Disclaimer: There are several things I need to disclose before jumping into this review. First, Chains of Satinav is based in the Dark Eye pen-and-paper universe, which I know nothing about. Second, I am an old-school gamer, who played every point-and-click adventure game, ranging from Monkey Island and King’s Quest to The Longest Journey, Gabriel Knight and the brilliant Grim Fandango. Finally, this review is based on the PC version of the game, for which the developers provided a review code.
The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav is an old-school style point-and-click adventure that sticks to tried and tested adventure game norms while adding a few cool twists of its own. Graphically, the game is lovingly crafted with hand-painted set-pieces that are vibrant, colorful and well-detailed. Flashbacks and dreams for main characters are tinged by a muddy glow that differentiates them from the real world. There is a wide array of environments with a diversity of set-pieces. However, this visual achievement is marred by clunky animations, characters that glide along the ground, and in some cases, lack of animation while performing an action.
Players follow the story of Geron and Nuri. Geron is an apprentice bird-catcher who is despised by just about everyone, until he becomes the unlikely winner of the king’s competition. There is a gruesome series of murders. There is the pending return of a blind seer. It is up to Geron to save the world. It is ominous and convincing, without falling into the trap of becoming artificially embellished with exaggerated peril. Nuri is, for the lack of a better term, a fallen fairy. She is being hunted by the forces of darkness because of her association with the fairy world and owing to her naivety, gets into trouble frequently. She reminded me of Sookie Stackhouse from True Blood, and as much as I still love watching that show (out of habit rather than any genuine love for the world, the characters or the story) that is not necessarily a good thing.
The story in Chains of Satinav is a well-crafted tale that maturely portrays the plight of its characters, and offers a nuanced metamorphosis in the story’s mood and direction. As the arc progresses, the saga get uglier and darker, with an ending that is simultaneously unapologetic and gut-wrenching. Almost in direct parallel to the story’s progression, Geron and Nuri are the Yin and Yang of the world, complete with magical abilities that allow one to destroy objects with the power of his mind, and the other to put the pieces back together into a whole.
Bad voice acting
Unfortunately, the characters, their story, and the pacing are once again blemished, this time by some fairly sub-standard voice acting. The acting talent tries well to give the world more substance, but detracts more than it helps. It is often stiff, and even when the situation requires a very specific type of emotion, the voice channeling it is almost completely devoid of it. There are times when I felt it may be better to put on the Lord of the Rings soundtrack on loop in the background, and mute the in-game audio.
Optional hint system, cool mousewheel mechanic, solid storytelling, lovely art style.
Terrible voice acting, clunky animations, no real choice, some technical issues.