Guest Author - James Shea
A classic-style fantasy Adventure game, "The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav" offers some mixed-quality visuals but good fundamentals.
Based on the setting of a German fantasy series, "The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav" puts you in the role of Geron, a luckless youth branded as a curse by his fellow townsfolk. Years earlier, a powerful spellcaster foretold that Geron was bad luck while he was being burned at the stake; now it seems as though that spellcaster is returning, and bringing ill fortune with him.
"Chains of Satinav" is an adventure game in the classic sense, which is to say "you have an inventory, you solve puzzles by using inventory items on things". Its puzzles range from fairly simple and intuitive to "how was I supposed to know about that" leaps of logic, but the game is also fairly light on punishment. There's no death or permanent failure states; you can't lock yourself out of being able to win the game no matter how much it seems like you have. The puzzles themselves are very linear as a result, though - there's one solution, and you have to find that solution to advance.
One somewhat novel aspect that I enjoyed was that in addition to your standard "inventory items" (i.e. the random things you pick up), Geron also has a few spells at his disposal. While he starts with only the ability to shatter small items such as jugs and glasses, he eventually gains some other (similarly minor) powers as well. Another aspect of the game I enjoyed is the ability to highlight all "usable" items, which eliminates the standard "pixel hunt" aspect of the genre. Even with that feature, though, the game's puzzles get kind of ridiculous in terms of leaps of logic. Compared to most adventure games they're pretty tame, but "ridiculous" is still "ridiculous".
The game's art is good and bad. It's good because the backgrounds and most of the characters are incredibly well-done, with a distinctive painted style that gives the game a lot of flavor. It's bad because the animation and few 3d models (such as for the main characters) aren't really that great. Characters move jerkily and unnaturally, which detracts from the elegant storybook aesthetic of the game's static art. It's hard to tell just from looking at screenshots; to really understand why it's problematic, you have to see the game in motion. That's not to say it makes the game ugly or unplayable, but it certainly reduces the value of the game's GOOD artistic decisions by an unpleasantly large amount.
Overall, "The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav" is an inoffensive game. It has some neat concepts and some nice vistas, and while it's not going to reinvent the genre or attract someone who doesn't normally play adventure games, it's at least a fairly pleasant trip. The Steam pricetag of $30 might be a bit much for its content, though.
We purchased this game with our own funds in order to do this review.