Released originally on PC in September 2019 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Deliver Us The Moon has been ported to consoles from the KeokeN Interactive original by the team at Sock Monkey, getting the story of lunar exploration and survival out to as many gamers as possible. Coming after plaudits from the Steam release, there’s been a lot of anticipation for the game and now its time to experience what it has to offer. Will it be a giant leap for the fledgling studio, or a small step in the wrong direction? Better pressurise the spacesuit and top up the oxygen… it’s time to set off on an ambitious orbital adventure.
There’s a really epic solitary tale at play in Deliver Us The Moon as you take the role of an astronaut in the mid-21st Century tasked with finding out why the Earth has been without power for 5 years. See, when resources ran scarce and minerals were mined out, man looked to the moon to provide the solution to the lack of power generation in the world. With oceans dwindling and the climate becoming arid, the visionary scientists that left the planet discovered that our biggest satellite was rich in Helium-3, and that this could be transmitted across the reaches of space by microwave. Suddenly it looked like all was saved, and for a time it was good. Then without warning the Blackout happened and all communication and energy suddenly stopped. Earth was left for the desolation to creep back in, and no one knows what disaster befell the moon. After a long time of preparation and scrounging up materials, it’s finally time to send a mission out there to find out and bring it all back online.
What might strike people from the beginning is how this feels like a game right out of the walking simulator playbook, though stick with it for more than five minutes and that will fade. This is a puzzle game with heaps of exploration that’s used to tell the story of a ravaged Earth, angry colonists and the fight for the survival of the human race. Blending first and third person depending on the action, the six chapters of Deliver Us The Moon provide an adventure to escape Earth, offer up peril in space, and bring intrigue to the lunar surface. The story is crafted to drip feed the main plot points steadily throughout, and is supplemented by oodles of environmental information and readable logs. With a pace that balances the urgency of saving the world against the player wanting to check out every tiny detail, this is a title that’s best enjoyed by absorbing everything. Nothing seems to be there as purely scenery. If it’s not interactive it can still provide a clue to what is actually going on, and even pulls a thread or two in the wrong direction to make the final reveals hit even harder.
The gameplay itself feels a little like it’s split into two parts – getting to the Moon, and unravelling the mystery. The first parts are quite action focused and have things like running around to hit a launch window before a sandstorm hits, or grabbing oxygen bottles to top up breathable air as you float through a derelict space station. These act as the main drivers for progression and make for some exciting set pieces, as well as a means to upgrade the toolkit on the suit. Getting down to the surface switches things to a more considered pace that’s about getting to the bottom of events. It’s not just readable logs in Deliver Us The Moon that tell the story, most of the juicy bits are uncovered through an AI companion called ASE who has the ability to create holoprojections on the sites where key events happened. Reviewing these uncovers the inner workings of the Lunar Council and what they’ve been planning for several years that ultimately led to the Blackout. It’s not just a glorified audio player though, it’s integral to solving some of the environmental puzzles because it can be remotely controlled.
In fact, it’s one of the most surprising things about Deliver Us To The Moon – the variety in gameplay. There’s the aforementioned rocket launch, zero-g navigation and remote piloting robots; and then there’s shuttle docking, physical object manipulation, rover driving and even a bit of stealth (don’t worry, it’s not too tortuous). None of it ends up being a one off either, most gameplay types make a return at several points and it mixes things up well. There’s a significant danger of death too, whether it’s through running out of air, crashing, being exposed to radiation or plain old electrocution, our hero has to keeps his wits about him. Most lethal elements are telegraphed well, though the last on the list – good ‘ol leccy – can be the biggest pain as it’s typically used in the most confined spaces to really force precision in controller movement. That’s all well and good on the ground, yet becomes a challenge when gravity is missing, and it only takes a couple of touches to force a reload to the last save.
For those with the enhanced consoles there’s the option of switching between performance and graphics and take this advice – always pick the graphics here. There’s a clear difference between the two in terms of visual acuity, though not much in terms of smooth framerate. In fact, the main parts where it starts to stutter are during autosave points… which are pretty frequent, so get used to it freezing for a few seconds. Having the 4K option means being able to appreciate the detail in the structures, the way the shadows fall over the crisp lunar surface, and it really brings the Unreal Engine to bear at times. To accompany the looks there’s a great atmospheric soundtrack that adds the right tones of isolation and lurking dread. Deliver Us The Moon isn’t a horror game, and there are no jump scares, yet it manages to evoke the sense of fear during the exploration that Dead Space did, and a lot of it is thanks to the audio work. It all feels plausible too, from the very-near-future aesthetic to the voice cast that cement the characters motivations.
Across the six hours or so runtime there’s a brilliantly conceived sci-fi tale that unfolds, one which manages to keep you guessing until the end, then manages to add more depth and wonder if you start it over again. Through the whole of Deliver Us The Moon I was compelled to keep going and save the Earth, as well as find out what caused the Blackout, and was so drawn into it that the final parts of the penultimate chapter ended up feeling like a genuine cliffhanger and I though the game had finished and left me in the lurch. It’s a brilliant example of executing a story and getting you invested in it without heavy dialogue or forcing choices. It’s easy to spot influences from other mediums in work like this, though this stands out as being special in its own right and anyone who ever dreamed of being an astronaut should jump in for a ride.
A PS4 copy of Deliver Us The Moon was provided by KeokeN Interactive’s PR team, and the game is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC for around £20, with the Nintendo Switch version following in the summer.