Deliver us the Moon (Xbox Series) “Next-Gen” Review

The Next Generation (of technical woes)
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I spent the better part of 7-hours reacquainting myself with Deliver us the Moon – savouring its blend of slow-burn storytelling, light puzzling, and action-oriented moments. However, the “Next-Gen” patch – already delayed several times – made the experience significantly worse than my first playthrough. Unstable performance and visual glitches I can handle, but multiple crashes to the OS and a corrupted autosave in the final chapter were the last straw.

Update: The next-gen version received a patch on 21/07 that properly retains your visual mode choice and improves performance in both available modes. Based on the opening areas of each chapter, it looks like many of the performance hits are dealt with. That said, I can’t vouch for all potential crash points and, if you had a corrupted auto-save, this patch does not fix it.

Who am I?

Now one of the best elements of Deliver us the Moon is the storytelling. The front end is exposition heavy and confusing, but once you’ve reached the moon and find yourself tinkering around long-abandoned facilities, it settles into a groove. Deliver us the Moon focuses on a desperate mission to restore an elaborate energy transmission system, responsible for channelling power from 3He reactors on the moon to a resource-depleted Earth. Five years after the lunar colony went dark and Earth was plunged into further environmental and political chaos, this desperate mission launches from a former World Space Agency facility towards the Pearson Spacestation – sitting in geosynchronous orbit above the lunar facilities and connected by a massive space elevator.

Now the developers describe their game as a “sci-fi thriller set in an apocalyptic near future” and it’s a good summary. There’s a fair amount of hard science to keep things grounded and the stakes high, but also no shortage of action-packed spectacle for pure entertainment value. Yes, this means some cliched plot points and characters that are one-dimensional stereotypes, but everything is shrouded in mystery for the bulk of your playtime. Even the protagonist, who only ever goes by their call sign until the final chapter, remains a voiceless mystery to be solved.

As a result, the entire game feels like a journey of discovery set in a lonely, isolated, and increasingly hostile environment. There are perhaps too many codex entries you need to read to get the whole story but the game introduces a hologram playback system and more audio-logs once you arrive on the moon, making for a more immersive and organic way to piece together events while you are exploring. At its best, I was reminded of Fullbright’s Tacoma – only Deliver us the Moon features lengthier gameplay-driven segments between major story revelations.

Deliver us the Moon ray tracing

Too many batteries, too little thinking…

Describing Deliver us the Moon’s gameplay is both easy and hard. The bulk of your time is spent walking or floating around deserted environments, from either a third- or first-person perspective, and sometimes controlling a small AI drone you reassemble once you reach the moon. That said, Deliver us the Moon is not a walking sim but rarely involved enough that you would consider it a pure action game. It aims to keep you engaged by providing a range of mini-game-style experiences that range from finding notes with passcodes to dodging debris as you hurtle through space towards an airlock.

On the whole, there’s enough variety to keep you entertained between bouts of exploration and storytelling but you’ll soon recognise a few repeating gameplay scenarios that are used maybe 2-3, spread across the 7ish-hour adventure. There are desperate escapes with timers (usually based on your oxygen reserves), vents to navigate with your drone, first-person sequences that task you with pushing buttons in the right order, ladders and crates to push and pull around, some light platforming in the final chapters, and far too many batteries to lug from socket to socket.

My biggest issue with these gameplay sequences is their reliance on speed or simple pattern recognition. For a game that brings up plenty of hard science concepts, it’s rare that Deliver us the Moon ever makes you piece together a string of clues, or asks you to solve some sort of math or physics puzzle. I appreciate it’s probably hard to design puzzles while still making sure your game is accessible, but plenty of other titles have found the balance between complexity vs. difficulty. If Deliver us the Moon had made me feel “smart” for solving a few puzzles, it would have further grounded the game and made the protagonist feel like a trained astronaut, rather than a dutiful button pusher.

Deliver us the Moon out on the lunar surface

Prettier, sure, but at what cost?

Deliver us the Moon was always a striking-looking game – if you exclude a few rough animations when in the third-person view. If you had the PC version and a capable GPU, you could enable ray-tracing for improved shadows, reflections, and light propagation through glass panels. You now have that option for all the “next-gen” consoles (really current-gen at this point) using the quality mode but it comes at too great a cost and it’s hard to believe this mode was ever play-tested.

The quality mode can look great to be sure, but the performance is abysmal once you arrive on the lunar surface, with sluggish sub-30fps framerates and aggressive dynamic resolution scaling. If you play it on the budget Xbox Series S, the experience is even worse as the game can lock up completely and crash to the OS in more complex scenes with multiple glass surfaces (which are commonplace when inside). As a result, the ray-tracing-free performance mode, aiming for and mostly hitting 60fps, is the best way to play on all next-gen consoles – and the only way to play on the Xbox Series S. The audio deserves special mention, with decent voice acting, tension-building ambience, and an excellent soundtrack that remains understated until you hit an action-oriented sequence. The soundscape perfectly reinforces the sensation of being alone and with no support.

Unfortunately, even when Deliver us the Moon is running in performance mode, there are new stability issues to deal with. At best, a crash you to the OS will send you back to the last autosave point – something that occurs most often during the brief loading screens or cutscene transitions. At worst, it’ll corrupt your autosave, forcing you to restart the entire chapter from the main menu and lose up to an hour of progress.

Deliver us the Moon puzzles

I’d rather play the original, backwards-compatible release on next-gen consoles

Returning to Deliver us the Moon reminds me we could do with a “stability” category in our review breakdown. You’ll notice the average of the individual scores doesn’t equate to the final score and that’s because buried under the new technical issues, there’s a good game that you can still play on PC or last-gen machines. With all the goodwill from the original release and a sequel on the horizon, it’s a shame this next-gen update – which is a discrete purchase and doesn’t come with the X1/PS4 original – feels like it was simply rushed out the door after toggling a few visual parameters. Deliver us the Moon deserved a better second run and I hope KeokeN Interactive will find the time to patch it into shape before the sequel arrives.

A review code for Deliver us the Moon was provided to gameblur by the publisher.

Deliver us the Moon (Xbox Series) "Next-Gen" Review

Deliver us the Moon (Xbox Series) "Next-Gen" Review
6 10 0 1
6/10
Total Score
  • Story
    8/10 Very Good
  • Gameplay
    7/10 Good
  • Visuals
    7/10 Good
  • Audio
    8/10 Very Good

The Good

  • Great premise, storytelling, and constant sense of mystery
  • A great blend of exploration, puzzling, and action sequences
  • Striking visuals and soundscape
  • Perfectly captures the feeling of being isolated and vulnerable far from home

The Bad

  • More complex puzzles would have been nice
  • Awful performance using the quality mode
  • Crashes and potential autosave corruption
Total
4
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