Needed An Editor
HIGH Succeeding at the last targeting challenge.
LOW Having to do the last targeting challenge three times.
WTF So we’re really sending just one dude on this mission to save the whole frickin’ world?
Little things matter when it comes to space travel. Every detail has to be double- and triple-checked, lest one enter parameters in the wrong units and accidentally pancake a $300 million probe on the upper atmosphere of Mars. Creating a videogame doesn’t come with such high stakes, but most concepts can benefit from a few passes of reconsideration. Otherwise, one might end up with something like Deliver Us the Moon, which feels like it’s a few edits away from its best self.
Deliver Us the Moon is a first- and third- person exploration and adventure title that clearly owes a great deal of its inspiration to the Fullbright Company, especially Tacoma. Its faceless main character is an astronaut who has been sent to an immense, abandoned complex on the moon to find out why it failed five years previously. More importantly, he is to bring it back online, so that the power it generates can save Earth.
Although it’s obviously foolish to send just one person for such a critical mission, this premise has the advantage of giving the astronaut a reason to be in a fantastic place all alone, which is the demand of the genre. Unfortunately, Deliver Us the Moon immediately screws this up in its tutorial level when the astronaut does all the work of prepping his launch alone, even though other people are radioing to him from within the same cosmodrome. Right away, the absence of other people goes from being a natural consequence of the scenario to being a limitation of the creators.
Once the astronaut launches, he has to travel through a failing space station and across the surface of the moon. Throughout this journey, the perspective shifts back and forth between first and third person, though I never felt disoriented and controls translated seamlessly. Adjusting to the zero-G motion system was easy, although an inability to convey the position of the astronaut’s body made some navigation challenges needlessly tough.
Of course, as it’s set in space, Deliver Us the Moon has sequences where the astronaut goes out into the vacuum. Again, a poorly-conceived idea pops up here because the time limit on his air is absurdly short (3 minutes) and to compensate for this, little canisters containing equally absurd amounts of oxygen (I think one gave me 10 seconds) are strewn absolutely everywhere.
Whatever stress the oxygen time limit might have applied in these segments was neatly and thoroughly punctured by the comedy of the astronaut slamming dozens of cans of O2 as if they were Perri-air from Spaceballs.
Of course, even moving through the facilities that have an atmosphere poses a few challenges. Traversing these areas usually involves a little problem solving (often hunting down a door code or getting a battery from one place to another) or some slightly mushy platforming. Occasionally the astronaut must employ the ASE — a remote-controlled flying robot that can open doors. None of it is taxing, and it all lies well within the norm for the “walking simulator” branch of the 0451 family tree except, perhaps, the Ill-Advised Stealth Challenge TM.
As with its contemporaries, Deliver Us the Moon allows the astronaut to learn what happened on the station by picking up and reading bits of detritus, or by scanning objects using his space suit. The ASE, once found, also enables him to see back in time to the disaster, Tacoma-style, by activating holograms that replay the past.
Unfortunately, although the events on the moon matter deeply to the protagonist, Deliver Us the Moon keeps him silent. We don’t even get to hear him grunt or wheeze. In part, I suspect this was done to protect an inane “twist” that adds nothing. The cost, however, is steep, because this person’s reactions to what he learns could have vastly enriched the experience. Instead, the protagonist is a blank and the narrative gets stripped of its potential emotional weight.
The error of making the protagonist silent ultimately comes home to roost in the slipshod finale. Following a sequence that squanders its emotional impact by poorly calibrating its difficulty, the astronaut makes a final discovery and a choice that is out of the player’s hands. There is (potentially) a moment of huge catharsis happening there, but it’s blunted to the point of nonexistence by the protagonist’s lack of reaction.
In one sense, there’s nothing wrong with Deliver Us the Moon. It looks beautiful, the controls are fine, the action is diverse, and the story explores some interesting ideas — it just kept shooting itself in the foot. Systems that should have created tension instead create comedy. Pointless bits like the intro on Earth and the stealth area highlight the weaknesses of the game instead of expanding its story or world. And even worse, the silent protagonist prevents any development of the story’s emotional core.
In its current form, Deliver Us the Moon is a completely adequate game, but it’s just the first draft of a truly great one.
Disclosures: This game is developed by KeokeN Interactive and published by Wired Productions. It is currently available on PC via Steam and GoG. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on a home-built Windows X PC equipped with an AMD Ryzen 2700X processor, an ASRock X470 motherboard, 32 GB RAM, and a single GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card (driver version 436.30). Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Fantasy Violence and Mild Blood. All human characters visible in the game are silhouettes, though there are some instances of intense violence. The blood is very old stains in a few spots. I would say this rating is a little too stringent and most likely any child over 10 can handle this one.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game has a few sound cues, but they are all secondary to visual components. All dialogue is subtitled, but subtitles do not have a background and their text size is not adjustable.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. Gamepad and mouse + keyboard controls are available.
Currently Sparky works as a scientist in Rhode Island, and works gaming in between experiments and literature reviews. As a writer, he hopes to develop a critical voice that contributes to a more sophisticated and interesting culture of discourse about games. He is still waiting for a console port of Betrayal at Krondor.