In fair Deponia, the garbage city, young Rufus has our pity; he tries to be witty, to win the heart of Goal, who is oh so pretty.
At the heart of Daedalic GmbH’s April 2019 release is the unconventional story of the loveable protagonist, Rufus. But nothing is conventional within Deponia: the setting is a huge rubbish heap, the characters are incredibly wacky, and the story subverts so many typical conventions. But, all in all, it’s a story centred around young and lazy Rufus – a character who has ambitions for more in life.
The most striking aspect of Deponia is the art design. There’s a brilliant 2D cartoon style, added to by a multitude of bright colours. Although Deponia is set in a rubbish heap, it’s like none you’ve ever seen before. Within this setting there are fully functioning small towns, and a wide array of characters who live there too. The art style is added to by the really catchy music, and it fits perfectly into the ambience of the setting.
Each character is designed in a very over-the-top style, but the designs work perfectly for the game. Expect to come across dejected workers, smug ‘friends’, and even crazy scientists. Each character is voiced brilliantly, with the array of accents again add to the overall eccentric feel of Deponia.
Rufus isn’t given too much backstory, but he will comment on pretty much every action taken. The majority of the comedy hits the target, with only a few missteps overall. It’s very slapstick, and quite dry humour too – but this relates to Rufus’ personality; he’s downbeat, and searching for more from life. Despite his sense of negativity he’s a very endearing character, and honestly is one of the standouts in Deponia.
Deponia introduces its point and click mechanics from the very first level in the game, and right from the start it doesn’t shy away from offering up a challenge to the player. Rufus begins the game by planning to escape his setting (once more), but first needs to pack his suitcase. This involves searching around the house (which he shares with his ex-girlfriend) and trying to locate the items he needs.
It’s far from easy: it’s not as straightforward as locating what is needed, picking it up, and taking it to the suitcase. There’s a variety of sequences that need to be followed. Certain items are required to initiate a sequence – and these all follow a very logical step-by-step process.
However, one of the overriding issues with Deponia is how challenging it can be to follow these sequences. Within Rufus’ house it’s not a huge problem as there are only three floors to search through, but once the levels get bigger – and they do get a lot bigger – following these sequences can be really time consuming and a little tedious.
Once the main city is opened (which happens fairly early into the game), the difficulty ramps up due to the size of the area and just how much there is to do. There’s a lot in the city that can be interacted with, and a lot of items available for Rufus’ inventory, but missing just one thing can delay the whole sequence. This means the player can easily waste time trying to initiate later stages of the level, not knowing they’ve missed earlier steps and that their attempt just simply won’t work.
Most levels do have a character present who will provide hints, but they are very vague and really not overly useful. It’s great that Deponia is challenging, but it would really benefit from a few nudges in the right direction if the player isn’t on the right track. As it is, you can expect to be stuck for a while before searching around the whole level again.
When Rufus first enters the town the main objective of the story is clear: to help Goal. Deponia features a lot of cut scenes, and each is usually funny and engaging. Within the cut scene in the city Goal is shown to be a wealthy love interest for Rufus, and someone who lives above the rubbish heaps – where he aspires to be.
Throughout Deponia the two interact well, and the overall dialogue between Rufus and each character is very well written. Each character has their own unique voice, personality, and image. Occasionally the comedy doesn’t fit, but in the majority of the cases Deponia’s great humour comes from these interactions.
Deponia may well be set in a rubbish heap, but it’s a game that’ll never end up there. With lovably odd characters, a fantastic art design, and a really engaging style of gameplay, Deponia shows what a modern point and click game should be. Despite a steep incline in difficulty that may catch a few players off guard, Deponia’s highlight is its character design and writing, and you can expect to be entertained throughout.
Deponia is available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. We reviewed the Nintendo Switch version.