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Moebius: Empire Rising review: A point-and-click 'adventure' against game mechanics

Hayden Dingman | April 21, 2014
A dastardly conspiracy? Historical guess-who? Shadowy government agency?

But oh wow, actually playing Moebius. The bad comes in two forms: baffling design choices and bugs.

Infinite loop

Parts of Moebius just feel dated and/or confusing. For instance, the game has an honest-to-god maze. And it's unskippable. And it's right at the climax of the story. Mazes weren't fun in 1994, let alone 2014. We can let mazes die forever. It's allowed.

Rector also has this obnoxious trait where he won't pick up any item that he doesn't specifically need yet. Collapsible boat pole hanging on the wall? "Well, if I need one at least I know where to find it," says Rector. The result is an obnoxious amount of back-tracking through environments, each of which takes a few seconds to fade up from black.

It's also frustrating when you've already figured out the solution to a puzzle, but haven't triggered something in the environment yet to allow you to pick up the objects for the solution. I was stuck for half an hour in Chapter One because I knew exactly what I needed to do next, but could not pick up the two objects I needed for the solution. Turned out I hadn't clicked on a totally extraneous environmental trigger yet so Rector would say "Oh, that's what I need to do next." I, the player, knew what to do, but apparently Rector was too stupid to get it.

Throwing this type of roadblock in front of the player is unacceptable, and destroys the pacing of the game. You eventually resort to clicking each item every time you re-enter a room, just in case circumstances have changed and you need it now. It's more realistic, sure — why would you pick up the boat pole if you didn't know you needed it in real life? But as a game mechanic, it's a hurdle.

And then there's the technical side of things. Listen, it's Kickstarter. I'm not expecting the game to look like Crysis. But if it does look like a game from six years ago, it damn well better run smoothly on my machine. Cursor disappearances, sluggish animations, stuttering, unresponsive character or environment triggers that leave you wondering whether the game locked up, and quite possibly the slowest walk of any character in any game ever make Moebius an absolute mess.

Bottom line

I'm a history fan and the underlying core of Moebius really appealed to me even with the two-dimensional, archetypal characters and pulpy story.

However, Moebius doesn't let you experience the story. The charm of point-and-clicks is that the mechanics get out of the way. You solve a few puzzles, but by-and-large you get to enjoy the story. Moebius, you're constantly fighting the mechanics up through the end. Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself with whatever Jensen and Co. release next.

 

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