The game of the week for this week's Retro Weekly is one that is very close to my heart: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Memoria Review: Making Magical MemoriesThe continent of Aventuria is the motherland of the most popular RPG series in Germany known first as “Realms of Arkania” and, currently, as “Dark Eye”. It has even outsold Dungeond & Dragons! So it stands to reason that this venerable franchise would be capable of giving birth to yet another gaming gem with Daedalic as its midwife. Memoria is a PC-exclusive point-and-click adventure developed by German studio Daedelic Entertainment which continues the story of an older game, The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav. Daedalic Entertainment has a long history of adventure games spanning nearly 5 years and a dozen games, and the polish shines through in nearly every aspect of this game. We first gain control of Geron, the bird-catching protagonist from Chains of Satinav, in the middle of a twilit forest clearing and, it is here where we get a glimpse of the very … curious and alluring art-style Memoria is cultivating. The game takes place in a strangely 2.5D setting with painterly screens that are beautiful to behold but aren’t the best for displaying depth. That would be perfectly fine by itself, negligible enough that calling it a “distraction” would be a disservice. It’s when we get to certain characters, or their movements specifically, that an issue arises. Many of the more mobile characters are 3D rendered models, painted in the same smooth style as the backgrounds, and animated apart from everything else. The problem is in the middle of that prior statement. The texturing on the models is of such great quality that, at times, I forgot they were 3D models. When they moved again, the “depth” of the characters contrasted all the more strongly with the rest of Memoria, resulting in a distinctly alien feel to interacting with the world. However, it was more of a growing pain, an issue that stopped being such as I got used to the game, than a legitimate problem with the game. By and large, it comes to together marvelously with colors that easily convey the warmth or austerity of an area depending on the shifting contexts. It speaks volumes that, when compelled to complain, issues with my initial interactions with the game are the first to come up. Memoria is a superbly crafted game with little to discommend it.
Back in the forest clearing, after running quickly through a tutorial of the game’s function and displaying Geron’s awe-inspiring ability to … mend and destroy small objects, we get a barest whisper of a hint as to why this game is called “Memoria”. (Though this is merely the set-up to a much deeper plot, I’ll warn you that “here be spoilers!”) We learn that Geron has come to this traveling merchant looking for a powerful transformation spell that can permanently change the shape of something to anything else. Be it turning a cup into a crane or a talking raven back into the fairy she is supposed to be. The merchant called Fahi immediately launches into a story so engrossing that we take over game as the character from that far-gone time, a princess known as Sadja. (You can come back now!) The back and forth between the stories of present Geron and past Sadja creates an intertwining saga whose threads point to a tightly-woven tale. As the game progresses, the implications seem to marry the two different storylines into a single epic that spans ages.
For as long as Daedalic has been creating adventure games, you’d expect the core mechanics to be polished as smooth as silk. And you’d be correct. The game is as minimalist or as obvious as you’d want to have it. Moving the mouse counter to the bottom of the screen, brings up a multi-faceted bar that is bag, crafting bench, and options portal all-in-one. The thing is that, for the most part, you don’t ever have to use it, though the game doesn’t ever really tell you that. Almost every aspect 0f that bar is usable by manipulating your mouse wheel. Scrolling with it will cycle through your powers and the items in your bag and holding down the middle mouse button highlights anything that you can interact with in dots of white or gold starlight. Dialogue wheels are responsive and, aside from instances where objects were placed a bit too close together, the mouse controls were never overtly finicky. Which is something of a plus for entirely mouse-driven video games. But all is not perfect in Aventuria, nor in the game itself. While there is little to complain, there is still something to complain about. While the framerate remained largely steady on a single screen, as soon as you made a move to go to a completely new screen with a new background, Memoria ground to a halt for a second. It were as if, at that very moment, it had cracked open the pastel and paintbrushes to paint anew the page I’d just clicked off in my mindless fury while trying to figure out which seemingly random combination of items in my pack would give birth the solution I needed. Although a slight pause might have granted a sense of weight to the transfer, the loading times often just overstayed their welcome.
Don’t you dare let my devil’s advocacy deter you, though. Memoria is an adventure game for the ages.