“Fear is the little death that brings total oblivion.” – Moebius: Empire Rising
Adventure gaming has had a massive boom in recent years mostly thanks to Kickstarter. The opportunity to resurrect an entire game genre has been an incredibly positive experience with a few exceptions, mainly due to the personal choices of some of those CEOs involved. Thankfully Jane Jensen is above that kind of petty narcissism, and her work on the Gabriel Knight series was impeccable. Sadly due to current copyright law she does not have the rights to the game series she created, so now we have its spiritual successor Moebius: Empire Rising.
You play as Malachi Rector, an antiques dealer and appraiser who suffered the loss of his mother at an early age, and it has affected his relationships thorough the rest of his life. Malachi has also been suffering seizures, delusions, and massive panic attacks for years, due to this he has become addicted to over the counter extra strength painkillers as well as Xanax. He can be seen popping this pills after almost every major event in the game, to the point where it becomes disturbing. He comes off as suave and determined; able to charm what he needs from anyone and in an almost Captain Jack Harkness fashion anyone, male or female, wants to spend the night with him. Later in the game it creates a hilarious and perhaps misguided belief that Malachi and his new-found partner are about to embark in a love affair that dare not speak its name. Comments made by Malachi’s assistant only serve to throw accelerant on those flames.
Malachi owns his own antiques shop in a well to do section of Manhattan, so well to do that when most window shoppers enter his building and see the prices, they do a quick 180 degree turn and exit the store. His home is an interesting study in psychology, inside his flat everything is new, because Malachi is unable to shut his brain off and drown out the facts in front of his face on history. Due to excellent analytical skills you are commissioned to go to Venice by a secretive agency to find out about a woman who has been murdered.
While in Egypt you encounter a man being attacked by terrorists. They attempt to hang a man and you have the ability to save his life. David Walker is a former Special Forces operative in the Army and is not only Malachi’s bodyguard; he is the source of some cringe-worthy puns. After Malachi and David return to the States David becomes Malachi’s flat mate. He also serves as a second protagonist at times that you are allowed to control him.
As the game progresses Malachi’s secret agency handler Dexter explains that he is a part of an important chain and he will bring about America’s golden age if he will find the next president a woman to become his bride. That’s right folks; you become a fact-finding pimp for a politician. Along the way you must deal with killers, jealous exes, and secret society mythos that will make your and Malachi’s heads spin.
Moebius: Empire Rising has great graphics, but the facial animations offer up horrific nightmare fuel for the most part. Eyes look like they are about to burst from the skull and the mouths seem to be moving against the will of the speaker. Environmental art is where the game shines, architecture is lovely and the atmosphere captures each moment of travel perfectly.
Voice acting in the game is fantastic with perhaps the largest exception being Malachi himself. For a guy who is supposed to be a deeply imbedded New Yorker he is extremely British. Malachi’s voice actor did an excellent job, but every time the characters speak about where Malachi is from the conversation becomes obtuse. The games soundtrack is brilliant and well worth a purchase on its own, though some sections of the game repeat the same score, so it becomes very familiar over the span of the adventure.
Interestingly and perhaps misleadingly, there are a set of controls for the keyboard in the settings menu presented when you first attempt to start the game, but the WASD keys are not functional. Being able to actually utilize these keys would be a great asset to moving around in those beautifully rendered environments. There are a few grammatical errors such as “Exit to the bar” rather than “Enter the bar,” but this will only hinder the experience if this sort of thing bothers you.
Moebius: Empire Rising is an astonishing example of what can be done on a small budget, with a talented team whom can do so much with so little. This is not your typical rub things up against each other and see what sticks type of adventure game, everything that enters your inventory has a purpose, and that purpose actually makes sense. This is an adventure that should absolutely not be missed.
Moebius: Empire Rising is available now on Steam.