Hello, I'm Richard

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April 15, 2014

[Video] Moebius: Empire Rising

They say the next big thing is here. That the revolution’s near. But to Malachi Rector it seems quite clear. That it’s all just a little bit of history repeating. And in Jane Jensen’s latest adventure, that’s absolutely right! (Note: Sorry about the nasty reverb. Didn’t become obvious until it was too late to re-record. Next time, better audio!)

Want the game? Buy Moebius DRM free on GOG.COM / On Steam

Spoiler Level: Safe. Lots of footage, but mostly things seen in trailers and the like, with discussion of the premise, but nothing that should spoil the story or main mysteries, and some careful cutting and blurring where needed.

Edits/Errata: When talking about Malachi and his bodyguard’s relationship, it’s really more ‘bromance’ (to use a horrible term) rather than anything actually going on. But a bit like A Certain BBC Program, the subtext is very much intended, referenced and reinforced at several points, even if the truth is more of an unusual friendship. Also, I said Vlad Dracul rather than Vlad Tepes/The Impaler, even though I know which one was the father, because I was a very sleepy idiot at that point in the recording. That’s my excuse at least, and I’m hiding under it.

Field Notes

Money, looks, a British accent... damn it, why is one out of three never enough?

Money, good looks, a British accent… damn it, why is one out of three never enough?

Yes, the epic quest to not completely suck at making videos continues!

There’s likely another Moebius related post on the way, digging into the main criticism in this video a little more deeply, but just a few quick words before then since there’s a fair amount of snark in the video and it’s one of those games where it’s hard to really talk about what works without spoilers or sounding dismissive – at least, with my rubbish voice. (I actually cut a big chunk out for that reason; it reminded me too much of Ray from The Mary Whitehouse Experience doing a game video. Lord, do I need more practice at all this nonsense…)

Without wanting to do a full review, I enjoyed this one – though I hoped for a lot more. (See? Both sides of that sentence are for real, but… sigh…) Moebius has a great premise and I enjoyed playing through it, even if it is much simpler than I expected in terms of story and puzzles. Now that’s not to say unimpressive. For its budget, Pinkerton/Phoenix did a hell of a job – much like Cognition, which also hit way above its weight class. That said, it’s a TV pilot rather than the movie I think the premise really promised, being rather insubstantial and oddly campy and most oddly, completely lacking in danger for a game that set out to be a metaphysical thriller.

And then…. that final chapter.

Oh god, oh, god, oh god… Rarely have I endured an hour of a game that so made me want to rush over and volunteer to redesign everything for some kind of Extended Cut style DLC fixer pack. Every. Single. Thing. About. It. Is. Wrong. Everything. I was amazed how bad it suddenly became. “Never even played an adventure” bad. If a dog had shat it out, you’d rub its nose in it to teach it a lesson. But a dog wouldn’t, because dogs wouldn’t end a globe-travelling adventure game with a ****ing cave maze! Only partly because they don’t have Unity licenses.

"Grace, have-" "Gretchen." "Sorry, don't know why I keep doing that." "No worries, Sherlock."

“Grace, have-” “Gretchen.” “Sorry, don’t know why I keep doing that.” “No worries, Sherlock.”

Really though, it’s just the focus that really got in my way, the spotlight firmly on Malachi’s Week Of Bromance, rather than the possibilities of Moebius itself. There are a couple of tiny nudges towards that later on, but nowhere near enough, with the result that by the end the big plot is literally shoved into the background – a major player dealt with off-screen, little sense that the walking MacGuffin could actually be the game-changer she’s bigged up as for reasons that only get worse with thought, one of the worst final chapters in ages and an ending that demands more emotional investment in the characters than the script has earned – up to and including a callback to something not even in the game. At least, not technically. It is in the prologue comic, I guess.

But! As much as I could pick and bitch about a lot of things, and there’s no shortage of things to pick and bitch at, I had a pleasant enough day poking through the story and don’t regret having Kickstarted it. If you watch the trailer and think “No,” trust your instincts. If you’re unsure, I’d skip it really, there are much better adventures. But, y’know, I had fun with it for what it was, even if it wasn’t all I’d hoped. Like Gray Matter, it’s not a game that’s going to stick in my head, but it made a decent warm-up for the MONTH OF ADVEEEEEEENTURE!

(Speaking of which, I have at least one more video planned for this month; possibly two depending on time and if one of them leads to joy or bitter tears. Oh, and no, the videos aren’t all going to be on adventures. When the industry drops ten years worth in one month though, well, forgive me my thirst for pointing and clicking.)

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  1. Richard says:

    Adventures In Trying Not To Suck At Video Continue. Wasn’t anything I could do about reverb on this one unfortunately, but getting better audio and less of that metallic reverb sorted out is my main goal for next time. I have a decent microphone, but it was too far away and there were too many hard surfaces in the room. It was fine until doing audio mix, when I suddenly realised how much the gain had to come up. Next time, will move it closer and add a bit of padding to help with that.

