The adventure genre of video games has become a sadly overlooked genre in the video game spectrum. It is a shame because adventure games offer so much to players including hours of gameplay that will test your patience and problem-solving skills. Some adventure games guides the player through amazing stories as well, ranging from comedy, drama, suspense-thriller and horror. Thankfully adventures games still have a large following and developers are still making these games, which shows a resurgence of the genre and perhaps one day, adventure games will be at the forefront of the gaming industry again.
Once such developer who continues to make adventure games is Daedalic Entertainment, known for making games such as A New Beginning, Gemini Rue and Machinarium. Their newest title Memoria based on the Dark Eye franchise (a competitor to Dungeons and Dragons) hopes to recapture the old-school joy of thinking and solving your way through a suspenseful, dramatic and intriguing fantasy adventure.
Princess Sadjia of the land of Farsar ventured into the Gorian Desert to fight demons and become the greatest hero who ever lived. However an unknown occurrence happened which made Sadjia and her quest disappear from memory. Five centuries later, a bird catcher named Geron visits a travelling merchant to help turn Geron's girlfriend Nuri back into a human as she has become a bird. However, Geron finds that the only way to change her back is to solve a riddle regarding what happened to Princess Sadjia. This leads to a chain of events that will cast a shadow over his homeland and bring about his dark, long-forgotten past.
Much like any other adventure game, Memoria is played via third-person perspective and your job is to guide your character via mouse-click with moving around, interacting with people and solving puzzles. You have an inventory which holds key items to help you solve puzzles and progress further. Some of these items can be combined with items in your inventory to unlock further answers to puzzles. A nifty addition is the ability to use magic to help you solve puzzles. You can use the magic on areas where you are required to solve a major problem that can't be resolved through conventional means. You can also use magic on items in your inventory which changes the item into something else, creating new items in the process. This creates some rather interesting and varied puzzles to solve during play. Trying to solve these puzzles is entertaining and challenging. Veteran adventure players will relish the opportunity to use their skills to their fullest to overcome even the most difficult of puzzles. During one-on-one conversations with characters, you sometimes get prompted with a dialogue wheel giving you different responses to things characters might say to you. There's the polite, collective response, the neutral response and the brash, rude response and using any one of these will have the character respond accordingly to your choice, which makes for some interesting and varied conversations.
You actually play as two characters in this game. Not only do you study the story of Sadjia as Geron, but you also play as Sadjia herself and play through her experience 5 centuries ago! This presents a new ancient world to explore with more varied characters and more puzzles to solve! This is also shows you that Sadjia and Geron existed centuries apart yet their experiences are connected, unravelling an entire new plot twist and making the investigation much more interesting.
The hand-painted visuals in this game look absolutely stunning. It makes playing Memoria much more mystical and enchanting, like an animated fairytale. The art direction favours style over realism to show that the world of The Dark Eye is truly a wondrous place. The visuals in this game shows that not everything needs a ground-breaking 3D engine to look amazing. This accompanied by a captivating fantasy soundtrack brings the tale of Memoira to life.
The story weaves a fantasy tale full of mystery, excitement and drama with memorable characters to interact with, the epical fantasy universe of The Dark Eye to explore and shocking revelations to uncover within the game's storyline. The mystery surrounding the fate of Sadjia becomes much more interesting to learn about as you experience Sadjia's tale by playing as Sadjia herself and by investigating her story as Geron. It's great to see how Sadjia and Geron's experiences are intertwined and connected in this dramatic and moving story. It's as if they're helping each other learn the truth of the riddle even if their existence is centuries apart.
There's everything in Memoria that makes up a really good adventure game. The puzzles are challenging, the storyline is riveting, the soundtrack is wonderful and overall there is much to like about this game. Nevertheless, Memoria is far from perfect and there's always some nasty blemishes which keep the game from reaching it's full potential.
Some puzzles are rather long-winded and hard to figure out and many of the puzzles in the game aren't very straightforward, which may have you pulling your hair out in frustration trying to solve them. It's much more interesting to play as Sadjia than it is Geron as she is a better character overall. She's much more courageous, has a stronger sense of conviction and her story-arc is just more interesting and exciting to learn about in contrast with the whining, unremarkable Geron. You usually want to rush playing as Geron just so you can play as Sadjia again.
The characters seem to covey a disturbing Uncanny Valley effect when you interact with them. The character's lip syncing is completely off with what their saying and their in-game animations are rather stiff. This is more apparent during one-on-one conversations even when the lip-sync is much better as their movements are stiff and unnatural. The voice acting is not bad but much of the time the actors deliver their lines of dialogue in a rather bored and lazy manner which makes the Uncanny Valley effect even worse. There are technical problems with the game including screen tearing, massive frame rate drops, stuttering and freezing.
Memoria is a fine addition to the adventure genre and it's nice to see that developers are willing to develop products like this to give adventure games the revival they need. Daedalic Entertainment have put much time and effort into this game to provide gamers with challenging puzzles, beautiful visuals and sound production and a masterfully written, emotional and moving storyline. The puzzles may have you screaming in frustration and the voice actors could have put more emotion behind their performances, but that doesn't deter you from the magical fairytale experience you'll have when playing this game. If you're looking for an adventure game that offers stunning graphics and perplexing investigative gameplay in the magical world of The Dark Eye, then Memoria might be exactly what you need.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Memoria for the PC provided by Daedalic Entertainment.