Review – Dordogne

Dordogne Title Card

Mon Dieu. After eagerly awaiting Dordogne to release for over a year now, I was elated to finally get my hands on it. A narrative-focused adventure set within the French countryside, depicted through watercolor paintings? Dordogne seemed like it was tailor-made for me. Unfortunately, I came to discover that its appeal was mostly style over substance.

Mimi and Nora

There’s no denying Dordogne’s beauty.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing of substance to be found in Dordogne. The story is the heart of the entire game, and it does pose some fairly intriguing questions, especially in later chapters. We follow Mimi, both in the past and in the present. She lost her memories after spending a summer with grandmother, and returns to her grandmother’s house after her passing in order to learn more about what happened. Most of the characters are pretty complex and flawed, making them both believable and nuanced.

The problem is that Dordogne doesn’t really get interesting until later chapters. It’s the epitome of a slow burn, emphasis on the slow. The story doesn’t pick up until Chapter Seven… out of eight total chapters. Chapter Eight is more of an epilogue than an actual full chapter, too. Dordogne moves at a snail’s pace for almost the entire runtime. Then, just when it gets interesting and we’re finally given some answers, it just sort of fizzles out and ends. While we do get answers to the main story, like how Mimi lost her memory and why her grandmother and father are estranged, we don’t really get answers to some of the secondary storylines. There’s quite a bit that’s not explicitly explained and rather alluded to, but some of the details remain so vague that aspects of the other storylines remain unclear and confusing.

Tea Puzzle

Hmm, where am I suppose to put the tea kettle?

Although, the biggest issue I had with Dordogne was with its gameplay. Or I should say lack thereof. Dordogne probably would have worked better as a visual novel, because the gameplay mechanics of interacting with objects of interest is incredibly tedious.

For example, in order to open a locked door, you have to fish a key out of a mailbox, move it to the lock, press a button to insert it into the keyhole, rotate the analog stick to turn the key, then lift up the now opened lock, and finally, click on the door handle while pushing up on the analog stick to actually open the door. The entire gameplay loop feels incredibly cumbersome and wholly unnecessary. It’s also incorrectly marketed as a puzzle game, which it most certainly is not.

Dordogne Map Puzzle

This was the closest thing to a puzzle in the entire game, and they still felt the need to tell you exactly what to do.

However, despite my issues with Dordogne‘s slow story and awkward gameplay, there’s no denying it’s visually stunning. Every environment is gorgeously crafted from hand-painted watercolor illustrations. There’s a beautiful subtlety to how different color palettes contribute to the themes of the game. When playing as young Mimi, everything is bright and vibrant. Conversely, when playing as adult Mimi, the environments are muted and drab. This plays well into the concept that children are brighter and happier, while adults are more resigned and somber. I give my fullest praise to Dordogne‘s entire art team.

Dordogne‘s sound design is also deserving of praise. Every vocal performance was well done, making the audio messages Mimi finds on old cassette tapes sound even more believable. The soundtrack, while not necessarily the most memorable, still fit the overall tone of the game, being lighter and merrier when playing as young Mimi, and more subdued when playing as adult Mimi. The ambient sounds like birds chirping, the hustle and bustle of the marketplace, and the rushing water of the Dordogne added to the richness of each setting.

Dordogne was not the game I was hoping for. The gameplay is awkward and tedious, and the story takes far too long to get interesting, then ends rather abruptly. The only area that did manage to live up to the hype was the art design. Unfortunately, after soaking up its breath-taking watercolor aesthetic, I found Dordogne to be less of a wild adventure, and more of a lackadaisical drift downstream.

Graphics: 10

There’s no denying the utter beauty of Dordogne‘s hand-painted watercolor art style.

Gameplay: 3.0

This game probably would have worked better as a visual novel, because the gameplay mechanics of interacting with objects of interest is incredibly tedious. It’s also incorrectly marketed as a puzzle game, which it most certainly is not.

Sound: 8.0

All the voice acting is well done, and the soundtrack fits the laid-back tone of the game well.

Fun Factor: 4.0

The story takes a very long time to become interesting, before fizzling out after a very abrupt ending. The gameplay is awkward and unnecessary, making it feel cumbersome to play.

Final Verdict: 5.5

Dordogne is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on PS5.

A copy of Dordogne was provided by the publisher.