Memoria is a game I went in expecting to hate. I had picked it up before actually playing through Chains of Satinav, which it acts as a sequel of sorts to (despite the story being kind of stand-alone), and it only made sense that my overwhelming hatred toward Chains would carry over. It did at first, too—the beginning of the game saw a lot of playing as Geron, the mopey playable character from the last game, and much of the early game even reuses art from Chains. Fortunately, Geron’s importance in the story began to wane midway through the game, replaced with the much more interesting story of Sadja, a princess from 450 years prior who went on a journey and disappeared. Had it not been for this, playing through Memoria would have been an overwhelmingly negative experience. The strange friendship of Sadja and her magical talking staff, however, was enough to make all of the bad design decisions worth fighting through.
I didn’t like Sadja at first
Geron is, was, and will always be a horrible character. He’s depressingly incompetent and self-pitying on top of being dumb as a brick, and every second I spent playing as him was like having my fingernails pried off by some kind of old-timey torturer. My first impression of Sadja, on the other hand, was that Daedalic had gone too far in the opposite direction. She’s easily the most determined and confident character in the entire game, and this can actually be a bit grating toward the beginning. For example, she mentions early on about how people will tell of her deeds in a thousand years, and it’s cringe-inducing knowing that she’s been completely forgotten just 450 years later. Fortunately, both her and her talking staff eventually have their personalities fleshed out to the point where both are endearing and realistically flawed characters who you can’t help but love.
Geron and Nuri (still in raven form after the events of the last game), however, are just as bad as ever. In fact, Nuri has gone from high-spirited naivete to never-ending depression, actually making Geron seem upbeat by way of comparison. Neither character has changed for the better, though, because even he mopes toward the end of Memoria. He’s effectively a character incapable of change or growth, and I honestly would have preferred an all-new character being introduced to frame the past events of Princess Sadja.
There’s a pretty big plot hole
The complexity of the story and all of the magical/supernatural elements mean that there are a few moments where you’ll be left wondering why X happened when Y is far more likely given the game’s logic. The most notable plot hole revolves around a certain deity’s behavior when lied to and an instance where said deity doesn’t act despite having enough information to know that it’s being lied to. There’s no possible way to go into greater detail than that without spoiling some pretty big plot points, but suffice it to say that there are a few moments where you’re left going, “wait, what?” Still, I’m pretty harsh when it comes to plot holes and I was able and willing to overlook much of this.
One thing I wasn’t able to overlook was toward the end when a character who hadn’t shown any hints of being magical suddenly used a convenient spell that saved the day, magic of course being well out of the reach of common people to the point where Geron was ostracized by his town in the first game. Having someone suddenly go, “Oh, by the way, I’m magical and can make everything right again even though I’ve never mentioned this before” is just bad writing.
The puzzles suck, too
Like I said earlier, this would be a negative review if not for how attached I became to Sadja and her staff, and the puzzle design would have been the number one reason for that. To put it simply, many of the puzzles in Memoria are so bizarre and circuitous that they often make no sense whatsoever. Take the video above, for example. Not only do you have to combine a shuriken with a dull longsword to knock a shield off of a wall (it should be mentioned that the shield looks perfectly within reach with the sword alone despite the game telling you otherwise), but you then need to jam a nearby mace into the longsword’s scabbard and use both your shuriken-longsword and scabbard-mace to form a little bridge on which to put the shield. Naturally, you then jump up to the next level and pick up a halberd. To your right is a glass case with a sword you also need, but you can’t just break it with the halberd (for whatever reason). No, you need to jump back down, replace your scabbard-mace with the halberd, put the shield back down, then jump up and shatter the glass with the mace. Why do you do all of this, you ask? So that you tie a weapons rack to a locked cabinet door with a vine, weigh down the rack with all the weapons you’ve found, then push it off a ledge to break open the door.
Wouldn’t that risk pulling the entire cabinet down, you ask? Wouldn’t it be easier to just pry the door open with one of those weapons? Even if the solution made sense, wouldn’t the vine be likely to snap under the weight before the door was pulled open? Such questions ultimately don’t matter; Memoria wants you to shut up and accept this kind of thing as being perfectly reasonable, and many of the puzzles in the game are just as backward and nonsensical as the weapons rack one. I even broke down and consulted a walkthrough toward the very end (which I never do) because of a tedious illusion puzzle that blocks your progress while trying to solve a completely different puzzle.
