Deponia is a point and click graphical adventure game developed and published by Daedalic Entertainment. It was released in 2012 first in Germany then translated into English from German later. According to Wikipedia where I researched the game, “Deponie” means “landfill site” in German, which is where the game gets its name.
In Deponia, the player plays the role of Rufus, an adventurous rogue who wishes to leave the junk pile town of Kuvaq he finds himself in to start life anew in the glamorous city of Elysium. He has everything all planned out; nothing could possibly go wrong. The game begins with a brief tutorial on the game mechanics, but those familiar with graphical adventure games from the past several decades will have no issue getting up to speed quickly.
Following the tutorial and some intro music and game credits, the first task the player must accomplish requires helping Rufus pack his suitcase for his trip to Elysium. Perhaps this was the actual tutorial since you cannot leave the house Rufus is in until you collect all of the things that are on the packing list. Game introductions like this leave me feeling claustrophobic and are off putting. It served to reinforce how the game is played and what general puzzles I could expect, but seriously failed to scratch that world exploration adventure itch I typically play adventure games for. This beginning packing scene is worse than the one in the beginning of Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders.
Rufus is an unsavory character. He’s pompous, arrogant, gross, and seems to care little for those around him. During the tutorial I found myself rolling my eyes thinking this would be another mediocre graphical adventure that would receive a mediocre first impression. As the game progresses, however, I came to realize that Rufus’ character was calculatedly created by the game developers and meshes extremely well with the other characters throughout the story. The voice acting turns out to be quite superb and the characters feel like they have a depth I would not have expected from just a few short hours of gameplay.
It was initially frustrating to play as Rufus because next to nothing Rufus feels compelled to do in Deponia is something I would ever do myself in real life. While playing as a despicable character it makes sense that you would be required to do despicable things and think in despicable ways. Thankfully, plucky comedic karma is in full array in Deponia and it is satisfying to see Rufus get paid back in full for his negligent and ridiculous actions.
Deponia does not appear to be a good title for those who enjoy seeing linear progress across a clearly defined story line. The plans Rufus makes fail, catastrophically, which changes the direction of the game at every turn and keeps the player on their toes not knowing what will happen next. Very frequently I’ll feel like I’ve done something unsavory that messes things up for a character in the game that I wish I could undo, but clearly the game was designed to be this way. It appears it will be a bumpy roller coaster ride from start to finish and it’s meant to be enjoyed for what it is.
Once Rufus has packed his suitcase, he must load his belongings into his escape pod and configure the escape pod in such a way as to make his escape. Once this has been accomplished, there is a mini-game puzzle that must be completed in order to aim the pod at the track for when the regal carrier from Elysium goes by. This particular mini-game is similar to chess puzzles using the knight piece where certain moves of the knight are restricted in the player’s objective to move the knight toward a desired position on the chess board. It appears difficult mini-game puzzles can be skipped by those who would rather not spend too much time thinking through them and are eager to progress the story instead.
After solving or skipping this first mini-game puzzle, Rufus has a run in with his ex girlfriend Toni, lights the fuse of the rockets that will propel his escape pod and does his best to make his escape. His plans don’t turn out as expected, of course, but he finds himself on the Elysium craft. There he sees a fair lady from Elysium named Goal distraught about a conspiracy and being threatened by some unsavory figures among the Organon. Rufus does his best to rescue her, which includes dumping garbage on her head and pushing her out of the garbage chute. In response to his tragic blunder, the villains kick him overboard as well and he falls back into the town of Kuvaq from which he had been attempting to escape.
It is at this point that the game finally opens up to more thorough exploration. It turns out Goal was picked up by the town’s people and is being attended to by the local doctor, Gizmo. When Rufus goes to visit her, he finds her asleep and unable to awake. Gizmo sends Rufus to go get some extra strong coffee to get her to wake up. When Rufus brings up his dilemma with Lonzo the local bartender, Lonzo reveals his secret project to build a massive machine from ancient documents he has scavenged called an espresso maker. At this point it is revealed that Rufus needs to collect all of the items in Kuvaq needed to make espresso to use to wake up Goal.
Thus far Deponia plays very similarly to classic point and click adventure games from the 1990s. If I had to place it on a spectrum I would say it is funny like The Secret of Monkey Island, but more crude like the movie Spaceballs. It appears to be around the same difficulty as Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers thus far.
I have experienced many of the same nostalgic feelings playing Deponia as I had playing adventure games growing up, both entertaining and frustrating. While thus far I have always been rewarded when I progress in the game, there are places where the game seems to drag on and on in getting to the next pleasurable scene. I have found myself hovering my mouse pointer over every pixel I can to see if I missed any secret item I can use to progress just like I did with the most frustrating adventure titles when I was younger.
As far as adventure games go, Deponia appears to be of moderate difficulty, which might make it more difficult to approach for younger or less experienced adventure game players. I also wouldn’t recommend this game be played by younger children if for no other reason than Rufus is a horrific role model and I would be tempted to whack my son if he ever started acting like him. It’s all a joke in the game; Rufus and the world he inhabits is so bizarre and strange it works well in fantasy, but would just be annoying in real life.
It surprises me how much I have really warmed up to playing Deponia. I think this one will be on my list of games to attempt to complete this year because I really want to see how it all turns out. With all of its flaws, it’s still proving to be quite addictive and supremely entertaining. I think I would recommend Deponia to any hardcore adventure game fan, and anyone else who is very laid-back, patient, and loves what is thus far a well crafted story.