You may have heard that space is big right now. I mean, it was always big - infinite, even - but it’s big right now. Gravity, Interstellar, and the Martian are all bringing hard(ish) sci-fi back to the box office. Kerbal Space Program is allowing us all to live the dream of repeatedly murdering innocent cosmonauts in stellar death traps… I mean running a successful space program. And Adrift is promising to give us VR nightmares of being lost in space.
Amid all this, KeokeN, an upstart indie studio based in the Netherlands, is building Deliver Us The Moon, a game they promise to be an atmospheric, isolating experience in lunar exploration. They recently let us take a look at a playable prototype of the game, and while it’s clearly still very early in development I’m interested in the title’s potential.
The game opens in 2069, on an Asian landscape that’s desolate aside from a spacecraft launch pad. An opening voiceover hints at an apocalyptic drain of the planet’s resources, and places all hope for humanity’s survival on a single astronaut. That’s you, no pressure or anything. So off you go, with only the vague directive to “deliver us the moon.”
The very brief demo was primarily built around exploration, with some light puzzle-solving elements. You control your astronaut from a third-person perspective and can interact with designated objects in the environment. The animations in this early state are a little goofy, but the environments and effects look pretty great. It’s built in Unreal Engine 4, so lighting and such is top-notch, and the grandeur of space travel is breathtaking as it should be.
Your first task is to get your shuttle to space, which you do with a launch sequence that’s maybe two or three pages of instructions shy of a flight simulator takeoff plan. The takeoff process feels a bit too insubstantial (especially now that we’re living in a post-Kerbal world), but it contributes to a sense of atmosphere that continues even as you escape Earth.
From there, your ship docks with a Lunar base and you’re to explore it. At this stage, the game is, again, mostly about exploration, but hints of the eventual mechanics appear here and there. You’ll hit a few areas without life support, which require you to keep track of and refill your suit’s oxygen reserves. Deeper into the base, you find a gun of sorts that allows you to remotely interact with doors.
Eventually, a small puzzle leads you to a spherical object that looks maybe a little too much like one of Portal’s personality spheres. Upon activation, it turns into a silent little rocket-powered robot buddy that follows you around like an obedient puppy. A puppy that can activate certain terminals, obviously.
The demo ends with you opening up a grand set of doors onto the surface of the moon, stars twinkling in the background as great blue gouts of light shoot from the lunar surface. And there, it ends. The mysteries are naturally preserved - there’s no real indication as to the specifics of your mission, what truly happened on earth, or how “delivering the moon” is going to help. I’m interested in the answers to those questions, but the brief look I got was insubstantial enough that I’m still not sure there will be enough to the final product to make the answers worth seeking.
I am interested in the premise, but the developers will have a tough hill to climb when they hit Kickstarter on February 1st. Without a proven track record - Deliver Us The Moon will be their first game - it will be tough for them to convince potential backers that they can deliver on their promises. Nevertheless, I like the concepts and potential on display here, and I hope that they’re able to create a title that stands out in the increasingly crowded indie space.