Sometimes it doesn’t even share the rules
As if the bizarre solutions to puzzles weren’t bad enough on their own, there are also some instances where puzzles don’t give you all of the information necessary to solve them. There’s one puzzle in particular where you have to collect a bunch of elemental spirits to activate runes and open a portal, and while that seems straightforward enough, activating six and having an empty space left for a spirit led me to believe that there was a seventh that I hadn’t found, especially once I found a table that had seven runes on it. After a frustration-filled hour or so of searching, I checked a screen that keeps information on game lore and quest progression, only to have it tell me that I needed to put those six elements in a certain order for the seventh spot to automatically light up and open the portal. Nothing about the puzzle suggested this, so while the screen was at least kind enough to share this information with me, it’s yet another obtuse puzzle.
The new spells are wonderful and atrocious
Chains of Satinav had two spells that you used: the “break” spell and the “repair something that’s broken” spell. Memoria, on the other hand, combines those into one spell, gives Geron a magical artifact that he can use to detect magic (which functions a bit like a spell), and allows Sadja to eventually cast three different types of her own. Of her magic spells, her ability to petrify or de-petrify is by far the most interesting and fun to use, especially since it can often be used on random plants that aren’t a part of puzzles. This is a nice touch that makes the world feel that much more interactive. However, Memoria also throws in the “send vision” spell, which is one of the most irritating elements in the entire game.
The send vision spell works by allowing you to choose three items from the screen and use those three items to influence someone’s thoughts. It can only be used when you have an object belonging to the person, though, so right off the bat you’re limited to only using the spell when puzzle solutions require it. That would be fine, too, if not for the fact that the three things you’re supposed to choose are set in stone despite other combinations making perfect sense. For example, there’s a part of the game where you have to influence someone to find and help you. You start by choosing a faraway mountain to give them a starting point, then choose a river to give them a path to follow. Now, around you are a bunch of completely unique statues lit by a campfire. One would think that they would make for a pretty specific stopping point, but that solution isn’t accepted by the game. Instead, you have to choose the campfire as the end point despite the fire being far less specific. It’s just another puzzle that makes less sense than it probably should.
That spell even affects the writing
As if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s at least one instance where the send vision spell forces characters to talk unrealistically, with the most egregious example being when you’re dealing with an ore adept who isn’t studying the relic you want him to be studying. You have to use the send vision spell to change his interests, and this means going around the room and asking about different items to get an idea of what could be used to change his mind. Rather than responding like an actual character, he (completely randomly) tells you what he associates with each object. It ends up sounding like this: “I associate this stone tablet with my own personal failure! I associate this shiny thing with warmth and happiness! That ore represents my duty!” It really is that poorly written, and while this makes the puzzle more straightforward than it’d be otherwise, it comes at the cost of some truly eye-roll-worthy dialogue. This whole section could have been handled better.
There’s a good amount of foreshadowing
Memoria is the kind of game that’s best played through twice, or, if you’re insane like me and make 1-2 thousand screenshots per game, that’s worth going back through the screenshots for. The reason for this is that there are some interesting twists and turns in the story that are actually built up to astonishingly well, and it’s entertaining to go back through previous dialogue to see how you completely missed things that should have been obvious. It’s surprising that the same people responsible for the painful writing in Chains of Satinav were able to pull off some of the things they managed, but credit where it’s due, I was amused by how well they kept me in the dark until it all came together. Then I was kicking myself for not having assembled all the pieces sooner.
Graphics are good, animations are bad
The background art is as visually interesting as it was in Chains, and though much of the early art is recycled from the previous game, you eventually find yourself in plenty of all-new locations that more than make up for that. However, the problems with animation also return from Chains, and characters’ mouths during dialogue sequences still consist of only a few frames that barely sync up with the words (and sometimes don’t even bother coming close). That said, I found some of the background animations to be smoother than in Chains, but the dialogue has always been the biggest animation problem, and it’s one that they clearly haven’t bothered trying to deal with for whatever reason.
The soundtrack is actually pretty good
Unlike Chains, which had an entirely unremarkable soundtrack barring the menu music, Memoria actually has a few keepers that you’ll notice while playing. It’s definitely not the kind of thing designed to capture your attention, never trying to be anything beyond understated background music, but it nevertheless succeeds at creating oodles of atmosphere. This is especially true when it comes to the more exotic scales used during Sadja’s sections.
It’s also worth mentioning that the voice acting for the new characters is much more solid than the old characters, whose voice acting remains as questionable and halfhearted as ever. This gives the voice acting in general a lopsided quality, but that’s still better than the universally bad voice acting of the previous game.
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