsurprisingly, the game is utterly gorgeous, with hand-painted backgrounds and beautifully animated characters. The art design is exceptional, and I was wowed by the level of detail even in spite of my high expectations. While it doesn't seem as though the game is going to blow the doors off the genre, it already looks as though it will offer an incredibly polished and well-crafted take on the classic point-and-click quest.