Console gamers were introduced to the long-running “The Dark Eye” role-playing universe by way of two lacklustre remakes of the earliest videogames – Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny in 2017 and Realms of Arkania: Star Trail in 2019. Thankfully, Daedalic Entertainment has now ported two of their successful point-and-click adventures from that IP to consoles, the first of which is 2012’s The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav.
Right off the bat, it is worth noting these ports are traditional point-and-click adventures that don’t deviate wildly from the long-established genre basics, nor has the console port altered anything other than the control scheme and a few quality-of-life features. If you’ve already played these on PC, there’s no new content.
The hand-painted visual style holds up unexpectedly well on modern UHDTVs.
The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav introduces the young bird-catcher Geron, from the town of Andergast. Geron has a basic grasp on destructive magic but is considered bad luck (and a general hazard) by the superstitious townsfolk – except for his mentor, Gwinnling – leaving him stuck with few prospects. The game kicks off with Geron attempting to win a challenge that will see him recognised by the king. Unfortunately for Geron, his mentor has been having dark dreams, a flock of aggressive crows has infested the town, and two famous heroes who previously defeated an evil seer have been murdered, suggesting trouble ahead.
After an involved prologue – with minimal hand-holding or tutorials – Geron finds himself on the hunt for a fairy called Nuri; an event that kicks off an expedition Aventuria across and back again. I’ll admit, it’s a fairly typical rise-of-a-hero narrative, but the combination of interesting scenarios, likeable characters, and great writing – albeit not always with great delivery – kept me pushing on past the odd obscure puzzle. Despite some dark themes and visuals, The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav tends to inject each scene with some light-hearted banter or encounters with humourous characters.
Without the ability to explore each scene with a mouse pointer, you get a toggle to highlight important “hotspots”.
When it comes to puzzles, The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav has dozens of them. Each new area often requires you to solve puzzles to get key items for other puzzles before you can move on. They’re often the type of puzzles that seem obscure at first and obvious later. You always need to remember that Geron and Nuri offer a “destroy” and “repair” spell respectively, which adds a degree of complexity to some puzzles. That said, you’ll find talking to companions, listening to Geron’s comments, and checking the item descriptions will always put you on the right track. Unlike some classic point-and-click games, there are no fail-states in The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav, so it’s possible to brute force your way through if you get stuck and don’t want to turn to a guide.
The console port retains the extensive assists from the PC release and, when you combine those with a competent gamepad control scheme, it plays surprisingly well for a game originally designed around a mouse pointer. Movement is simply tied to the left analogue stick; interactable “hotspots” in the environment are highlighted when you’re close (and you can toggle between multiple hotspots with a bumper); inventory selection offers both a conventional grid or quick swap toggle; while the type of interactions you can perform are bound to different face buttons (typically interact, observe, and use-inventory-item-on).
Many puzzles solutions can feel suitably weird. However, if you pay attention to the dialogue and items descriptions, they always make sense in the end.
With the press of a button, you can highlight all interactive objects and area-transition paths in any scene. Enabling maximum assists will change the colour of object names in the world and inventory based on whether you’ve exhausted all interactions, if they can still be combined with another item, or they still have a part to play in an ongoing puzzle. This can be a double-edged sword, however, as you’ll return to several areas and the game does not differentiate, leaving you attempting combinations that have no relevance on your current progress. My biggest gripe with the controls was the odd occasions when I’d transition to another area while trying to position Geron to interact with an object near the edge of the screen.
Despite being an 8-year-old port, The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav manages to look suitably impressive thanks to the handpainted appearance of the backdrops, subtle animations for vegetation and water, and high-resolution 3D character models that blend into the scene. When you couple these backdrops with ambient audio and a solid soundtrack – think generic but fitting for the fantasy setting – it brings each location to life. The writing and voice-work are entertaining, but the delivery leaves a lot to be desired. Facial animations are simplistic and the delivery of both dialogue and narration feels stilted, as if parts of a single exchange were recorded separately and later stitched together.
If you’re a masochist, you could disable many assists, but that’s unwise given the limitation of the gamepad control scheme.
A few animation and dialogue gripes aside, The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav remains an enjoyable point-and-click adventure, ported over with an intuitive gamepad control scheme, elevated by great characters and quirky encounters. If you’re a fan of the point-and-click adventure genre – which has become more prevalent on consoles over the last generation – The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav is easy to recommend at the low asking price and still holds up despite its age.
The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav is developed and published by Daedalic Entertainment
The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav is available on the following Platforms: Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
This review is based on the Xbox version of the Game
You can purchase this version of the game here for £17.99.
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