It’s a bummer to have to be so hard on Deponia simply for its atrocious German to English translation work, as everything else is actually quite good–if a bit too straightforward for the point-and-click genre–but text is a large, vital part of many adventure games. They say every man carries a sword, and sometimes they need to fall on them to remain honorable, and so I say “On your knees!” to all that work/worked at Daedalic, not just the one wearing the “proofreader” badge. Your shoddy QA job cannot be ignored. But let’s get some of the other stuff out of the way first, like story and gameplay and pretty, pretty pictures.
In Deponia, you play as a rude little lay-about called Rufus. He’s a bit like Guybrush Threepwood, except completely unlikeable. He’s smarmy, arrogant, cruel, and inconsiderate, and I got all that from within the first few opening scenes of the game. I guess that’s fine since we now live in an age of many anti-heroes, such as Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones and Walter White in Breaking Bad. But man, he’s a bother. Anyways, Rufus is tired of living life on a literal junk pile of a planet and sets his eyes to the sky, specifically a place called Elysium, which one can assume is where the rich, clean folk spend their days drinking white wine and looking down from balconies. As he makes his way sky-ward, he accidentally bumps into a young girl named Goal being bullied by some men. Inadvertently, he knocks her down to Trash Town below and is tossed overboard after her. And thus begins the epic quest to get the girl and get going.
Gameplay in Deponia is traditional inventory management stuff. You talk to people, collect things, combines items, and use those items on people and other items to solve puzzles and move the story along. What’s really nice is that, at any time, you can press the space bar to highlight all the items Rufus can interact with, so there’s no pixel-hunting roadblocks. Occasionally, just like in Machinarium, there’s some other kinds of puzzles to play with, like fitting all the broken pieces of a glass mosaic back together or highlighting which spots to bomb in the mine via a map or flipping switches to get the tracks perfectly aligned so your vehicle can drive away to safety. Acts are divided up by brightly animated cutscenes, which only ask that you watch them.
Let it be known that the greatest reason to play Deponia is to look at it and get to the next scene and look at that. It is gorgeous, through and through, with a fantastic sense of imagination. Vibrant, colorful art makes up a lot of the screen, and the design of the trashy town areas are pretty original. The characters themselves range greatly in looks, though I guess you could say Goal and Rufus’s ex-girlfriend resemble each other somewhat. The inventory menu takes up your entire screen, though I never recall filling more than two or three rows with items, so it seems like wasted space, but nevertheless you can see everything you are carrying clearly thanks to the vivid artwork. And as I mentioned, the cutscenes are well-animated, though maybe some extra frames of animation are needed when Rufus interacts with certain items or mixes stuff together.
Alas, not all is whistles and whoops. Take, for instance, the treatment of women in Deponia. First of all, there’s not many to begin with. It’s a male-inhabited realm, with men being the forefront of everything: work, science, law, freedom, the upperclass. Obviously there’s Goal, the mumbling, brain-damaged goal of the game, who Rufus wants in the same way a kid on Christmas wants a new toy, and then the whole town tries to win her over through some strange lottery system with the mayor. Then there is Toni, Rufus’s ex-girlfriend, who exists to nag and bemoan the boy, and eventually ends up getting drugged. Oh boy. Subtlety. Lastly, there’s Lotti, who works at the mayor’s office and is constantly switching from her obviously deeper male voice to a fake, over-exaggerated high-pitch voice, time after time, because, y’know, repetition is funny.
Here we are, the real stick in the mud for this adventure game, which was clearly made overseas. Localization and copyediting. They are two different things, and both were not done adequately enough to ensure that Deponia was a quality product. Some German to English translations make no sense, as if some kind of app like Google Translate was used and nothing else, because I found myself scratching my head at some descriptions or clues. Then there’s the lack of consistency across the board, with some words capped and others not, as well as improper grammar. I spotted many wrongly used apostrophes, as well as several sentences ending in commas, not periods. Some might not notice stuff like, but I like to read along as I listen to the voice acting, mostly because I read faster than I listen and can skip ahead if I’m ready. I also ran into a couple of technical problems, such as dialogue choices appearing above the text box and the game not always responding to double-clicking to hop to the next scene instantly. Small stuff, those ones, but there nonetheless.
Deponia is an undoubtably pretty point-and-click adventure game hindered by a number of localization and technical problems. I didn’t have the worst time getting through it, nor did I find myself foaming at the mouth in general excitement over it unfolding, save for the next gorgeous piece of background art to gawk at. I simply played, looked up a puzzle solution when I got stuck several times, frowned, smiled, frowned some more, and finished it off. There are two sequels already out in the series, but I’m in no rush to see what happens next to Rufus and Goal. I’m still not over all the random capitalized “if”s in the middle of sentences.