One of Europe’s best-kept secrets is The Dark Eye series of RPG tabletop games. The Dark Eye started as a paper and pen game in Germany back in 1984, outselling Dungeons and Dragons in many areas of Europe before reaching North America in 2003 renamed as the Realms of Arkania. In relation to video games, the first title gracing the Mac within The Dark Eye universe was The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav, released by Daedalic Entertainment in 2011.
Chains of Satinav’s beautiful artistic rendered backgrounds along with a story-book fairy tale integrate the player into the world unlike other adventure games since Sierra released King’s Quest and other point-and-click style games back in the 1990’s. Memoria takes the best parts of Chains of Satinav, builds upon them, and submerges the player into another adventure in The Dark Eye’s own world.
Memoria follows the story arc of familiar protagonist Geron from Chains of Satinav. The bird trainer turned hesitant champion hero finds life difficult in his new role and now has to help his love Nuri remember who she was. In order to accomplish this final task, Geron entrusts a traveling wizard to teach him a spell to help her.
However, Geron must first solve a riddle about a forgotten princess in exile: Sadja. These two stories will be the center of Memoria. Geron from the present and Sadja from the past, both of their timelines painting an interweaving portrait of a story in an amazing adventure which unfolds before the gamer’s own eyes.
The biggest problem many players complained about with Chains of Satinav was Geron’s own storyline. He was flat, uncompromising and ultimately useless. Sadly, this is still the case in Memoria, however as the story progresses, the writers manage to give Geron some personality and likability. This doesn’t mean he couldn’t be replaced by an area rug that pulls the room together, but the main connection with an adventure game comes from character players we can get behind. The opposite is true of Sadja, which hurts the case for Geron even more. Sadja’s exiled princess story is compelling and grips the player with the bland arc of Geron. There are some people saying the problem with Geron’s story involves a poor problem with translation decryption between German and English, however, seeing how well Daedalic wrote Sadja’s history, I don’t see this as plausible.
Memoria is a classic point-and-click adventure style game. Don’t expect from this style of gameplay something like Diablo’s fast super-clicking; this is more puzzle-based solving along the lines of Professor Layton meets King’s Quest. As Geron and Sadja progress through the storyline, each character learns magic spells and gains artifacts, which help out to solve puzzles and unlock clues during the quests. Some of the puzzles feel useless, but I have yet to see an adventure game where every puzzle blended seamlessly into the story. Memoria is the closest to perfect when it comes to integration and immersion.
Memoria is split into chapters, similar to a traditional novel. As the player progresses through each chapter, alternating between the current timeline story of Geron and the past-time line story of Sadja, the story moves forward. This forward progression is an excellent method to establish pacing and gives the player a true feeling of accomplishment – similar to how one looks at how many pages in a book they’ve read to see how far they’ve come.
Graphics and story are the main appeals of Memoria, drawing young and old alike into its rich design and steady storytelling approach to gameplay. The puzzles sometimes feel like an afterthought, especially when the puzzle has nothing to do with the story, instead to focus on a newfound magical spell or item. The third act of the story rushes the player through the game, with the puzzles becoming easier – or I became smarter in an instant which I doubt is the case – and me wanting to slow the pace down to explore the landscape further. These are personal preferences, not something everyone will experience.
The graphics are breathtaking and gorgeous. Whenever a new background scene appears, my first thought is “this would make a great wallpaper”. However, integrating items to use into a work of art usually makes the item almost stick out of the screen. This is not the case in Memoria. Clues blend into the painting making it easy to miss small ones on smaller computer screens. On my 11” MacBook Air, I missed a handful of items during one specific chapter and had to go back later on the 15” MBP to find them.
The animations in Memoria blow the ones seen in Chains of Satinav out of the water. This game is a labor of love, and the time and effort Daedalic poured into the details shine like the chrome on a restored 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air. Gamers wanting a taste of old-school gameplay with upgraded graphics and fantastical storytelling can look no further than Memoria.
I tested Memoria on two different MacBook notebooks: my 2012 MacBook Pro i7, 16gb memory, non-retina, 1tb drive, NVidia GeForce GT650 650M 1GB full of happiness running OSX 10.8.4. and a work 2009 MacBook Air I was “testing” (and writing this) coming in with the specs: 2009 11” Intel Core 2 Duo 2.13Ghz, 4gb memory, 256 SSD, and an NVidia GeForce 320M 256mb Video Card.
In both systems ran Memoria without any significant issues. I can tell you the mini MacBook Air became possessed with the fires of hell (it got hot) after a few minutes on the left-side of the keyboard due to the air-vents kicking on to cool down the video card, however, the game ran fine nonetheless.
- Graphics are outstanding
- Story should win a Hugo award
- Magic system is unique and well-integrated
- Some of the puzzles are out-of-place
- Voice Acting is strange with NPC’s
- The speed at the end of the game is unnecessary
This isn’t a typical adventure game, it falls under the guise of an interactive puzzle book with a side of adventure, however, it is a must play. The graphics alone rival those masterpieces found in the Louvre and the story rivals those of the Faulkner and Tolkien. The gameplay itself is old school by using the mouse to click everything on the screen, however, this becomes a benefit instead of a hindrance. Memoria is one of the best indie games of 2013, hands down.