Release date: TBD
One of the most exciting aspects of present day adventure gaming is the innovation and creativity that is being injected into the market by young, independent developers. Back in the day, computer games were controlled by large corporations who were interested in mass appeal. Boxed games were shipped to large retailers with high distribution and marketing costs. If a developer couldn't convince a large software publisher that there was a profit to be made, the game didn't happen.
After a several-year hiatus from PC gaming, I returned to the adventure genre in mid-2015. Much to my delight, adventure gaming seemed more active than ever and the true gems that I've encountered have been the result of independent development projects. While not every game I’ve played has been my favorite, I remain incredibly impressed by the directions in which young wizards are taking this genre. Thus, I was delighted when asked to take a look at very early build of Deliver Us the Moon.
While the demo is short, with limited functionality, it reveals much about the vision of KeokeN Interactive. KeokeN is a Dutch indie game development company founded by Koen Deetman and Johan Terink in early 2014. To quote Jordy Velasquez of KeokeN, “The company was born out of a passion for developing great and engaging 3D game experiences.”
The story begins in the year 2069, with narrative explaining that the earth’s resources have been depleted and that humanity’s last hope lies with a final mission involving one man and the moon. You then find yourself playing that astronaut in a moon station constructed by the fictional Worldwide Space Agency (WSA). KeokeN plans to build out the story with a focus on exploring the abandoned space stations built by the various countries who have previously visited the moon.
You play from a 3rd-person perspective and control the astronaut’s movements and actions. This astronaut is very much alive. He lumbers along as one would if wearing a space suit. When standing still, there's still movement as he breathes in and out. Navigation is intuitive and uses keys to move and the mouse to scan and turn. There are rooms to explore, stairs to climb and elevators to ride. The astronaut is equipped with a head lamp which provides visibility in dark corners. You can also jump, push buttons to interact with the environment, and reach for you for your pocket (which one assumes is the beginning of inventory management). Ultimately, you'll be accompanied by an ASE (All Seeing Eye) robot sidekick and will have tools to assist you with your quest.
The 3D environment of Deliver Us the Moon is so detailed, it is almost photographic. What impressed me the most is KeokeN’s attention to lighting, reflections, and shadows. The astronaut’s faceplate is reflective and, if you're paying attention, the scenery is mirrored back with the distortion of its curved surface. As you pass plate glass, the view inside is slightly obscured by a very accurate reflection of the outside environment. Anyone who has ever used a flashlight will smile when using the head lamp, as the lighting effects and shadows are exactly what you'd expect in real life. Spectacular graphics are combined with environmental sounds that are directional and equally realistic. You hear your footsteps, the wind whistling, and rigging clanking. In combination, the graphics and audio provide a truly immersive (albeit brief) experience.
Adventurers know that a good game needs more than great artwork and sound effects. It needs a story, character development, and a quest. While the quest is defined at a high level (i.e., “save humanity”), it's too early to have a sense of how the adventure elements will unfold in Deliver Us the Moon. Jordy noted that their goal is to create a “fully immersive experience that engages the player on multiple levels.”.
This is an exciting time for the guys at KeokeN Interactive. Deliver Us the Moon is their first title and it's quite an undertaking. Word on the street is that they'll be starting a Kickstarter in early February to raise funds, with more details to follow. In short, the proverbial rubber is about to meet the road for this development team!
While it's too early to tell how (or if) Deliver Us the Moon will come to fruition, the first build gives us a peek into the genuine talent that is KeokeN Interactive. Jordy indicated that their objective with this build was to demonstrate what the team is capable of. In my mind, they've proved that they're a development company to be taken seriously, and that they have the potential to create great things. I look forward to tracking the progress of this title in the coming months.