    Also, standard note to self: Speak more slowly, you gabbling arse.

  2. DGan1x says:

    I thought you spoke at a decent pace. Enjoyed this one, in spite of the tech issues. If you ever have moments of doubt about the quality of your work, it’s worth pointing out that it’s good enough for someone who doesn’t give a shit about adventure games to pay you money to write/make videos about adventure games.

  3. uriele says:

    It’s just me, or is a recurring theme in the latter Jensen’s games? I had a lot of fun playing the chapters when they came out in beta and… god, if the last chapter sucked. Same with Grey Matter (Intriguing, fun, and then the random magic house…).

  4. Richard says:

    It has been a bit of one, yeah. I’m curious to see whether the voodoo base in the Gabriel Knight remake is any better this time around. But that, GK3 and Gray Matter have all had pretty bad lead-ups to their ending, notable for being a sudden shift in tone and style.

    Gray Matter’s at least was visually interesting, though painful to play. And it had one of my favourite moments in the game – Sam’s realisation that despite her scams and tricks and desperate attempts to present her theatrical persona to the world, the members of the Lambs Club who see through it *actually like her* and still want to be friends. Though it’s pretty clear it’s mostly there because there had to be something to fill the gap between her cover being blown and the final showdown.

  5. uriele says:

    True, in Grey Matter’s final act there was more depth, but I kinda liked the “awakening” of Malachi’s true power (even if to get there I had to play one of the worst sewer labyrinth ever) and how he warmed up in the final scene

  6. Richard says:

    I was really expecting another chapter after that for more drama of a Moebius variety, especially with the villain being dealt with off-screen and FITA quite literally only having one card to play. I liked that he warmed up, even if it took me a moment to remember why he’d say what he said. Like a lot of the game, the basic beats they were going for seemed okay (though the relationship seemed fairly one-sided, David being a generally genial guy and Malachi being quasi-obsessive without really having the time to build that) but the pacing was really TV movie – leaving something for the series.

    That series of course being Sherlock. Damn, that last bit was blatant…

    As I said probably somewhat incoherently above, I think for me a big problem was that I was expecting Moebius, a metaphysical thriller seen through the eyes of Malachi Rector, rather than the story of Malachi Rector which is a bit tied to this thing called Moebius. The result is a game building up to a dramatic finale whose focus we had to agree to differ on, especially as it hadn’t sold me that Rector had any real reason to care that much beyond saving money on Xanax. (As he himself says when discussing the upcoming crash in Venice, he’s likely to be absolutely fine whatever happens, and in making his friendship with David primarily a destiny based thing I think the game took a couple of overly-clipped shortcuts when it came to actually making them friends and act like partners)

  7. Bly says:

    ‘Money, good looks, a British accent… damn it, why is one out of three never enough?’ What do you mean one out of three? You do have a British accent! :)

  8. Richard says:

    My only chance of being hot is one day being able to afford a box of matches.

  9. David says:

    Great vid!

    Don’t give yourself a hard time over the video skills. I do it for a living and it’s totally good enough. One tip: for me the intro was a little long (it’s 30 seconds before we see you!) so maybe next time consider making it a little snappier.

    God it’s really hard to give feedback and not sound like an arsehole.

  10. Richard says:

    No, no, I’m fine with feedback. I criticise myself enough and I’m just winging it mostly :-)

    I’m personally okay with the intro here, mostly because I like to give a bit of context before jumping straight in so that people can at least go “Oh, okay, it’s X” and get a feel for its style. I originally had it shorter at around 20 seconds, because obviously it’s all tied to the music and so that’s a bit of a limiting factor, but it felt too brief when I watched it back. You just saw this guy a couple of times and not really doing much and it just… didn’t work as a montage. Adding in a couple of scenes felt like the right amount of padding for what I could bend round the title track, so that the reveal had a bit of a sting behind it but I could fade in the volume to not be too startling after the ident.

    At the time, anyway. Probably next/last week I’d do everything differently :-)

  11. Bly says:

    I’ll trust your judgement about which games are good or bad, you trust mine about who is good looking and who isn’t! :)

  12. Fomorian says:

    I’m not sure why you’re so hard on yourself for the speed you speak in your videos. The speed is only slightly higher than, say, Chuck of SF Debris.

    I’ll certainly check Moebius out, though I’ll wait for sale on GOG, to be honest. Between your review and John Walker’s on RPS, it doesn’t sound like an absolutely stellar game.

  13. Richard says:

    Mostly because people always tell me it’s too fast :-)

    And no, it’s definitely not. It’s an okay adventure that kept my interest and made for an engaging day’s pointing and clicking, but not one to rush out for, especially not this month.

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