Daedalic is one of the larger German video game studios, and it concentrates on LucasArts-style, humorous adventure titles, including German releases of foreign adventures (they brought Tales of Monkey Island to Germany, for example). This pattern has taken a turn with its latest game, which is based on the popular German tabletop RPG, The Dark Eye. Fittingly, it's still a LucasArts-style adventure, and it exhibits many of Daedalic's strengths, creating something that can be easily appreciated by any adventure gamer — even those who haven't played any version of The Dark Eye.
The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav takes place on the earthlike world of Dere in the kingdom of Andergast. High fantasy this is not; the setting feels very 12th century. Geron, a young bird catcher's apprentice, has a reputation for bad luck — including a prophecy hanging over his head that he would bring about an unclearly specified "end." Worse, he's learned one simple magic trick: the ability to break fragile objects from a distance. At the start of the game, he's determined that the arrival of several foreign dignitaries — and the chance to meet King Efferdan — might be enough to change his reputation. But first, he'll have to deal with a few local bullies.
The art style feels like a moving painting. Animations tend to be relatively simple, but they're also far more numerous than one would realize at first glance. Very fine details are often animated, and this is matched with pretty decent voice acting that's often understated and grounded and an array of sound effects.
Gameplay follows classic adventure norms. Click to move and to use objects while pulling things from your inventory. Geron — and later, a fairy named Nuri, who has the power to repair objects — are witty and clever, and subtle humorous touches abound even as the game grows darker and the situations become more difficult and dangerous. Notably, the game uses a Mass Effect-style conversation wheel, though unlike that game, many choices do not affect anything.
Besides following the LucasArts tradition of being nonfrustrating, the game also provide a partial hint mechanism in the form of a hotspot detection feature. The spacebar makes all objects on a screen glow a little, helping you to know what's useful or interesting and what isn't.
Adventure games tend to run in cycles, and The Dark Eyes: Chains of Satinav has potential to be part of an upswing.
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