I picked up The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav on sale from Steam, in part because its sequel, Memoria, caught my eye while I was exploring indie adventure and point & click games. As I tend to like to get the whole story, and the male MC of Memoria, Geron, is first introduced in The Dark Eye, I decided to get the first game to play, well, first. In the basic set up, Geron is a young man who is disliked by most of his town due to an ill-omen stated about him by a seer when he was a child. Nevermind said Seer was being burned at the stake by the same town, they still believed his last words so…
Anyway, the game opens with Geron attempting to win the Oak Leaf Challenge, an ill-explained contest being held by the king for the “common folk” in preparation for a visit by the Queen of the neighboring kingdom with whom they have been at odds for centuries. It’s supposed to be a big happy peace time, but of course something goes wrong, starting with crows appearing and annoying everyone, then the murders began! LOL Oh, and Geron is charged with getting rid of the crows which involves finding a “fairy”.
Sounds like an exciting game, with adventure a plenty, right? Two hours into the game and it has to be one of the most boring games I have ever played! The story is ridiculously slow, and this coming from someone who loves a good, in-depth story! It would be one thing if it was a slow set up with plenty of world building, getting to know the protagonist, and intrigue. But it isn’t. It’s wandering around the three or four screens available to try to figure out that to get an oak leaf, you have to win an acorn pulling contest to get some plum wine to get some pigs drunk. And to win that contest, you have to figure out to bug the contest watcher about her favorite song, then bug a minstrel into playing it so it gets her attention, steal the winning acorn so you can cheat, then get the minstrel to stop playing so you can actually play the contest. Yes, that is the convolutedness of the puzzles, with very little clues as to how to do all that! I mean, maybe most people know you get fantasy pigs drunk to make them docile enough to get a leaf from them, but I sure as heck didn’t.
It really doesn’t help that Geron is a rather unlikable protagonist so far. I don’t mind a good snarky anti-hero, I mean Yuri from the Shadow Hearts series is freaking awesome. But Geron is no Yuri, he’s more like a whiny brat who wants to show everyone they are wrong about him while being acting a bit like a mix between an ass and a know it all. Even the interactions with his so-called mentor aren’t particularly interesting, with him being rude and abrupt, his mentor seeming to dislike him, and yet Geron getting all upset (briefly) when something happens to him. Nothing in their interactions showed any kind of emotional or loving relationship, so the scenes around that felt thrown in because it was “right” versus it being relevant or accurate.
Though I guess it isn’t surprising, so far the only likeable characters at all are the only two female characters seen in the first two hours: the shop keep that you cheat to win the contest and the fairy Geron goes searching for. Unfortunately, both are also depicted as semi-airheads who are easy to fool and lacking in intelligence. Geron’s tricking of the shop keep is just plain dumb: she seriously is so into a song she can’t notice him opening a box, stealing the winning acorn, closing it, and then not noticing the winning acorn he has is the same as the one already drawn? When she was the one who painted them in the first place??? And his “rescue” of the fairy so she can leave her home is beyond insulting to the girl’s intelligence, even if she is a bit flighty. Oh, and let’s not forget the woman whose wagon wheel broke so she’s just sitting around waiting to be helped by Geron, who is also not terribly bright but apparently he is still better than this otherwise capable woman who has been on her own for a while.
So yeah, suffice to say, I’m really not enjoying the game so far and I suspect I won’t finish it. It is not showing any signs of actually picking up in the story department, and I just don’t feel hopeful that all this is just an overly slow build up to something big and exciting. It feels more like a very low-end HO game, sans hidden-object scenes, than an actual adventure game. I don’t mind slow, long stories, but it has to actually be good, and this isn’t.
That isn’t to say the bad is wholly bad. The art is pretty decent, at least the non-people. The city scenes are richly detailed and are some of the best parts of the game. The music is also not bad and the sound effects well done. Some of the best art comes in the narration between major chapters, which is done in a thicker line, sketchy type style with a monotone color scheme.
Still, it isn’t enough to save this one, even on the cheap. At least I didn’t waste my money on the sequel, because I really have no desire to spend more time with Geron.