Moebius: Empire Rising Review

Adventure games are one of those things that I came into late after trying out The Longest Journey a year or so ago. I had always avoided such games, being under the impression for whatever reason that they were too slow to be enjoyable, but while they do have a tendency to be slower than most games, they’re also uniquely fun to play through because of their tendency to feature stories with more depth than in other game genres. Moebius is an exception to this, being so hilariously flawed and full of plot holes that I’m amazed that the whole project wasn’t scrapped altogether so that those involved could save face.

To hate or not to hate

The first thing you’ll notice is how awful main character Malachi Rector is. This is obviously intentional; Malachi starts out as an horrible person and slowly becomes kind-of-bearable as you make your way toward the end. That doesn’t mean that this is a good idea, though, and having the main character be gratingly elitist and unpleasant to everyone for three-quarters of the game doesn’t leave you with much reason to root for him as a character, even if he does become a bit better towards the end. His eventual partner in crime, David Walker, on the other hand, is a character who seems to possess no flaws whatsoever. While this makes him less irritating than Malachi, it’s equally unrealistic, making him seem more like a character who stepped out of fan fiction than anything plausible.

Moebius isn’t sexist

One of the biggest criticisms I’ve seen of this game revolves around its largely negative portrayal of women. To be blunt, this is an argument made by stupid people. Moebius has plenty of shortcomings without having to fabricate more, and while many of the women in the game are shown to be vain and shallow, that’s largely because the story sends Malachi after much-younger girlfriends and wives of wealthy old men. Is it really realistic to expect such characters to be any less shallow than their real-life counterparts? There are even a few examples of well-meaning female characters who are surprisingly kind, and apart from one instance where an otherwise good-hearted male character treats one of these well-meaning female characters poorly for absolutely no reason, I never got the impression that the game was unfair in its characterizations.

Malachi walks like a bowl of Jello on stilts.

The story is stupid

Moebius’ premise is actually quite interesting, but it squanders that potential by introducing some huge plot holes. Unfortunately, actually talking about the plot would be a bit of a spoiler since the premise is something that you don’t find out about until you’re a quarter or so through the game, so I’m hesitant to just throw it out there and ruin it for everybody. Suffice it to say that the story is enjoyably fatalistic, but plot holes start to form when characters seek to alter aspects of that fate while still keeping the end result. This is asinine logic, and it makes the entire plot come across as amateurish and ridiculous.

The animation is awful

As you can see in the video above, Malachi has the strangest walk ever. His “standing” pose is arguably even worse, with the curvature of his back making him appear to suffer from a severe spinal deformation. The worst parts of the game’s animation, however, are without question the facial animations. These aren’t limited to just Malachi, instead being universally bad across all characters in the entire game. Basically, talking doesn’t involve anything resembling realistic face movement. Instead, lips move all over the place while characters’ teeth move up and down ever so slightly (neither ever satisfactorily syncing up to the dialogue). The result is truly creepy and nightmare-inducing, resembling a half-wound chattering teeth toy with a face over-animated around it.

The puzzles are stupid

Most of the time, Moebius’ puzzles are either embarrassingly obvious or so unrealistic that you’re hesitant to even attempt the solution. For example, in one puzzle you have to take scissors from your kitchen and an mp3 player from your bedroom, bribe a girl with the mp3 player to distract a VIP, then use the scissors to cut the VIP’s pass off of his neck. Wouldn’t he notice? Apparently not. This is so stupid that I hesitated to actually try it until I had exhausted all other potential solutions I could think of, and there are a few other equally ridiculous puzzles.

Then there are the rare times when puzzles become strangely challenging and vague, such as one puzzle with a safe that requires that you figure out the six-digit combination from the dates on newspaper clippings. Do you enter the date you end up with the American way or the European way? To be perfectly honest, many Americans simply aren’t aware that Europeans write their dates a different way, so this could be an incredibly confusing puzzle for some (I’m including the combination in one of the screenshots at the end of this review to help out anyone who gets stuck). Then there are times where puzzles are hardly puzzles at all, such as one sequence toward the end where you’re underground and you have to click on pictures that relate to your situation. Of course, they’re not very detailed pictures and there doesn’t seem to be any logic behind which are the “right” and “wrong” answers, so you’re left to power through this section with indiscriminate clicking.

