Dordogne was a long time in the making. I remember first seeing it announced in 2020, and I had no idea that it wouldn’t release until 2023. Every few months, I’d be reminded of its existence, and would wonder when I’d finally get a chance to play it. But last week, at long last, I got that opportunity.
Going into it, I didn’t really know what to expect. Whilst appealing, the trailer revealed precious little about the gameplay, and I was instead drawn to the vibrant colors and quaint interpretations of the French landscape.
I knew it was a narrative adventure, but I vaguely wondered if it might have RPG elements… That couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever played such a linear game. I’ll get into it in more detail throughout this review, but if you like choice in a video game, then Dordogne definitely isn’t for you. There’re plenty of interesting elements, but choice isn’t one of them. Let’s explore whether Dordogne is worth your time.
An Intriguing Concept
The premise of Dordogne immediately captured my imagination. You play as Mimi, a young adult who has just learned of the death of her grandma Nora. You recall that you once spent a summer with her as a child, but you have no actual memories of any of your time together.
Due to complex family dynamics, you lost contact with her and hadn’t spoken with her since that forgotten summer.
Her death hits you hard, and you make it your mission to learn more about the woman you never had the chance to be close with. Her lawyer sent you a letter after Nora died, and you’ve been invited to her house to collect a box of belongings.
Once there, you find different objects which trigger long-forgotten memories. There’s split gameplay, you move between playing as adult Mimi exploring the house to retrieve her memories, and young Mimi experiencing the events for the first time.
It’s an interesting concept, and I feel the time travel element is done pretty well. I like seeing things again as an adult once you’ve played a chapter as a kid which gives that object more context.
It’s hard to work out exactly who this game is for. A lot of the story is told through the perspective of a child, yet it’s hard to see a child having the patience to play a narrative adventure like this. However, there’s not really enough variety or depth to fully appeal to adults.
Personally, I reckon this is something that can be enjoyed more as a form of artistic expression than as a video game.
Sometimes a Door Should Just Be a Door
One thing that was apparent right from the start is that Dordogne has so many unnecessary interactions. Pretty much everything you do has been made into a convoluted experience of banality. It’s excessive and just complicates the gameplay without adding any actual enjoyment.
You come across a door, can you just click to open it? No. You have to pick up a key, awkwardly maneuver that key to line it up with the keyhole, push the key into the keyhole, turn it in the lock until it clicks, let go of the key, move to the handle, twist the handle, then push the door open. Phew, I’m exhausted just typing about it!
I expect the developers were trying to make the game more realistic by doing this, but it actually made me feel much less connected to the story as it was a constant reminder that I was playing a game. Of course, they could have had a sneakier purpose, and it might have been done to artificially lengthen a pretty short narrative adventure.
There were a handful of times when I did enjoy the experience of moving objects around on the screen. There was a puzzle where you had to apply locations on a map using stickers.
And there was a fun moment when I had to decorate a pine cone with googly eyes and sticks. But the majority of the time, I wish the game had been more streamlined.
The worst thing about these over-the-top actions was that sometimes I had to repeat them. The game glitched on a few occasions whereby I was unable to move or interact with anything and had to reload. The autosave checkpoints were relatively far apart, so I ended up going through the same boring movements all over again.
Where Exactly Is This Going?
In a narrative adventure, you’d expect the story to be on point. After all, the story is the entire draw of the game.
Unfortunately, this was not really the case in Dordogne. I’ll admit I’m a little biased, as I prefer action and fantasy elements in a story. A young girl’s summer holiday was never going to totally captivate my imagination. However, despite that, I felt invested after a few chapters.
I won’t reveal any spoilers, but the ending was incredibly rushed, and felt disappointing after putting in the time to get there.
I wouldn’t have minded the slow start if it had led to a satisfactory conclusion, but it didn’t. I appreciated the developers taking the time to set the scene, but they should’ve done more once the setting and characters were established. The whole game is 8 chapters, and it would’ve worked much better if they’d stretched it to 10 by adding more details in the middle.
At the heart of everything was the complex relationship dynamics. Nora and Mimi were the main characters, but I actually found myself pretty uninterested in their relationship. It was cute, and I liked how it developed, but there was no drama there.
But Mimi’s dad (Nora’s son) hadn’t spoken to Nora in years, and I would’ve loved more exploration into their stunted relationship.
However, the key disappointment in the story was the backstory between Nora and Mimi’s friend Renaud. There was clearly a fraught history between them, which was hinted at, but never resolved. That backstory needed a resolution, and I hated that the gamer was left out of the details.
Their dynamic was readdressed in the final cutscene, but without the details of the backstory, it was lacking in satisfaction.
Overall, the story had some emotional depth, but it definitely could’ve been better. The groundwork was there, but the rushed ending really ruined it for me. I really wish they’d have explored more in terms of the character interactions. The ending would’ve had a lot more impact if the player had more time to get to know the characters.
Take a Picture, It’ll Last Longer
One cool thing about Dordogne is that you have a camera that you can use to take snapshots of your environment.
As the game is set in the 80s, it’s a cute little Polaroid camera that prints out the photos. You line up the shot you want and then capture it when you’re ready. It only shows a square on the screen, but the photo itself will be a rectangle with more vertical height than you see in your viewfinder.
