“Somehow I don’t enjoy mindless trial and error like I used to” announces Geron during what I now like to refer to as ‘The Cucumber Incident’, the one and only moment in Memoria where all reasoning and judgement are thrown out the window in place for random guess-work and pure luck. To say that there is only one such moment in a ten to twelve-hour game built around puzzle solving is a big credit especially for Daedalic Entertainment who, in my opinion have let such illogicality dog the progress of previous games. Indeed the puzzle solving in Memoria has to be the most enjoyable of any adventure game I’ve played to date.
This is in part to do with the difficulty of the puzzles and how this has been dealt with by the developers. The logic clicked really well with me and in my occasional moment or two of struggle there was always a helpful hinting system to hand, an aspect that has been honed to perfection for this release and allows you to pass by those potential moments of progressional frustration. It is also latterly to do with the genre and whilst I understand varying tastes, the context of the story surrounding the use of magic and being set in a mystical fantasy world filled with tales of conquest and heroism, was always going to firmly grab my attention. Interestingly the story itself is also part of a grand puzzle that you have to solve as its mysteries are slowly revealed to you.
Memoria tells the two intersecting stories of Geron and Sadja who whilst living in very different circumstances some five hundred years apart, have more in common than they first suspect. Geron, in a bid to free his girlfriend Nuri who has been transformed into a bird, has agreed to solve a riddle involving Sadja and her attempts to acquire the mask of Malakkar. This mask should have changed the course of a great war and placed Sadja in history books as a heroine for a nation. Instead she disappeared from all records and it’s up to Geron to discover what has happened. The intersecting stories deliver the adventure very well, each characters section releasing a little more information about the riddle, about the floating city of Drakonia, the mask of Malakkar, the great battle, the mysterious merchant Fahi and the demon that turns people into pillars of stone.
Geron’s story builds quite nicely from his first meeting with Fahi, but its Sadja’s grand tale of heroism that is most appealing. Ultimately her quest for the mask of Malakkar and her involvement in the great war are the focal point of not just her story but of Geron’s too, meaning that you don’t really explore much of Geron’s character throughout the game. Geron also tends to briefly mention events that happened in the previous game Chains of Satinav. While these lines of dialogue are not key to understanding this story, they can be a little confusing and to get the most out of Memoria it’s probably best that you have played it’s predecessor first.
Memoria is played in a chapter by chapter basis, consisting of eight chapters. Quite what the point in these chapters are is unclear as they seem to appear at unusual times during the game. Playing through the whole game without any chapters wouldn’t be detrimental but I can understand the feeling of progress they instill and ultimately they don’t harm the gameplay either.
So, this is a game about puzzles, let’s talk about that I hear you cry. Well, puzzle solving in this, the latest of Daedalic Entertainment’s increasingly long list of adventure games, is simplistic but satisfying and almost never (see ‘The Cucumber Incident’) illogical. Even if it takes you a few attempts to solve a certain puzzle, you will almost always agree that the solution is something you should have thought of rather than something you could have guessed through random trial and error. Different sets of abilities in the form of spells are provided for each of the main characters and so keep the puzzles changing all the time. As new spells are added, so too is another level of complexity and as you don’t use the same spells all the time you are always kept guessing as to the right path to proceed. Of all the abilities the ‘send vision’ spell is the most innovative and while at first this seems a bit vague the opportunities to use it are well presented. Memoria also makes use of mechanics common throughout other Daedalic games such as the looking-glass used to detect all the magic in a certain area, or the use of the space bar to show all the interactive points on-screen.
Memoria is so close to being that brilliant adventure game I yearn for that I really, really want to give it our highest score, but unfortunately it just doesn’t quite hit my lofty expectations for a couple of reasons. The major reason being the ending of the story, where for me the game stops being great and turns to merely average. I can’t mention too much without dropping some huge spoilers however the problem for me is not with the content of the ending but instead the way this ending is delivered. It seems almost like the focus of the whole plot is passed over in the matter of a couple of minutes. It’s not elaborated on too much, the major characters don’t really have much to say about it all, and to be honest it all feels a little rushed. As the second game in the world of The Dark Eye, Memoria can now be considered part of a series and it could be that Daedalic have another game planned to lead on from this. They might have more story to reveal and have purposely left some loose ends to lead into the next game, but in all honesty it feels like after such a brilliant middle sector, the ending has been squeezed of life.
This shouldn’t stop you from playing this game however as the many good points outweigh what could well just be my personal annoyance with the ending. The story is absorbing, exciting and mysterious. The characters are well animated, interesting and occasionally even funny. The visuals are stunning, with the beautifully hand drawn backdrops merging well with the computer animated characters that have more life than any drawn character could. The puzzles are intuitive, logical and occasionally very challenging and all in all, Memoria is a well polished, well delivered game with a decent length and an interesting story. I would go as far as saying this is Daedalic Entertainment’s best yet.
Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC
Review based on a copy provided by Daedalic Entertainment.
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