The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav

Posted by Matt Barton.
First posted on 18 July 2012. Last updated on 14 September 2013.
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The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav
Geron must learn plenty about fairies and their mysterious ways to save the kingdom.
The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav
An abandoned old mill at night makes for a spooky scene.
The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav
The beautiful, childlike Nuri is a fairy, though she is human sized and does not have wings.
The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav
Geron and Nuri must find a compass and a magical item somewhere in the town.
The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav
A graphical glitch yields a giant Nuri!

The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav is a third-person, point-and-click adventure game developed by Daedelic Entertainment. Despite being set in the same universe of a popular German role-playing game called The Dark Eye (Das SchwarzeAuge), this is not a pure role-playing game but rather an adventure game in the style of the Simon the Sorcerer or Broken Sword series. The best aspects of the game are its gorgeous pre-rendered backgrounds, intriguing and thoughtful characters, and a great story. I recommend this game without reservations to all fans of classic point-and-click adventures, particularly those who enjoy fantasy.

The main character is the reluctant hero Geron, a bird catcher with the misfortune of being singled out by a deranged seer as a boy. It has been prophesied that Geron is destined to bring doom to the kingdom, and the highly suspicious townsfolk are convinced that he brings only bad luck to those around him. While Geron has done little to deserve their ire, in fairness he is also endowed with an odd magical ability to break fragile objects at a distance (a power that is never really explained in the game). After the kingdom is infiltrated by evil crows, Geron is selected by King Efferdan to drive them away—a quest that soon has him traveling all over Aventuria and even to other realms of existence.

Assisting Geron is a fairy named Nuri—at least, the game claims that she is a fairy. It appears that fairies in The Dark Eye universe are not tiny winged creatures but rather look indistinguishable from ordinary humans. Geron is instructed to murder her by his mentor. After meeting Nuri, though, and being charmed by her naivety and playfulness, he opts instead to find another way to save the kingdom. Geron also discovers that there are dark creatures who wish to kidnap Nuri and force her to play a magic harp for their mysterious master. This harp has the power to destroy whole kingdoms, but its strings will instantly kill any beins who touches them—with the exception of fairies. Overall, the story spins a good fantasy tale. It is obvious that a great deal of thought has gone into developing the backgrounds of the characters and the setting.

Alas, Geron, the protagonist, is a whiny and not very likeable young man. Rather than enjoying the amazing adventure and fascinating places he gets to visit, all Geron does throughout his quest is moan and groan. Thankfully, Nuri is a more charming character, childlike, and quite animated. The only other notable character is a raven who seems to want to help them, though Geron is inexplicably suspicious while Nuri is entirely trusting.

Like all point-and-click adventure games, there are plenty of puzzles to please fans of the genre. The puzzles and the necessary items to solve them are self-contained in the discrete chapters of the story. Rather than let players wander all over a huge area, each chapter restricts movement to, at most, a dozen or so screens. This greatly reduces backtracking and considerably speeds up the pace of the game. Furthermore, players can hit a button to show all of the hotspots or areas that can be clicked on with the mouse. As well, players who need even more help can use a color coded system to determine whether a particular hotspot still needs to be interacted with for the story to continue. All of these hints are optional, and hardcore players can turn them all off. I, however, appreciate them, since they greatly reduce tedium without ruining the puzzles.

The puzzles are mostly of the "find item, use item" variety, such as using a dagger to cut through vines or cut up a roast. Many puzzles require either Geron's magic power (breaking fragile objects) or Nuri's (fixing objects). Some of the best puzzles use both—for example, Geron must first break an object to get it through a grating, then Nuri can fix the object to make it whole again. The magic puzzles remind me of Infocom's Enchanter. While some of the puzzles are more difficult than others, I have been able to solve all of them on my own and have found several of the solutions quite satisfying.

The graphics are of mixed quality. The game looks great when the scene does not have any animation. The backgrounds are rich with detail. Indeed, I find myself wanting to take my time through the game to really appreciate the quality of the artwork. By contrast, the animation is terrible, with the characters walking around like crude puppets. The juxtaposition is particularly jarring and greatly reduces the impact of the artwork. Thankfully, the awkward animation only occurs when characters are walking around; the special animations that play when dealing with puzzles are much more fluid and natural.

The voicework is good. Although translated from German, the dialog is smooth and never struck me as stilted. The music is good and befits the game's fantasy setting: lots of soft chords, female choruses, and harp strumming. While pleasant, the soundtrack does not really rise above convention.

All in all, I really enjoy The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav, mostly for its puzzles and rich story. I find myself greatly desiring to learn more about The Dark Eye universe, which is certainly intriguing and a refreshing change from the Dungeons & Dragons universe that is more popular outside of Germany. While this game adaptation suffers from bad animation and a whiny lead character, an endearing supporting character and the altogether fascinating world the game is set in make up for those shortcomings.

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