Analyzing histories

That’s not the only instance where you can get by through clicking indiscriminately, either. There are a few sections in the game where Malachi, being very knowledgeable about history, has to compare people he’s researching with famous people who existed in the past. What this basically means is that once you’ve learned enough about a person, you can start eliminating famous historical figures (from a preexisting pool of candidates) until you’re left with only one. While the concept is solid enough, the game’s stubborn refusal to give you any idea of just how similar the two have to be can lead to you accidentally eliminating the “right” person, resetting all of your progress as far as eliminating candidates is concerned. This is incredibly frustrating, so by the end I was simply eliminating all but one person until the game told me I was wrong, at which point I eliminated all but a different person until it let me move on. This proved to be much faster and easier, proving just how badly this part of the game is designed.

Logic fails

There are a few instances where the game fails at its own logic. For one, Malachi supposedly has a photographic memory, yet in one part of the game, he flat-out steals a post-it note with a password on it rather than just looking at it and having that knowledge thanks to said photographic memory. These kind of logic fails happen on a few different occasions, and it’s eye-roll-worthy every time.

On another occasion, Malachi has to leave a note with a bunch of flowers. This was the puzzle that I was stuck on the longest in the game, and I was cursing after thirty minutes of running around the area, looking for a piece of paper. “I’m not trying to save the Hindenburg,” I thought to myself. “I just want to leave a note! Surely it can’t be this difficult to find a piece of paper or something else to write on?” Turns out I had to “use” a borrowed pen on the bouquet I had hastily arranged with a hair ribbon. Does it make sense to leave a note directly on a ribbon? I certainly don’t think so, and this is made even dumber by the fact that the ribbon belongs to the person I left the flowers for. One would think that she would notice this, but no—that would make too much sense.

Then there are the many, many times you’re running around, looking for a light source so that you can see things that are hidden by the dark. Meanwhile, you have a cell phone. Why doesn’t that work as a light? The actual solutions to these puzzles are hilariously unnecessary compared to what most people would consider common sense. I mean, at one point in the game, Malachi has to set off a flashbang and a remote grenade at the same time. Why? To open a grate with the frag grenade (careless) without alerting a guard. Never mind that the guard was facing the direction of the grenade, so he’d be more likely to see it than the flashbang that was behind a tent to his left. I could go on and on about all of the ways that this game makes absolutely no sense, but I’ll hold back.

Moebius: Empire Rising

This is an expression she’s making while talking normally.

Magic at the end

This is a Jane Jensen game, and while I liked Grey Matter and approved of its usage of magic, that was pretty much because the entire game focused on a magician and the supernatural. This game, however, ends with Malachi accomplishing a ridiculous feat that shouldn’t be possible (the difficulty of which indicated by a ton of blood squirting out of his nose), and it’s never explained exactly how he manages to pull it off. The game just ends suddenly after he pulls plot magic out of nowhere. This is how poor the quality of Moebius’ writing is.

The graphics are a joke

For a modern game, Moebius is laughably ugly; the 3D models are of an incredibly low quality, with textures lacking detail, and the game includes anti-aliasing that barely works at all. The game then blends these 3D models with 2D environments that are arguably even worse, being of such a low-quality that they barely look right at 1920×1080 (and that look absolutely atrocious at resolutions higher than that). The combination of the two ensures that both the models and the backgrounds bring out the worst in each other, with everything looking mediocre at best.

The music is okay, at least

I wouldn’t say that Moebius has any standout tracks, but the soundtrack as a whole is pleasant, if not particularly memorable. A lot of it is understated, though the main menu theme (which reoccurs at the beginning of each chapter) has an interesting, No One Lives Forever-esque vibe to it. It may not be a soundtrack that sticks with you, but at least it’s not actively making the experience worse.

Here’s what you should do:

Moebius: Empire Rising

Moebius: Empire Rising Screenshots: Page 1

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Moebius: Empire Rising Screenshots: Page 2

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