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Wot I Think: Goodbye Deponia

Don't hurry back

Daedalic's epic adventure reaches a conclusion with its biggest chapter, Goodbye Deponia. The first part looked like it might wander close to goodness, while the second was brief and disposable. So how does this third and final part fare? Urrrgghhh. Here's wot I think:

Goodbye Deponia is a horrible game. As a graphic adventure it's a very beautifully drawn, utterly enormous creation, with average to poor puzzles. As an experience, it's remarkably unpleasant. The third part in the increasingly uncomfortable adventure, it takes what was once a mildly insulting tale to something very ugly.

All three games have been deliberately crass. The star, Rufus, is a defiantly unlikeable playable character, whose selfishness is his only motivation, and his offensiveness a source of glee to him alone. He's clearly meant to be a form of anti-hero, and in the first game it was uncomfortable, but almost worked. By the second, brief and dreadful game, he had become outright repulsive. In this third and final chapter, he continues in the same vein, his unrelenting revolting attitude just a constant drain on the player.

But this game - a massive instalment, stretching on for about twice its welcome - sees that unpleasantness permeate into almost every aspect. Chapter two had the delightful revelation that a woman's brain split into three results in a baby, a bitch, and another bitch. Chapter three makes that look forward thinking.

For example. Of the very few black characters in the game, one of them is being forced to be an organ grinder's monkey. Yes, a monkey. A puzzle (of sorts) at that stage in the game is to first get rid of the organ grinder, and then to find a replacement monkey, so that Monkey - as it persists in calling him - can become the new grinder. The person you're required to have become his new dancing monkey, by destroying her life until she has nothing left? The other black character.

And the way you get her to take the job? You literally sell her.

I want to assume that this isn't a directly and deliberately racist statement, but rather the result of abject stupidity. But it remains what it is, and what it is, is plain grotesque. Meanwhile, there's no mistaking the deliberate choice to offer a pathetic portrayal of a Chinese stereotype, complete with Ls swapped with Rs.

And then there's the game's grotesque representation and attitude toward women. Within the opening moments of the game, one character has already suggested that a female character's mentally ill behaviour is because she's on her period. Women are sex objects, lunatics, sluts or only identified as fat. Two women who've joined the resistance army are described as "dressing like men", and laughed at for thinking they can have army titles. One is taking hormones to be acceptable. PMT jokes abound, and the female lead - Goal - improbably falls in love with the revolting main character despite every dreadful thing he's done and said.

Beyond the obvious offensiveness (I really struggled to continue on after something quite so revolting as the "monkey" scene, the game's permanent smugness now so tarnished that it makes me squirm to play), it's infuriating, because developers Daedalic are clearly talented. In and amongst this game's poor puzzles and clusters of crude mistakes, are flashes of inspiration. There are moments that make you wonder what could be made if the incredible love that's gone into the backgrounds and character animations, combined with vocal casting and huge range of characters and locations, were put into something that wasn't overtly hateful.

For instance, at one point the game goes incredibly meta. Not in the dreary "but we're a game!" sense that has been done to death (and that this game resorts to far too often), but something far more sophisticated. The world itself is revealed to be something entirely different, and Rufus discovers some enormously shocking things about himself. I really believed that the game was about to pull the rug from under me, that it was going to reveal itself as something so much smarter. But no, five minutes later it impossibly reverts back to the norm, and the woeful writing of Rufus's one-tone smugness isn't changed one iota.

Oh wait, I forgot to mention the scene in which you deliberately lead children into a dark caravan inhabited by a paedophile. And then later create an ink rubbing of the paedophile's penis to create a Rorschach test. Which you can then show to children.

As an adventure game, the recurring fault in all three chapters rules supreme here: one solved puzzle does not lead naturally to a clue for the next. So when you finally stumble on the solution for a situation, there's never a sense of progression, of having achieved - instead the game either bends the plot to have your success be a failure, or it just ticks a mystery box and then leaves you equally lost. The game's penultimate chapter - an absolutely enormous section - has you playing as three different characters, each in their own sprawling location, with an inventory that's shared to ensure maximum confusion and dead-ends. Figuring out what to do next is a needle in a haystack, and so very often those needles are entirely nonsensical. And so, so many puzzles require you gather a bunch items without being given any clue why you're after them - it's such a huge failure of adventure design.

It's all the more galling, since this is such an epic creation. So much time must have gone into its development, and once again Daedalic have put enormous effort into localisation. In this area this is the weakest of the three games in this series, with an awful lot of nonsense lines that clearly didn't survive the journey from German to English, but even so it still remains a league ahead of most. The scale of ambition here... it just makes the crass, ugly story you're forced to progress through all the more miserable.

Although it's notable how that ambition starts to look more scarce toward the end of the game, where cutscenes start to make no sense, characters change personalities with no rationale, and everything begins to feel incredibly rushed. The ending itself is poor, but mostly because by this point the game had become so unwieldy that it had no chance of pulling anything together in a meaningful way.

I still maintain that Daedalic has it within them to make a properly great adventure. The closest they've gotten is The Whispered World, and I've yet to play their latest release, Journey Of A Roach, but Goodbye Deponia is both evidence that they have the artistic talent and ambition, but also that they are heavily impeded by their puzzle design, flow, and most of all, taste.

This is mostly a bland, overlong, and unamusing game. But that god-damned monkey scene, and the thick seam of misogyny that runs throughout, renders it an ugly, foul experience. Doubtless it is argued it is all done in the name of comedy, but since it's almost never funny, and certainly not an attempt at satire, that - as with most other aspects of the game's story - falls pretty damned flat.

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