by Zee Salahuddin
reviewed on PC
The game religiously follows the established norms of point-and-click adventures. How can you carry a cane that is nearly as tall as you, in your pocket? How does a candle stay lit in your inventory? It just does, now shut up and click. There is an optional hint system, which takes the joy (read: agony) out of pixel hunting that last elusive item that you need to interact with. However, it only highlights it, so how you interact with it is left up to you. An interesting and welcome addition is the mousewheel scroll for your inventory. Once you have an item selected, you can mousewheel scroll through the others items without tediously and incessantly going back to your inventory screen. Pro Tip: use right-click for interacting.
There are no tutorials that help you understand the game systems, insofar as I could tell. In the very beginning, I was stuck on the vase for several minutes because the game never even hinted at the fact that I had mental powers, much less how to use them. Despite a somewhat overwhelming start with multiple environments, characters, and puzzles, the game soon settles into an enjoyable rhythm. This pace is further accentuated by the fact that none of the puzzles are impossibly hard, and despite some very run-of-the-mill situations, not exactly a walk in the park either.
However, as is the case with most things in Chains of Satinav, this part of the game is also adversely affected by another shortcoming. This time the culprit is the illusion of choice. This is a tricky subject. The illusion of choice exists in every game, but it is masked well enough such that you donít ever feel that the decisions you make have absolutely no effect on the story. Seldom has the illusion of choice been as blatantly exposed. The game is fairly linear, sometimes so linear that the choices you are given arenít really choices at all, and after cycling through relevant options, you end up choosing the last remaining option anyway. Other times, regardless of the choice you make, the end result will be the same. This is frustrating on many levels.
My final gripe with Chains of Satinav is the price tag. The game takes roughly 10 hours to complete, and if I go through it a second time, knowing all that I know now, it will less than half that time. There is no replay value here, and obviously no multiplayer. Given these factors, $30 seems like a fairly bloated number. I would have liked to think that the gaming industry has some hope if studios keep displaying such love for imagination and smart storytelling, instead of their affinity for padded wallets. The price for Chains of Satinav renders this sentiment irrelevant. In addition, compare this to games like Torchlight (and its pending sequel), which provide hundreds of potential hours of entertainment, a lot of replay value, and are priced at a very reasonable $20.
All in all The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav is a wonderful experience, a lovingly-crafted exercise in nostalgia. Despite being tarnished by some unfortunate flaws, bad voice acting, and technical shortcomings, it is a piece that resonates with the melancholy of an era long-forgotten, yearning to be remembered.
Optional hint system, cool mousewheel mechanic, solid storytelling, lovely art style.
Terrible voice acting, clunky animations, no real choice, some technical issues.