Goodbye Deponia

It’s the usual love story: boy meets girl on flying utopian city, girl falls to certain doom, boy spends three games trying to ingratiate himself with her, accidentally saving the world on the side. The boy in question is Rufus, a self professed daredevil (real life self-centred fool), an inhabitant of the colourfully post apocalyptic junk planet of Deponia, who dreams of escaping to Elysium hovering gracefully above. The girl is Goal, a high ranking Elysian on a mission with her fiancée Cletus, who uncovers a nefarious plot to destroy Deponia. Rufus sees Goal as his ticket out of the hard life, and Goal mistakenly sees in Rufus an ally in her efforts to save the world.

The story’s setting seems heavily influenced by the German Expressionist silent movie Metropolis, which is hardly surprising given that Daedalic are now one of Germany’s most famous purveyors of point and click adventures. Metropolis itself is an iconic early sci-fi movie that pretty much laid the foundations of the utopian city, built upon the back of a dystopian social underclass; a trope that has underpinned a multitude of works from Bladerunner’s nean soaked city scape to Final Fantasy 7’s Midgar.

Rufus’ selfish disregard for Goal’s feelings, or life for that matter, is somewhat misogynistic, but whilst that may be true of his character, shallow and conceited as he is, it’s important not to project that onto the game as a whole. Rufus is very intentionally the roguish heel (much like Blackadder, with more stupidity than cunning) and throughout Deponia’s previous two episodes we’ve been asked to roll our eyes and shake our heads at his antics, whilst guiltily chuckling along with them. If there was a criticism that could be levelled at the series up to this point is that Rufus’ character just didn’t seem to change, but Goodbye Deponia, the final part of the trilogy seeks to address this, making Rufus’ stubbornness and his slow transformation its core theme. As a consequence the story here feels far more substantial than the previous two parts.

Rufus manages to clone himself meaning we now have to deal with three equally selfish, arrogant, and hot-headed heroes.

Rather suitably for a narrative that looks at the capacity for personal growth, one of the big narrative components is that Rufus manages to clone himself meaning we now have to deal with three equally selfish, arrogant, and hot-headed heroes. Meanwhile Goal is cloned without sufficient nucleic acid, literally regressing her to a baby and giving us a chance to see Rufus’ parenting skills to amusing effect. The role Goal has played in the series is quite interesting, having spent much of the first game unconscious, and the second split into three personalities, each one a female stereotype that Rufus must win over. The writing has a darkly satirical tone of the kind that will appeal to fans of South Park, and one of its favourite subjects is gender politics, which it playfully and knowingly lampoons (even Goal’s name is symbolically part of this commentary), exposing and mocking the mindless, destructive machismo of its male characters.

Deponia’s puzzles, while creative, have always been just on the side of obscure and the squabbling of our three identical heroes makes problem solving even trickier as you now have to pass items between them, a favourite point and click device that fortunately doesn’t grate too much. Slightly more frustrating is the fact that on top of the cloning, Goal’s fiancée Cletus and Argus, the leader of the military wing of Elysium who plan to enact a coup in the confusion, are also Rufus’ doppelgangers, which means even more tricky identity theft puzzles and an increasingly convoluted plot.

Whilst Deponia’s gallows humour hits its mark most of the time, there are a few misfires including a puzzle involving an organ grinder’s monkey, which, whether intentional or not, comes across as a racial slur. Still there are some great moments in the game, like the sequence involving forging a psychiatrist’s Rorschach test cards to gain access to his anti-depressants or the scene in which Rufus emotionally declares his love for a dying clone of himself, poking fun at his self-centredness through an action movie cliché.






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