The moment we discovered that Jane Jensen (creator of the brilliant supernatural series Gabriel Knight) was working on a new point n’ click adventure game, we squealed and bounced up and down, shaking our fists with glee.
Now Moebius: Empire Rising is finally here, and it’s pretty much another thrilling Gabriel Knight adventure in everything but name, complete with smart puzzles, freakish paranormal plot twists and a fair bit of obligatory globe trotting...
Moebius: Empire Rising story
Moebius: Empire Rising stars a new protagonist, Malachi Rector, a pill-popping British antiques appraiser who gets pulled into a shady plot involving a secretive Government organisation and the unsolved murder of a politician’s wife. Of course, this being a Jane Jensen game, the plot soon twists in very unusual directions and keeps you clicking onwards to work out what the hell is going on.
To be perfectly honest, in our first fifteen minutes with the game, we absolutely hated Malachi. His upper-class nasal tones made our teeth grind, and he’s in all fairness a bit of a ****, to his long-suffering secretary and everyone else he meets.
All the same, we pressed onwards, and strangely after an hour or so we found ourselves not really bothered any more. His voice didn’t grate like it used to, and after a while we even started feeling a little bit sorry for him. Here is one seriously conflicted guy, someone who has it all - talent, money, women, the works - but can’t even open up to those who’ve known him the longest. Tragic stuff.
Whether everyone else will forgive Malachi for his flaws remains to be seen, but he certainly isn't the next Gabe.
Moebius' plot is original and intriguing as you’d expect from Jane Jensen, although does sit on pause for a lengthy middle segment while Malachi conducts his investigations. It never reaches the giddy heights of Mr Knight’s investigations, but we found there was still enough suspense and intrigue to keep interest levels up, even though some of the cut-scenes and dialogue could use a bit of reworking.
For instance, one scene where Malachi finds himself stranded in the desert makes next to no sense - not only does a friendly American soldier come conveniently hiking along for no apparent reason (can’t afford a car rental mate?), but Malachi decides to react to his offers of help by pulling a gun on him. Then they laugh it all off, and the soldier fixes the car and buggers off again without asking for a lift. Random.
Moebius: Empire Rising gameplay
Moebius’ gameplay is textbook linear point 'n' click stuff but the puzzles are, for the most-part, well thought out, with no reliance on completely random “combine the dog with the bacon to form a floatation device” nonsense. Instead, it’s straight-up amateur detective work, which has you interrogating or sucking up to various characters and searching for information on your handy virtual smartphone.
Once or twice we were a little confused as to our exact objective, and on one occasion we were also blocked from progressing because of what appears to be a bug. We needed to meet a certain political figure, and a quick search of his name on our phone brought up a convenient rally the same day. But the rally didn’t open up as a location until we also clicked on the same rally poster outside Malachi’s office, something we didn’t figure out until twenty minutes of aimless wandering had passed.
There’s also a couple of leaps of logic that you’ll need to get past if you want to be fully immersed - for instance, would a team of investigators really miss a vital clue at a crime scene, which Malachi manages to spot in a heartbeat?
Still, the occasional stumble aside, Moebius' brain-teasers are fun and it’s great how you can’t just pick up every object you find, until they are needed to progress - after all, why the hell would you lug around an oar, just in case it came in handy a few hours later? This also limits the amount of frantic “let’s try every object in my inventory” clicking you can do, and makes you think carefully about everything you’ve seen while exploring. There is a bit of unavoidable backtracking as a result, but the ability to fast-travel with the map or double-click to hop around any scene helps to take the pain out of it.
Once you’ve gathered enough information on a person or an object, you can use Malachi’s intuition to form a final deduction. Often it’s fairly obvious what the correct answer is, but this process can be a little trial-and-error, especially when you’re forming a quick opinion on someone you’ve met. Does that librarian wear orange lipstick because she’s sexually frustrated, or because she has zero fashion sense? Is she glaring at us because we’ve interrupted her lunch, or because Malachi smells like old pastrami? Who knows, just try ‘em all ‘til something works.
Moebius: Empire Rising graphics and sound
Moebius sports a cartoony presentation, with the graphics formed of what appears to be a mix of beautiful hand-drawn backgrounds and computer animation. We did notice a few little glitches - shonky water reflections, jittery movement and in one more severe case a location that was completely black - but they rarely detract from the gameplay and will hopefully be fixed in a swift update.
Sound on the whole is magnificent. Not all of the acting is top notch, but it’s better than most other adventure games. However, it’s the rousing soundtrack that we really enjoyed. From the moment the theme song kicked in, we had glorious flashbacks to Gabriel Knight - fans will see what we mean by checking out the Moebius trailers.
Moebius: Empire Rising verdict
After far too long a hiatus, Jane Jensen is back with a brand new paranormal adventure. Moebius: Empire Rising has its fair share of problems, but as adventure fans we’re willing to overlook the rough edges and enjoy Malachi Rector’s exploits for what they are. Here’s hoping we’re not waiting so long for the next one...