I have special tags on Steam and GOG, which are reserved for games I think aren't very good. Or if I'm blunter, they are reserved for games I think are pure garbage. The tag is simply just "shit". On Steam I currently have 49 and in GOG 8 games that have made me feel like tagging them as such. Jane Jensen's Moebius: Empire Rising is one of them, as I simply loathed it when I played it the first time. I backed it back in the day in Kickstarter and after the work started on the project I begun to have a bad feeling about the game, so I started to prepare myself for a disappointment. After the release I found out that it was worse than just disappointing, it was pure shit.
Now, in the spirit of seeing if my initial bad response towards the game was just because of expecting too much while not really expecting anything good at all, I decided that I should give it an another go now that it has been a couple of years since I played it. So here's my retake on Moebius.
Malachi Rector is an antiques super genius. His line of work is to evaluate expensive, rare items, rooting out the forgeries from the real things. Nothing escapes his eyes, as he's Sherlock Holmes of detecting at least what comes to old items. By a glance, he can spot the smallest of details. One day Malachi is hired by Amble Dexter of FITA organisation to look into people, despite that's not really his things. Mr Dexter doesn't explain much, but Rector's missions is to look into a death of a young woman and see if he can tie the woman into some historical figure. As the money is good, Rector decides to do it, despite he has no idea what Dexter is hoping to achieve with such a task. From here begins a tale that is messy and makes very little sense in the end.
|Malachi Rector and the mystery of a low poly wheelchair handle. I mean if you know you're going to use a real-time 3D object in a close up you should at least put some effort into making that said object.|
When I played Moebius the first time I thought it was an ugly mess. That hasn't changed a bit, despite there has been a couple years between the playthroughs. The animation is mostly pretty amateurish, with poorly done walk cycles and horrible facial animations. The character models themselves are poorly done and strangely proportioned. Malachi himself looks like he's suffering from severe back deformation. The background art could have looked nice, but instead of trying to push the pre-rendered 3D images to their fullest, the art is at times badly painted over and at worst just filtered with some Photoshop filters. All in all, the game is visually a mix of bad 3D models and blurry, unfinished looking backgrounds, laced with amateurish animation, which looks even more delightfully tacky during cutscenes.
|While Rector is popping pills all the time during the game, I'm sure he hasn't shown his back to a doctor.|
The puzzle design is most of the time pretty simple. At times all the needed items are on the screen or already on your possession, or in near vicinity, but at times you come across an item which you obviously need, as those 3D items do stand out pretty clearly from the messy backgrounds. But you can't pick the items up until Rector has arrived into a conclusion that he needs that said item. So this means that you need to travel back to where the item was, even when it doesn't make real life sense. These kinds of things stick out, especially when the game is trying to avoid some of the 90's adventure design tropes. And then there's the annoying "only one solution works" situations, where you can see a dozen of alternative solutions, but still need to find the object to solve a puzzle.
I take back what I said about the design trying to avoid 90's tropes. 90's tropes ARE the design. Oh, and did I mention the game ends with the laziest adventure trope ever created, a maze.
The music is an odd mix in this one. Robert Holmes, Jensen's husband and the composer for her Gabriel Knight games, has made mostly pretty forgettable job. The oddness comes mainly from that there's this strange 80's TV-movie vibe about the music. Sure, it might be thematically appropriate, considering that the quality of the plot as a whole resembles of a terribly written 80's TV-movie, but here the music just never really catches on and feels pretty plain most of the time.
|This hostel clerk is clearly having issues|
So now, after my second playthrough, do I still hate Moebius? Yes and no. I mean, before I loathed it, now I just merely dislike it. Moebius is a poorly written game, where ambitions and skills of the development team don't meet hand in hand. It's obvious throughout the game, that Phoenix Online Studios were trying to create a cinematic adventure game, but that they really did lack the needed skills to do that. Also, it's small budget shines through, as a lot of the artwork feels like the final polishing pass is missing. The same goes for the animation and cinematics as well, especially the facial animation is almost painful to watch and would have needed far more spit and polish.
|Again that same stare. It's making me think these women have issues with Rector. Okay, he's an ass and not even a likeable one. But still, she was like that even before Rector's misantrophy started to overflow.|
If you want, you can get Moebius from Steam and GOG, but I'd wait for a huge sale if I'd were you.