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Wot I Think: Deponia Doomsday

Gloomsday

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The horrible Deponia series will not go away. Even after concluding its trilogy with a fairly final ending, somehow the repulsive Rufus is back once more in Deponia Doomsday [official site] to insult, demean and spoil your time. I bet you can’t guess wot I think:

What a wretched turd of a game. The previous Deponia trilogy was an unpleasant point-and-click graphic adventure series of almost impressively diminishing returns, that descended ever further into embarrassing, tawdry, sexist and arguably racist crap. It’s a story about an unpleasant arsehole called Rufus, who lives on a trash planet that’s about to be destroyed, and dreams of reaching the idyllic floating city of Elysium. The three games ended on a purportedly unhappy ending that saw Rufus falling to his apparent death. Hard to find that particularly unhappy after suffering through three games with the repellent shit, but that’s the background to this fourth entry.

Rufus wakes up and realises that the tales of his being some sort of clone, of working alongside two of his identical-looking nemeses, and of having a girlfriend literally called “Goal” who has a reprogrammable brain implant he programs to remove all the “bitch” from her personality, were all apparently a dream, or at least a vision of the future. This, sadly, includes his eventual faux-noble sacrifice.

Once he’s come to terms with all of that, a time traveller shows up and breaks Rufus’s original inexplicable girlfriend Toni’s crystal glass collection. The entire first act of the game is spent agonisingly repeating the same humourless or outright repulsive sequences and collecting the same inventory objects as you are forced to reverse time (at least) twice to find a way to prevent the glasses getting broken. Opportunities for clever time travel gags, or Bill & Ted style planning, are all ignored. Instead, you’re dragged down the obviously reductive well of shite that the writers seem to find so infinitely hilarious.

Along the way you encounter a series of stereotypes for Rufus to insult, which leads to one particularly repellently transphobic sequence. There’s a large, gruff, hairy character in a bar, who makes some remark about how, “You’d see me in a pink dress before I’d…” etc. Cue Toni kicking the shit out of him for something, and his emerging from the bar in a pink dress, wig, and awkward make-up, clutching at his groin. This, we’re asked to enjoy, means she’s come to realise she’s a woman. But HA HA HA! She’s so hairy and manly, not like a lady one bit!

Rufus can insult her in a series of ways, but the key one is to point out that her legs are too hairy for her to be a woman (no, really), and then, through a convoluted and ludicrous sequence of puzzles that your brain would switch off if I tried to plot out, you get her some wax in exchange for her “ladyshave” electric razor. You know, so you can shave off the fake beard you stuck to a child’s face and then got covered in bees. (On top deliberately insulting portions, the game is so astonishingly thoughtless. On encountering the very first non-white character in the game, one member of a mixed-race couple moving into a house, Rufus’s only remark on looking at either is, “Huh, there goes the neighbourhood.” I’m sure it wasn’t meant specifically, but fuck me, how did no one flag it up as a problem?)

The resetting of the story means we get to enjoy more of the wacky back-and-forth banter between Rufus and his furious mechanic girlfriend Toni, as she accurately points out what a selfish bastard he is, and he complains about her “nagging”. But then… mother-in-law jokes! Her mother is fat like an elephant is fat! She’s a “harpy”! She’s so fat she couldn’t break bones from a long fall! It’s like being trapped inside a 1970s sitcom hell. You’d have to really stretch a muscle to be offended by any of it, because it’s so pathetic. The only rational reaction is to feel sorry for it. To feel sorry for people who find this the height of wit.

It might be possible to see all of that as an annoyance if the game underneath were solid. But continuing the downward spiral for the series, the puzzles are increasingly ridiculous and dependent upon random stumbling. You need a band to play a song, but a man nearby doesn’t want them to. So of course you need the underwire from the bra of our trans friend (to improve her bust, apparently), and a potato that then needs to be chopped in half, and you have to think, “I know, I’ll combine a chopped in half potato with some bra underwire, and that will make a pair of earmuffs.”

Or, as is obviously going to be the case for anyone other than the designer of the puzzle, you’re going to randomly click objects in your inventory together until something combines, and then stare at the screen with your mouth hanging slack that this exists in the universe. There’s no attempt to flag if you’re doing the right thing at the wrong time (which could be too early or too late given the time travel and, no hinting that you might need to make one irrational leap to succeed at another irrational leap you’re currently trying to make. No structure, no thought at all put into how a player is going to encounter such entirely random situations.

Every scene, despite being lusciously drawn and animated, is barren of things to do. Highlighting interactive objects is necessary because there are so incredibly few of them in busy backgrounds, usually only two or three things in any screen. It certainly reduces the time it takes to click everything on everything, but makes it no less tedious.

I’m not going to pretend I finished the game. I played far more of it than any one should have to, especially after playing all three of the previous trilogy. So who knows, maybe there’s some extraordinary redemption story for Rufus awaiting, and all my problems would be wonderfully addressed. I suspect not. Not in a game that’s such a tiresome muddle that it contains lines as nonsensical as:

“A ghost town is a fairground compared to this place.”

or

“Either there are some flowers missing here, or a sandwich loaf parked its car really badly.”

Or a puzzle in which you must create a red bar for a colourful xylophone, by, er, pulling a key from a piano with a pair of pliers, then putting the piano key through a machine that adds sausage skin to objects, then stealing a heating lamp and placing it somewhere else, then holding the key-wrapped-in-skin up to the lamp to turn it red. Despite being a piano key wrapped in cooked skin, it works perfectly well on a xylophone. Yup. That’s really the level we’re working at here. Please don’t make me play any more. Please don’t tell me I have to carry on after that. What have I done to you to make you think that’s okay?

Clearly the Deponia series is loved by enough people for them to keep making more of them, so I’m sure this will be as gleefully received as the rest. But it’s a nasty, stupid, and most damningly of all, badly constructed adventure game. The animations and art are lovely as ever, the music’s great, most of the voice actors are decent enough, but good grief, please, no more. Just make it stop.

Deponia Doomsday is out now for Windows, MacOSX and Linux via Steam and Humble.

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John Walker

Senior Editor

One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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