A small group of astronauts launch a daring attempt to save Earth in KeokeN Interactive’s sci-fi puzzle-thriller.
Release: October 2019 (PC), April 2020 (PS4, Xbox One)
Developer: KeokeN Interactive
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Tested on: Xbox One X
Buy from Amazon: Deliver Us the Moon
Setting the stage
Video games have always been in thrall to science fiction. Since the very beginning, outer space has been one of the most popular settings for both developers and players alike. A love more often than not borne from the profound and collective admiration for Star Wars and Star Trek.
And why not? The genre offers a truly vast palette of ideas to draw from. Infinite planets, future technology and all manner of alien life forms provide limitless ideas from which developers can take inspiration. Deliver Us the Moon from Dutch studio KeokeN Interactive takes a slightly different approach to most, whilst still wearing its influences just as proudly on its sleeve. Star Wars’ space opera is out. Replaced with a near-future realism heavily indebted to the likes of Interstellar, Gravity and Moon. As a result, this is a far more grounded take on the genre than most.
This tale begins on an apocalyptic Earth where all of the natural resources have been expended and Interstellar-style dust storms ravage what’s left of our broken planet. Years earlier, upon realising Earth was near death, world leaders collaborated and founded the World Space Agency to set up a small colony on the moon and mine it for its supplies of Helium-3. This precious resource was beamed back to Earth using revolutionary new technology, and kept our planet’s energy requirements happily ticking over. Until of course, it didn’t. One night there is a sudden blackout, the energy stops, and all communication with the Moon is lost.
Most of the game takes place in third-person, with the occasional switch to first-person for some anti-gravity sections
The stage is set
Five years later and after Earth has resigned itself to its grim fate, a small group of astronauts launch a daring attempt to send one man to the Moon and discover what went wrong. And so after a brief and ominous intro video detailing the Earth’s plight, the stage is set; make it to the moon, investigate the blackout, and reactivate the transmitter which once powered Earth and its people.
The game begins in the remnants of the World Space Agency facility. Run down and battered by storms it is a great atmospheric opening that hammers home the plight that the Earth finds itself in. There are some initial annoyances though. The default controls feature an incredibly slow look sensitivity, instantly forcing a trip to the menu to increase turning speed. Indeed, controls in general are a little muddy; our slow-motion hero float-jumping around the environment as if he’s already on the moon. Thankfully this opening is relatively brief, and the quibbles soon disappear when the section culminates in a stunningly presented shuttle-launch scored to some impressive Interstellar-style rising strings.
The very subject matter provides many opportunities for wonder, and the game often takes full advantage of them. Once situated on the Moon base the developers duly go out of their way to give you fleeting and stunning glimpses of the Earth and it’s moon as you make your way through creaky corridors and passageways. The visuals on the whole are solid and the lighting effects in-particular do a fine job in atmospherics and mood.
Some of the writing is a little on the nose, but the narrative as a whole remains compelling throughout
A slower, more meditative take
Once on the station your job is to investigate your surroundings and solve puzzles in order to progress through the facility; tasked with piecing together evidence to uncover what happened during events in and around the fateful blackout. The puzzles are smart and make logical sense, but most are made up of similar beats and would prove tiring if padded out across a larger game with less atmosphere than this one. Much like in Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, this is a scenario in which everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. Switches need pulling but don’t have power. Transmissions need sending but aren’t aligned. Fix problem, do task, repeat. Thankfully at around five hours this isn’t the longest of games, and it draws to a close just as these repetitive puzzles start to outstay their welcome.
The narrative is enough to keep interest levels high throughout the runtime, although this is a game in which your knowledge of the story is often dependent on your willingness to seek it out. As you gradually unfurl details of what happened before your arrival – doled out via the usual audio logs, scanned items and abandoned notes – you begin to piece together a rough idea of the events that unfolded.
Some transmissions can’t be missed, but many are hidden out of sight and your dedication to hunting them down will definitely affect the impact of the story if too many are left undiscovered. These transmissions inevitably get more frequent as the story reaches its climax, but the developer’s faith in players to discover and piece them together is uncommon and somewhat refreshing.
Taking sci-fi seriously
Another unique aspect of Deliver Us The Moon (certainly when compared to other titles in this genre) is it’s almost complete lack of combat. Aside from a short stealth section midway through the game, there are no aggressors here. No guns at all in fact. Instead, the only threats are those posed by this unwavering, unsympathetic environment.
This may be a slower and more meditative take on the genre than most, but KeokeN aren’t above throwing in some rather thrilling action sequences which will not be spoiled here, except to say that there’s nothing quite like a plan gone awry and a depleting oxygen tank to get the pulse racing.
Deliver Us The Moon is a game that takes sci-fi seriously. Despite some rough edges regarding its visuals and slightly clunky controls, this is a journey worth taking and a story worth hearing. KeokeN Interactive have gone for a tone that really helps the game stand out from the crowd and they should be praised for creating a unique and compelling experience in such a well-worn genre. Ultimately though, it is the human story at its core that keeps the game engaging. This is a grand adventure into space where the main source of drama may hit a little closer to home than expected.
Like the best sci-fi, Deliver Us the Moon uses its wondrous setting as a tool to tell a very human story. And like most human stories it can be clumsy and a little rough around the edges, but is ultimately filled with enough beauty and intrigue to make it wholly worthwhile.
Buy from Amazon: Deliver Us the Moon
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