Sitting down to play a sequel to a game you have never played is difficult enough, but finding that the version you have has the narrative recorded in a foreign language that you cannot speak is even more daunting, despite the English subtitles. And so it was with Daedalic Entertainment’s Memoria. Having felt notably ill-prepared when the story began, it was a natural reaction to feel that there must have been more to the story, and a quick search of the internet proved that to be true: Memoria is a sequel to The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinev. There wasn’t much that could be done to rectify that problem; the only course of action was to proceed ahead anyway and hope that the lack of back story would not impede forward progress.
As it turned out, the story probably would have been a little easier to follow in the early stages, but the lack of all of the underlying history didn’t adversely affect the ability to play through the game. It could be compared to a golfer of only mediocre skills playing a round on a gorgeous golf course: the scenery alone made it worthwhile. And so it is with Memoria: the 2D drawings are both deep and detailed, and the animated sprites of the characters move so naturally across them that it is easy to forget that they are really nothing but backgrounds.
Perhaps knowledge of the previous story would have helped with the complexity of one of Memoria’s defining attributes, or perhaps not, but it did take a little while to understand that the game was telling the stories of two protagonists in parallel, albeit with a few centuries of history separating them. The first character to be introduced is Geron. Very early in our experiences with Geron, we learn that he is in pursuit of magical skills or any other knowledge that can help him restore his friend Nuri, who is currently in the form of a Raven, back to her original size. It wouldn’t be an adventure if the answer to his need was as simple as just asking someone, of course, so the first person that he asks promises to reward him with the information he seeks if he can solve a riddle.
Learning what the riddle is requires the introduction of the second protagonist, and that requires a journey back to a period five hundred years before Geron’s time, where we meet Princess Sadja. At the moment of our meeting, she and her compatriots are attempting to access a locked vault wherein they hope to attain a magical device that will enable them to emerge victorious over a vile and violent encroaching enemy. Or something. The upshot was the need to get through a locked door and it naturally fell to our heroine to figure out a way to do it which, of course, is the fundamental nature of this type of game. Because it can be considered rude to delve too deeply into the specifics of the story, this provides a convenient segue into the topic most folks are interested in when it comes to adventure games: what are the puzzles like?
There are generally only three answers to that question: logical, logical but very tricky, and absurdly illogical. This is a subjective grade, of course, and much of what appears to be insanely difficult to a neophyte in the genre will make perfect sense to someone steeped in the mysterious logic of these types of puzzles. From the vantage point of this reviewer, the difficulty fell somewhere between ‘logical’ and ‘tricky.’ Many of the puzzles were solvable (some quite easily) with the tried and true ‘just try clicking on everything and pick up whatever you can, then combine whatever you picked up with anything else in your inventory that will combine, and then click around some more’ strategy. This worked fairly well at first, but there is an additional wrinkle in Memoria. Each of the protagonists has access to magical spells, although in the case of Geron the spell is a fairly simple combo-spell that can break unbroken things and unbreak broken things. The trick for anyone using the standard ‘click and combine’ strategy is to remember to try using a spell now and then. There were more than a few situations that required the use of a spell to keep things moving.
Totalling it all up, Memoria provided an interesting, fairly complex story realized in a very detailed and attractively rendered/drawn world. While there were a couple of puzzles that might drive one towards a side quest in search of a good walkthrough, none seemed unduly unfair. The quality of the voice acting is an open question due to it being in German, itself not one of the more lyrical languages on the planet, but the writing as reflected in the English subtitles was compelling, clear, and error free.
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