Thursday, 8 May 2014

Moebius: Empire rising - final review

Last week, while playing, I was enjoying Moebius so much that I had to stop two hours after I started to write how I felt about it. It took me two more days to complete the game, and I wanted to cool off a bit before writing the full review, so here it is.

This review is spoiler-free. 

Ignoring the rules of considerate criticism, I'll start (again) with what needs work, and those were very few: the graphics, as said before, especially the anatomy and walk animations on the two main characters. Then the puzzles might have been too easy - mind, might - and the game went buggy on me a couple of times, which was solved by a restart. Final grade for graphics: 5/10

And honestly, that's all the bad things I have to say about it.

Puzzles: As a classic Sierra quest lover, but as a person who sucks with puzzles really, I found the puzzles in this game accessible even for me. It was fun to finally manage a game without using the walkthrough more than five times. The puzzles didn't feel dumb or incoherent, certainly not as random as the infamous 'put the cookoo clock in the plant' one, and I was given sufficient clues for most of them. I also enjoyed the fact that my inventory reset between chapters, so I didn't end up having to check possible interactions with thirty different items when I got stuck. This is a blessed change from the classic games. Final grade for puzzles: 8/10

Music: I already elaborated in the former post. I think Robert Holmes's music is sneaky; it does its job very well without being intrusive, subtly playing the players' feelings and tweaking the mood. When things turn urgent for the protagonist, the music changes as well; whereas time in the apartment or the shop was relaxed before, the music now clearly tells us that Malachi is upset and that there's no time to waste. Aside from that I think the music itself managed to combine a modern electric feel with the good old nineties air and a touch of surreal when needed. While it didn't strike me with an 'OMG!!' feel, the music was just good and did its work well, and I wish I could personally tell the composer how much I enjoyed it. Final grade for music: 8.5/10

Story: Containing politics, modern stuff, conspiracy, government agencies, antique dealings, history, art, occult and psychology; taking us through Venice, Cairo, Qatar, Paris, Manhatten and Washington; a simple metaphysics basis on which all of the above are built to guide us, as Malachi, in his entanglement in all this - first a professional one, then a personal - I find that, while simple, this story works well - and more than that, provides a fantastic potential for future stories. I've read Rock, Paper, Shotgun's review on this (in short: he wasn't impressed) and I simply can't understand how a person who liked Gabriel Knight can dislike the occult aspect of Moebius. I didn't think it was dumb at all. I think it was a great concept, demonstrated well throughout the game, and leaving me wanting more. Final grade for story: 8.5/10

Side characters: I've read reviews saying the game was sexist, that every female character is sexualized or desperate, and while many are, many are not. Jane Jensen already gave us a strong, intelligent, resourceful woman in Grace Nakimura; if most of the women we meet in Moebius turn out to be less, I'd say it's just Malachi's bad luck - or, more likely, the fact that a very impressive woman character might take the focus off the two main characters, which would be not unlike having too many focal points in a painting. Besides, while they didn't get a lot of spotlight, both Grethchen and the kidnapped chica were both cool girls, so I generally rasp at whoever's nitpicking and calling this game 'sexist'.

I enjoyed all the side characters - every single one. Most were well defined, none was too comical, some were heartbreaking, all were realistic and most were multi-faceted. Honestly, I ended up wishing I could learn more and more about each, from the weary Italian detective, through the ruffians in Cairo to the mild-looking vendor person who turns out to be part of a gang that is obsessed with the Paris catacombs. Honestly, how cool is this. I get the feeling that if she had the budget, Jensen would give every such character a Dragon Age depth kind of treatment, and to be honest, even with the few lines those characters get they feel just as deep and interesting. Final grade for side characters: 9, and that, too, because only God gets a 10. 

Main characters: The protagonist, Malachi Rector, is brilliant, referred to as handsome, and behaves like a posh dick. I find him fascinating, from his attitude, his inner thoughts. his haughty comments, his ability to fake empathy and, of course, the fact he seems almost inhuman in his zero need for company or friendship. This is presented very clearly both through his thoughts and through the warning his personal assistant, Gretchen, gives someone mid-game. Malachi is unattainable, unapprochable, which could be very irritating if we didn't get to see his walls breached, which, for me, is the best thing in this game. This, this part, is what will make me support and buy the next one, or any literature related to this game: I want to see Malachi care.

I've heard him compared to Batman and House, and to Holmes (on which the former two were based) - but while I see some resemblance, I think Malachi Rector is a character on his own. I could probably spill a full entry on that alone, but I'll spare you for now.
Final grade for main character: 9/10.

Secondary main: Inevitably comparable to Grace Nakimura, this character, while being relatively simple, is also one of the reasons I fell in love with this game. An opposite to Malachi in many aspects, and displaying so many features I'd fall in love with: dumbly loyal and just, stalwart, reliable, almost ego-less and extremely responsible and dependable, the dynamics between this person and Malachi certainly kicked the game up into the zone that ensures I'll be hooked. Though simple, in the game constellation this character serves its purpose very well - and, as I'll note in the spoiler section in a moment, it also has some less than usual qualities to it. In any other setting they'd be only sweet, but here they really served to develop both Malachi and the plot. Final grade for secondary main: in this game, 9/10. 

All in all, this game provided me three intense evenings of pure fun, got me engaged and eager to see more of each of its aspects - metaphysics, story, character development; I'm quite eager to see more of all said aspects, it took me two whole weeks to stop banging my head against the wall with frustration knowing I'm not getting any more of this for a while, and despite some nasty reviews this game got, I recommend it; moreover, I'll certainly try to lure people I love to play it; this is, in my opinion, a pearl worth sharing with anyone I really like. In fact, I think that my only problem with this game was that it didn't last thrice as long as it did; here's hoping that enough people feel the same for Jane Jensen to give us the next part.

לקח לי שבועיים לגמור לכתוב את המחשבות שלי בעניין "מביוס" - המשחק החדש של ג'יין ג'נסן, יוצרת 'גבריאל נייט' - הרבה ביקורות קרעו אותו אבל אני נהניתי מאד מאד מהכל - מטאפיסיקה, עלילה, דמויות, דמויות משנה ופיתוח דמויות. המוסיקה נהדרת, הגרפיקה מפושלת אבל נסבלת, ובאופן כללי, אם היו אומרים לי עכשיו שמשחק ההמשך יוצא ויקח לי מאתיים שעות להשלים אותו, לא הייתי מתלוננת. 

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