|Dev: Daedalic Entertainment|
|Pub: Deep Silver, Daedalic Entertainment|
|Release: August 30, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p|
by Sean Engemann
Sometimes, the greatest achievements don't come from new and novel ideas, but rather from taking an established formula and working at it until X + Y = Perfection. With Memoria, X is the game design, and Y is the artistry, with the sum of the two parts equaling something truly spectacular. The folks at Daedalic Entertainment are modern point-and-click-adventure masters; the company’s pride in its creations becomes evident the moment you start playing one of its titles. Memoria is a masterpiece that shouldn't be overlooked by anyone.
Using Germany's most popular pen-and-paper RPG, The Dark Eye, as a backdrop, players are whisked into the realm of Aventuria, a land filled with delights and danger. Following the epilogue of its predecessor, Chains of Satinav, Memoria opens with one of our protagonists, Geron, a bird catcher by trade and would-be hero in his heart, searching for a means to transform his beloved Nuri from a raven back into her true form as a fairy. A mysterious travelling merchant with polymorph capabilities agrees to help Geron, but only if Geron can solve a 450 year-old riddle, one that concludes the journey of the princess Sadja and places her name in the annals of history.
Throughout the adventure, you will shift between the two time periods, playing as Geron and Sadja. Both characters have their own quests to complete, yet there are threads that bind the two storylines together. Time plays a principle role in Memoria, both between the two characters’ mortal existences and between the higher powers that control them. You'll also cling to the brevity in solving the riddle, as Nuri gradually loses the memories of her true self, and her spirit inches towards becoming the bird that her physical form has taken.
Interacting with other citizens of the land, you'll soon realize that many hearts are rife with deceit and mistrust: Few characters in this game possess genuine empathy. Yet you're forced to enlist the aid of questionable characters, not as a personal preference, but because there are no alternatives to achieving your goals. Though you are given a selection of responses during a few conversations, they don't affect the outcome of the story. Sometimes, you'll even disagree with your own response to a situation, but like a good book, you must accept the words of the author and read on to discover the consequences.
Of course, Memoria is more interactive than simply flipping through pages in a fantasy novel. As a point-and-click adventure, the standard task of picking up items and manipulating them with other objects or environmental "hotspots" is the means to proceed with the story. However, the puzzles are neither trivial nor haphazardly hatched up. Every item you collect, and every puzzle you solve, seems realistic to the situation. Some are obvious, while others may be out of your deductive grasp, causing you to perform the try-everything-on-everything method until you stumble across the correct pairing. Yet with each puzzle solved this way, you'll understand the logic, and never feel cheated with a nonsensical solution. Finally, to avoid two-dimensional thinking, Memoria uses a sequential style of puzzle. By this, I mean that one object you would expect to work on a particular hotspot may fail to do so until other criteria have been met.
Along with your modest inventory of items, you'll learn magic spells, which are also required to solve many of the puzzles. Between Geron and Sadja, you'll be able to cast spells that repair and destroy fragile items, activate and deactivate magical triggers, turn living things to stone, and even implant thoughts into other people's heads to change their opinion.
To alleviate some of the frustration of puzzles that have you stymied, a quick trip to the settings menu allows you to toggle a feature that highlights correct combinations of items, spells, and hotspots. Also, though you'll visit many different locales in Aventuria, the action is concentrated within just a few screens, thus tedious backtracking is kept at a minimum. Unless, of course, you're in Chapter 3, attempting to navigate through a forest maze, but even there, you eventually are presented with the option to skip ahead to the target destination.
But why would you?
Taking in every detail of the stunningly painted scenes is by far one of the biggest highlights of Memoria. From the streets of Andergast to the aforementioned sprawling forest to the hallowed halls of Drakonia, every image deserves to be admired. And since you spend much of the time manipulating the environment, you get to appreciate the beauty that much more. The characters are animated well, apart from implausible lip-synching, and other elements, such as waterfalls crashing and pigs heaving in a trough, bring the picturesque backdrops to life.