Publishers: Daedalic Entertainment
Developers: Daedalic Entertainment
Release Date: Jun 22, 2012
If you ever happen to visit Germany and meet there an RPG fan – no matter if they like computer games or traditional pen and paper ones – don’t forget to ask about the series The Dark Eye (or in the local dialect: Das Schwarze Auge). Most likely you’ll be flooded with exuberant praises for this franchise, since it’s held in great esteem westward from the Oder river and a few gaming adaptations for the PC only add to the overall popularity. Now The Dark Eye aims to win over also adventure games fans with The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav, a game developed by well-known and liked studio Daedalic Entertainment. Does it succeed in capturing gamers’ hearts? Generally yes, but the proverbial blindness of love shouldn’t conceal some major flaws from us.
The protagonist of Chains of Satinav is a young bird catcher named Geron. He had it quite rough in his life from the early age. Thirteen years ago sinister Seer, just before he was burned at the stake, hailed the boy as the bringer of doom. That’s why the whole city treats Geron as a pariah and a bad luck. What’s more, he can use magic to break fragile objects, which obviously makes the townsfolk even more suspicious towards him. However, our hero finally gets a chance to prove himself – he wins the competition announced by the king and during a special audience the monarch gives Geron a quest. He needs to get rid of the crows in the castle, since they became a real plague in Andergast. It may seem that such task will be a piece of cake to a bird catcher, but in adventure games nothing is ever simple. Geron gets entangled in a dark intrigue involving the apparently not-so-dead Seer, where the fate of the whole world is on the line. Fortunately he’s not alone in carrying this burden. He’s accompanied by Nuri, a fairy who is sweet, naïve and a bit dopey, as well as the talking raven, very creatively called the Raven.
Chains of Satinav begins like a clichéd and quite childish fantasy story, but don’t let the first impression fool you. Very soon dark and grim tones begin to creep into the plot. Murders, betrayals and omnipresent decay, especially visible in the latter part of the game, may have a depressing effect on the player. So did we get something of Game of Thrones proportion? No, certainly not, it’s a completely different league. The beginning is rather tedious and tiresome, the main heroes could use more depth, the villain is plain boring and the game itself can be unbearably waffly. Despite these flaws, which are not deadly sins in fact, I’ve been following the story eagerly throughout all five chapters. And why not? We can witness how the relationship between Geron and Nuri unfolds, we visit many interesting and exotic places and even though many of the NPCs we encounter don’t have overwhelming personalities, there are some exceptions. The honest merchant Harm is a dead ringer for Juan Borgia from the Borgias tv series! The ending could, however, be longer and resolve more issues, but we shouldn’t complain too much. It’s still a better love story than Twilight and has a better ending than a certain game had before the Extended Cut DLC.
As is the case with most point’n’click games, Chains of Satinav has very basic controls, but still the tutorial explains everything – just in case. Left mouse button allows us to interact with the world and move Geron around, whereas the right button is responsible for examining an item further, which usually exposes some additional information helpful in the game. Space bar highlights all the hotspots in a given location, so we won’t miss anything of importance. Our inventory appears at the bottom of the screen and it obviously contains all the junk that we gather during the story, but it also has a different function, namely it gives us access to magic. As was previously stated, Geron can smash objects and Nuri has a magical talent of a opposite kind – she can fix broken items. We often use both spells to push the plot forward, but fortunately magic is not overused.
Most puzzles are rather standard inventory based challenges following the same pattern: find, take, use in a proper place, yay! The difficulty level in Chains of Satinav is not really high, considering that we only have access to a few locations at time, so it’s not particularly hard to sweep through them and use anything on everything in times of desperation. However, occasionally we encounter peaks of abstraction when the puzzles touch upon the laws of magic. For instance why should we just lit the fire to illuminate the room, when we can equally well use a fluorescent butterfly for this very purpose? That’s just one of the least sophisticated examples, but trust me: there will be more hardcore stuff to do in the forth chapter. Brain boiling guaranteed!
Other types of puzzles presented in Chains of Satinav, including cracking some codes or pressing the buttons in order, can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Actually it’s an advantage for me, since excess of such challenges have a disastrous effect on game’s pace, which eventually results in the boredom of the player. But it’s a matter of personal preference really. Preferences, however, have nothing to do with many conversations that we’ll be having throughout the whole story. Often these dialogues sound rather artificial, but we can attribute it to the requirements of the genre. After all a bit of pathos and overacting never killed anybody, right?
Here we can venture to talk about the worst flaws of the game. First thing: voice-acting. It’s very erratic, unfortunately with the predominant poor part. Many characters just recite their lines in a monotonous voice, not even trying to bring some emotions into the role. I think I liked the actress who played Nuri the most. At least she had some spunk. The second big flaw is very bad animation. It’s broken, stiff and putting it simply: god-awful. We can see it the most during conversations when camera shows the heroes in the close-up. Talking individuals looks completely petrified and his/hers face is the only thing animated (badly, mind you), which in itself is rather a pathetic sight. Of course the synchronisation between the lips movement and the spoken line is non-existent. Animation is by far the worst element in Chains of Satinav. It totally ruins all good impression we might have from the game.
It’s a double pity, since the graphics are gorgeous. The backgrounds are breathtaking and so beautiful that you have the urge to put them on your desktop just to gaze at them over and over again. The amount of details, the colours and the aesthetics of the world can make you feel giddy. Upon entering every new location, it’s always worth to take a minute and just admire the view. The sepia-toned cut-scenes are also very atmospheric and above all don’t make you flinch at their animation, which is a big accomplishment. Couldn’t you do the same in the game, dear developers? The music which plays during our adventures is pleasant and gives a proper climate to the story. The game could use more tracks, though, since the soundtrack is rather short.
So what is the final conclusion? Is The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav a good adventure game? Yes, it is, but it could have been a lot better. The plot is gripping, puzzles interesting, backgrounds just amazing, but they cannot overshadow all what is bad in the game. If you just want to spend around 12 hours on an adventure and simply have fun, it is worth to take a try with Chains of Satinav. The game includes many achievements and to get it all we need to play it at least twice; That’s always boosting the replayability value. But take my advice – refrain from buying it for now and wait till some kind of big gaming sale. Chains of Satinav is not worth 40 Euro, but if you can get it for half the price don’t hesitate even for a moment. You’ll thank me later.
– The plot is interesting enough to keep us going
– Amazing backgrounds
– Creative and well-thought puzzles
– You can play it for hours and more than once
– Awful animation
– Erratic voice-acting
– Too expensive