Although this is an awesome idea, I really wish it came into play more often. The environment is gorgeous, and it would’ve been wonderful to get to stop and take pictures whenever a view took your fancy. Instead, you can only take photos at specific moments when the game prompts you to do so.
The camera element would have worked much better had it been an accessible tool that you could pull out whenever you wanted to.
Another idea that I loved was the inclusion of a binder. One thing I adore in games is when there’s a journal that you get to fill as you traverse the game.
In Dordogne, this happens at the end of every chapter. You will be prompted to fill out a journal page, and you can do so by positioning various memories on the page. These are photos, stickers, poems, and sounds.
Poems are made by using various significant words that you collect throughout the chapter. You can then select from one of three poetic lines for each word.
Put three poetic lines together by mixing and matching your collected words, and you have yourself a poem to stick in the binder. I really loved deciding which order to put my lines in. Stickers can be found throughout the chapters, and there was usually a decent selection.
The downside of the binder is that you’re quite heavily limited with photos and sounds. As I mentioned, you can only take photos at a few given times.
With sounds, many chapters only have one to choose from, and it would be better if you could record sounds on a whim. Also, you could only have one of each element. I’d have liked it if I could use multiple stickers to help decorate the pages with more detail.
Gorgeous Graphics and Tranquil Soundscape
Despite my hesitancy with the story and gameplay, one facet I can’t fault is the visual design. Dordogne is adorned with stunning hand-drawn watercolor assets, and the effect is breathtaking.
There’s so much more detail than you usually get from an indie game, you can tell how passionate the developers were. I love how unique the style is, they’re not going for realistic, they’re going for memorable.
I’ve noticed a trend in indies lately where hand-drawn art is becoming more common, and it’s great to see. I feel the indie-sphere needed a fresh take on artwork other than the styles we’re used to seeing such as pixellated or isometric assets.
I hope that in the future we can see this combined with more dedication to captivating gameplay, as with a lot of games it seems to be that you only get one or the other.
Not only is the art beautiful, but the shading helps contribute to the atmosphere. The same images will look very different depending on the vibe of the scene, as the developers play around with the brightness and contrast. It’s impressive to see. Honestly, I have no complaints with the graphics of Dordogne, they’re consistently fantastic.
The soundscape is decent, too. It’s not as brilliant as the visuals, but the audio still helps contribute some ambiance and adds to the tranquil nature of the game. There’s no catchy tune, instead, there’s just relaxing music and sound effects. It blends into the background and adds to the experience without drawing your attention.
Most of the time, the dialogue is just written, however, it’s spoken during the cutscenes. The voice actors do a great job of lending personality to the characters, and I wish they’d been able to speak the dialogue during the main game as well.
Verdict – Worth Playing, Not Worth Paying
Dordogne is a simple narrative adventure that relies on beauty over substance. A rushed story and lacklustre gameplay let down what should have been an emotional and immersive experience. If you enjoy quiet, calming games then you could definitely find enjoyment in Dordogne, but if you prefer fun gameplay, then you might want to look elsewhere.
Gorgeous hand-drawn graphics rescue this otherwise pretty boring game, and I had a relatively enjoyable time playing it. I don’t think it’s worth the price it charges, but I can appreciate the effort that went into developing Dordogne.
I’ve seen other reviewers giving this game 8s or 9s, and I’m here just wondering why. Did they play the same game as me? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the experience, but it’s definitely not one that stands out strongly in my mind. The needlessly convoluted gameplay completely ruined the immersion, and the storyline was rushed at best.
I firmly believe that a game needs more than visuals to be considered ‘good’, and the beautiful graphics are pretty much the only front on which Dordogne consistently delivered. Sure, the game is pretty, but that doesn’t make it a masterpiece.
I think a 6 is a fair score for a game that offers very little in terms of fun or depth. There were certainly moments where I felt that it was leading to something, but most of it just fell flat in the end. I really wish that the story had a more satisfactory conclusion, as I felt cheated out of a proper ending. It had promise but was too rushed to hit the right emotional notes.
I would say that Dordogne is definitely worth playing, however, it’s not worth paying full price for. It’s only got just over 3 hours of gameplay, and most of that is purely story, with very little interactivity beyond just walking forward.
It’s not worth the price tag, and you’d struggle to get value out of paying full price. However, if you have Xbox Game Pass then you can play for free on that. You could also keep an eye on it to see if it goes on sale.
- Gorgeous artwork with plenty of charm.
- Talented voice actors.
- A relaxing vibe that’s great for stress relief.
- Insufferably linear.
- Limited gameplay, very few puzzles or minigames, and mostly just walking.
- Interactions are too convoluted.
Dordogne Review: FAQs
Question: Is Dordogne a real place?
Answer: Yes, Dordogne is a region in France. The game is based on real settings, and the landscape is similar to what it looks like in real life.
Question: How long does Dordogne take to complete?
Answer: The main game should take you somewhere between 3 and 4 hours depending on how quickly you can read the many lines of dialogue. However, it’ll take you longer to get full completion, as several of the achievements require you to play through for a second time.
Question: Which platforms is Dordogne available on?
Answer: Dordogne is available to play on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, and Mac.
Melika completed the game in around 3 and a half hours. She did not replay it to get the remaining achievements, as there felt little point in re-experiencing the same story given its strict linear nature.