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Review of Moebius: Empire Rising by Iznogood

Stars - 30

Rating by Iznogood posted on Apr 19, 2014 | edit | delete

Enjoyable but with issues

Let me start by saying that this is not the best game Jane Jensen has made but it is also not a terrible game.

If we start with the positive, then I found it had an overall intriguing story with some good but not excellent writing, the background art ranged from being beautiful to adequate, it had an interesting protagonist and some good voice acting and soundtrack. And perhaps most important for me, it had some new and interesting puzzles with both the Sherlock Holmes type character deductions and the “match historical person” deductions, which I at least in the beginning found worked very well.

These positive things however began to be overshadowed by the more negative aspects the longer I progressed in the game, and the more time I had to think about them. No - I’m not talking about the character models or the animation, which never really bothered me despite being subpar, nor am I talking about the maze at the end which I found was okay but nothing special.

First of all it is a very linear game with little to nothing you can do in parallel, and it mainly consists of very small locations with only a single or two screens at most locations, and only a few larger locations. Both are very common in modern adventure games, but has never been my cup of tea, I prefer larger locations that I can freely explore and many different objectives that I can work on in parallel. I simply prefer more freedom in how I want to play the game, than following some narrow path that the designers have prepared for me.

The game is also a fairly easy game and a relative short game at about 10 hours, neither which is really to my liking. I cant really complain about the length given the budget, but I do wish it would have been just a little bit more challenging.

Then there is the Sherlock Holmes type character deductions, in the beginning I quite enjoyed those, but you are really basing your deduction on too few datapoints, based on these there would in reality be many more different conclusions you could make that were equally valid. I also found that instead of making these deductions to determine what kind of character I was dealing with, like Sherlock Holmes would do, then I was instead reverse-engineering them, I would first figure out what the character was like, based on the setting and more important the narrative rules of the game (what kind of character would story-wise work best in this situation), and then I would simply click the options that best fitted this. 

Similar with the “match historical person” deductions, in the beginning I quite enjoyed these, but after a while it began to become apparent that the narrative of the game demanded that it was a match for a specific type of historic person, and I would know who after only having collected a very few clues. It always detracts from a story or game when the narrative rules shines through in this way.

Then there is the whole Moebius theory that the game is based upon, this is of course all a load of supernatural mumbo jumbo and in fact too much mumbo jumbo for my personal taste. But stories about or containing supernatural elements has always been Jane Jensen’s trademark, and normally it doesn’t bother me simply because it is so well made, but it did bothered me this time. Let me explain why:

First we have the whole concept of the Moebius theory, and two character who are suppose to be some sort of reincarnation of some important historical persons or some sort of reoccurring archetype of great leaders. Fair enough, it sound a bit silly but it still has the potential of a great story.

Then we have a villain whose purpose seems to be to interfere with or change these reoccurring patterns. Okay… I wish s(he) had been fleshed out more and given a stronger motive for his/her actions, than the somewhat foolish motive given in the game, but I can accept that, after all the game is not about the villain.

Where my eyes started to glaze over a bit, is when it comes to FITA’s role in this game. Not only are we now moving from the realm of the supernatural into the realm of the outright far fetched, a government agency that is based around the Moebius theory - Seriously?!? And worse then that, it is not only far fetched but also a cheap plot device in my opinion! Jane needed someway to get Malachi involved in the story, and more important, she needed someway for Malachi to gain access to all these high society people and ensure police cooperation etc., and the easiest way to do that was to have someone pave the way for him. I would much have preferred if Malachi had gotten involved in this story in a more natural way, and that he would have had to investigate the story on his own, but this would also have required a lot of extra scenes and puzzles, so I guess we can write this down to the budget constrains.

Where Jane however completely lost me story-wise was when we have identified two characters as being similar to historical persons. Everybody just assumes that because they fit the pattern, then it will also mean that they are destined to do something great, and not even Malchi who supposedly has an IQ of 175 and otherwise plays the role of the sceptic that gets convinced, questions this. But even if we take the Moebius theory of reoccurring patterns and archetypes seriously, then this doesn’t automatically follow, instead we are now talking about predetermined and unchangeable destinies. But if the Moebius theory means this is predestined to happen, then it also leaves us with a bit of a paradox and a rather large plot hole.

It is like Jane is trying to both have her cake and eat it at the same time, and that she both wants a story where predestination plays an important part, but at the same time also doesn’t, as there then wouldn’t be a story to tell. Personally I would much have preferred if she had completely removed the predestination part and instead just focused on the reoccurring archetypes, but the story could also have worked with predestination, it just requires a few modifications, but instead of this she chose to completely ignore this paradox, and as far as I’m concerned that greatly detracts from the story.

Now I know that all the above can sound like I really hated the game, but that is not the case, despite the many issues I had with the game, the simple truth is that I still enjoyed playing it. It is just not what it potentially could have been, and it is far from the best game Jane Jensen has made.

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Time Played: 5-10 hours
Difficulty: Easy

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