"You may not be dazzled by how Chaos on Deponia ends, but you'll love who you end it with."
Failure is a powerful deterrent, but Chaos on Deponia is really swell at making you think otherwise. Not ten minutes into the game, and players will find Rufus cutting through clouds in his highflying buzz saw hang glider, fueled up with the same brand of candy cane fireworks that tugboated him through the sky in game one. This time, however, Rufus is a long way from Kuvac. He doesn't have the luxury of his ex-girlfriend's marooned harpoon gun to get things going. But really, when has that ever stopped Rufus from going all-in on a sweet set of sparklers?
Failure is all the clout Rufus has ever had to offer. It's the dialect he speaks, and his way with words is very persuasive. Eventually. He fails, and fails, and fails, and fails, until he finally gets his way. He blows things up. He launches platypuses from windsocks. He tongue-ties the people who get in his way and stumbles over his own logic, taking everyone else down with him. He never gives up, and neither do we.
In Daedalic's most recent tour de garbage, Rufus is out of his native stomping grounds. His days in Kuvac have been replaced with an afternoon on the Floating Black Market, a seaside cesspool of characters, critters, and unorganized crime. After dropping an Elysium-bound Goal from the sky and badly damaging her brain implant in the proceeding fall, Rufus takes it upon himself to assist Doc in repairing her short-circuited personality (because surely she'll fall in love with him this time around). But when he doofishly fries her innards with off-brand computer parts, the woman he once adored is frazzled into three as her dominant personalities take separate sentience, a less than optimal incident that can only be quelled by doing what Rufus does best: trying, and trying, and trying to seduce them all. Amidst Rufus' fly attempts at spitting game and the viscid plumes of Aqua Velva punctuating his swagger, Cletus and the Organon continue to gather their wits for an explosive exit that threatens life on Deponia forever.
The second chapter in the Deponia trilogy doesn't so much add to the overall story as it does bolster what is already there, keeping the major plot advancements light while leaning heavily on its brand new set of characters for Rufus to poke a stick at. If there was anything Deponia lacked, it was a cast of characters whose strengths transcended the one-liners they reeled out when badgering Rufus' ego. Characters were loud and memorable in their moments, but slid into obscurity when players hopped on to the next location, causing Deponia to feel empty and lifeless by its conclusion.
Chaos on Deponia reminds us that this world is full of more than just trash and dirty mop water; it's a hectic scrapbook of a joint where just about anything goes. The Floating Black Market provides the perfect backdrop for the game's marble art mentality, where characters from all rims of the Rust Red Sea come together communally because why the hell not. That's just the way Deponia works. We don't wonder if people are aware of the dwarf named Alex who's been enclosed in the hollowed interior of the tavern's jukebox, or why the local platypus diner is being managed by the growling vociferations of a shadowy demon. No more are we outraged that platypus is the local delicacy to begin with.
What sets the sequel apart is that characters are finally beginning to matter, in scope rather than an instant. During his travels, Rufus will align himself with the lofty aspirations of a troupe of Organon resistance fighters (Death to the Organon!) led by an obese, basement-dwelling Scotsman whose accent alone is the funniest thing you're likely to hear in a vocal performance this year. What's fun – and funny by association – is that Rufus is finally making friends. The game's exceptionally strong beginning bleeds much better into the latter half than Deponia's lopsided narrative did, by virtue of having characters with consequence. You'll see the Scotsman, the Doc, Goal, new friends, old friends – the plot's pace is codified in a way that allows for a much more personal story, steered by people that don't just stand in that one specific spot you met them in. You may not be dazzled by how Chaos on Deponia ends, but you'll love who you end it with.
Taking a cue from Rufus' "do it until something good happens" proverb, Daedalic continues to blunder a bit with puzzling out some central gameplay elements. Mechanically, the game controls competently, and players will never be left dumbfounded by performance glitches or hiccups. (That's not to say that there isn't a fair share of audio snags, un-translated text, and Rufus' character model permanently disappearing from the game even after saving and reloading, because believe you me, this game will leave you with some weird bug bites.) When you're not clicking around and plugging X into Y to activate Z, the game offers some really fun (il)logic puzzles and twitch-finger minigames that work well in the context of the plot. Chaos on Deponia is, however, very frontloaded with its best stuff, not unlike the game before it. I spent about six hours in the Floating Black Market alone, a place with so many nooks and crannies, items to play with and things to use them on, that there were a few times when the amount of options trumped my ability to brainstorm at all. It's not that figuring things out is all a dance with dumb logic and fallacies; the game actually has a really sharp wit about it that makes gunning through the hurdles a joy, rather than a test of patience. The problem is simply a matter of quantity. Since Goal's personalities all command their own self-contained stories and can be tackled at any time, the paths you trace begin intersecting all at once, until you get to the point where you're unsure which of your own footprints are the right ones to follow.
It's hard to knock Chaos on Deponia any harder than that. And who would want to? The artists at Daedalic have clearly outdone themselves by dolling up the sequel and making it way too cute to boot. Environments are more varied with far more moving parts (animals scurry around the docks, seawater and smoky billows shift in the already painterly backgrounds). Character models look nicer, with an improved frame count and animation pool. Daedalic has even added some live action FMV flavor to the animated cutscenes, which caters to the small, but starved audience who were so rudely snubbed in the prequel. Everything just looks and sounds straight-up better. Rufus' stringy chinstrap has never looked this good.
Seeing Rufus blast himself into oblivion with the help of those fireworks was such a great thing. You already did that once. You idiot. It was as good of a confirmation as any that I'd be on board with whatever came next. Chaos on Deponia is exactly what Deponia needed: another Deponia. Enjoy the ride while it lasts, because the trilogy is a mere one game shy of wrapping up. And while I honestly can't tell you where we'll go or if we'll get there, you can bet the skies will be paved with smoke.