Moebius: Empire Rising is hinged on the theory states time is in constant loop and that people’s destinies are tied to an infinity of coincidences. Whether or not such theory could actually come to be proved, it does make for a fascinating subject in which Jane Jensen’s latest Kickstarter funded game dives into head first.
Malachi Rector is the latest in Jensen’s group of arrogant but ultimately likable protagonists. An art connoisseur, Rector also happens to have the talent of profiling people. That talent attracts the attention of a governmental group that hires him for a mission that takes him across the world to a handful of exotic locales, in search of particular individuals who are destined to change the world as we know it.
Much like Phoenix Online Studios’ previous releases, Moebius suffers from the paradox of having an extremely intriguing premise that’s sadly bogged down by subpar presentation. While Rector’s voice acting is well done and smug as they come in its delivery, the rest of the cast is sadly absent of any personality. Visually, the game also suffers from the same problems we’ve seen in the Cognition series, which boil down to weirdly animated polygonal models that look as weird in motion as they do standing still.
Moebius‘ premise clumsily carries its relatively short length. Clocking in at around ten hours, the game manages to throw in a few clever puzzles your way that involve code breaking and memorization. Unfortunately, the rest are limited to using the few items you find with the even fewer characters you get to interact with.
The score system that’s implemented in the game suggests that there are alternative ways to dealing with some of the situations through the story, few and far that there are. No matter the limited path you take, linearity takes over, and characters you might have not have met or made particular introductions to are forced into their roles. This happens regardless of the choices you’ve made, which makes the little deciding you do seem pointless right from the very beginning of the game.
Profiling people is implemented in a way that starts out well but grows dull by the end of the game. Malachi picks particular areas of someone he’s looking at, giving you three guesses as to what they mean. In most cases, the game points out the obviously and ridiculously incorrect ones in the way of the answers that make sense, making it feel like an extremely throwaway approach.
The second type of profiling comes at a point where Malachi is ready to associate someone with a historical figure, after picking up enough tidbits through dialogue and limited exploration. From there, it’s only a matter of eliminating portraits from a list of historical figures that have lived through the same situations as the subject being analysed. Making such discoveries quickly turns boring, especially towards the end of the game, where the story decides to take a back seat in favor of pushing you through an hour or so of dull exploration of repetitive environments.
Such problems really bog down what started out as a compelling setting for an adventure game. Rector really grows as a character throughout the game, while still managing to be a smug jerk. Supporting characters also show a fair amount of personality regardless of how badly they animate. There’s lots of promise for whatever comes next in the story involving this cast. Hopefully that will happen and the team at Phoenix Online Studios will have a bigger budget to work with and make the design side of the sequel match the level of promise and excitement that their writing is filled with.