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REVIEW | “Moebius” Rises With Story, Falls With Design

By
Posted on August 18, 2014 AT 01:05pm

Jane Jensen had a hit on her hands when she created the critically-acclaimed Gabriel Knight series, thanks to its masterful storytelling and challenging puzzles & gameplay. Now with her own company, Pinkerton Road, Jensen hoped to recreate these elements in a whole new world with a new leading man. That creation is Moeibus: Empire Rising, and while the heart and soul of the point-and-click adventure realm is intact here it seems to lack a certain degree of intelligence.

Moebius follows a historian and antiques dealer named Malachi Rector, a man who has an eye for detail but nary a drop of personable warmness. One day he is called in by FITA, an organization that is looking to connect important people of the past to those in the present. The connections are not from bloodline, but rather from the sharing of repeated actions and traits. Rector is then tasked to find out who is linked to whom, in the hopes that bringing them together will fix what is wrong in the world today.

As Malachi you are tasked to read people to see if they can be trustworthy, objects to test their authenticity, and discover historical backgrounds in the hopes that they’ll link to the people you are investigating. In some areas you’ll also be in control of his hired bodyguard David Walker, a former Special Forces soldier who acts as more of the muscle in the game.

One of the issues of Moebius is in the form of its protagonist. You learn from a prequel comic that Malachi has trust issues, thanks in part to what happened with his mother. However that does not excuse him from lacking any sort of emotion. While an intelligent person Malachi has the personality of a doorstop, and with some of the questions and responses he gives people it’s quite surprising that his head hasn’t violently been used as one. Walker, on the other hand, still has that soldier mentality that most military people have, but he at least knows how to crack a joke or bring about any other sort of emotional aspect. At times I began hoping I could go back to controlling him instead of his robotic boss.

I’m usually a fan of heavily-dialogued games, as they tend to add more backstory and substance to the characters and worlds they’re surrounded in. Sometimes it works here in Moebius, as what you learn from people and places will help with your search. However for every informative element the game tosses you, it also throws in something so meaningless that it leaves you chewing mostly on the fat of the steak rather than the meaty goodness.

There’s also how one obtains objects in the game, which feel more like a chore than a fun scavenger hunt. One example came during the Paris chapter. In one area there is a lantern sitting by the steps, which is what is needed when you need to go into the catacombs. However you are not allowed to grab it, even though it seems like Malachi has infinite space for all the objects he collects. It’s not until you learn that the next clue lies under the streets of Paris when you have to go back and grab the lantern. It takes a lot of steam out of the game when these moments occur, which hurts in the storytelling department.

Moebius has a very unique story, and the concept of history repeating itself for the better and worse of the world hasn’t been used in the gaming for quite some time. I felt like I was really learning something about these historical figures as I played it, and if it weren’t for some M-rated language it could’ve been used as an interesting teaching tool for educators. Sadly the story gets lost in a fog of unnecessary filler and dialogue that makes the whole experience drag, to the point where sheer boredom kicks in and one’s interest meter drops to the single digits.

It also doesn’t help that the game looks like something you’d see for a $1 on the Xbox Indies market. Characters’ mouth movements are horribly out of synch with the dialogue, and every time they speak it looks like they’re chewing on a jawbreaker. Sometimes half the side of their faces don’t even move, as if everyone in the game suffers from some paralyzing illness. The areas Malachi and David travel look nice, but it doesn’t have the sort of attention to detail that most indie titles these days seem to capture.

Moebius: Empire Rising will take you roughly eight hours to complete. While there are a couple hidden objectives to be had (one involving finding pink cows) there’s nothing much to draw you back into replaying it.

PROS:

  • Good story
  • Some nice puzzles to solve

CONS:

  • Bad game design
  • Characters, especially protagonist, not very likable
  • Tasks, item collecting feel more like a chore than fun

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Moebius: Empire Rising suffers from having a good idea trapped in a bad design. If they were to trim some of the filler and fixed some of the animations it would’ve been a much better overall experience. Sadly this Empire crumbles very quickly.

FINAL GRADE: 4.3 (out of ten)

Steam review code provided by Emily Morganti

Evan Bourgault is an accomplished music, anime, and video game critic. His passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Evan joined the ElectricSistaHood team in 2008, where he is a contributing editor and host of one of the network's weekly podcasts. Follow Evan on Twitter at twitter.com/King_Baby_Duck


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