One alternative to the awfulness of Maabus was a traditional antidote such as Inherit the Earth. Created by The Dreamer’s Guild and published by New World Computing, it was a surprisingly solid adventure filled with plenty of twists and mystery. It also stands out in being a mainstream title from a major publisher to have solid ties to the furry community within its design and those who had worked on it.
The game is set on an Earth inherited by animals that can walk, talk, and think on their own. Medieval trappings fill their lives while their ancient creators, the Humans, live on only in ancient legends and mystery having disappeared long ago. To the Morph, as the animals call themselves, we are the mysterious ancients who had left behind an Atlantean-like legacy for them to wonder over.
If the gaming interface looked familiar to me, it was because it was nearly a perfect copy ripped from Lucasarts as its chief designer, artist, and programmer can attest to in an archived interview found here on a furry fan site. You can’t blame him for working with a layout that even Lucasarts carried on with through several games. If it was good for them, why not for an adventure game that wanted to make things easier for its players to immerse themselves in its world?
Although his interview is found on a furry site, the game wasn’t marketed in that direction at all. That is, if it had any marketing to speak of. One of the reasons for the game’s low sales has been attributed to its seeming lack of any press which David “Talin” Joiner related in his interview. Still, as the years went on, it soon became referenced among furry fans as a favorite for obvious reasons.
Yet what Talin says seems to ring true. In trying to find an ad for Inherit the Earth, I had to scour several copies of CGW in ’94. If a top magazine like that didn’t have the ad in more than just the one issue I saw it in, it’s probably a safe guess to say that it probably didn’t have as good a run elsewhere, either, if at all. In comparison, I kept running into an ad for Bethesda’s cyberpunk flier Delta V in nearly every one along with Spear of Destiny and its mission packs.
The appearance of the game may have also convinced others at a cursory glance that it was targeted at children even though this wasn’t the case. Talin’s inspiration for the game came from sources such as Watership Down and the Secret of NIMH, two animated films with fairly adult themes. It was this attitude that Talin wanted to bring to the game and yet was thwarted by a publisher that didn’t understand what he was trying to get at.
But several of his ideas made it through intact. The animal communities within the game are driven by attitudes that match their general bearing – foxes are sneaky and often regarded as gypsies, boars are strong warriors, and elks with their horns are noble hunters, and so on. One surprise was in learning of the rats as the archivists of the world.
Players took on the role of Rif, a fox who is soon blamed for the theft of the Orb of Storms. This ancient relic enabled the prediction of storms which, as anyone can probably imagine, came in really handy for knowing when to seek shelter or harvest crops. Rif, however, is given a chance to clear his name and travels with two other companions representing the other factions of the Morph and soon embarks on a huge quest across the known world…and a little beyond its edge…to find the real thief.
The game was oriented towards families in general, much like Roberta Williams’ King’s Quest series were, to be played by everyone and the gameplay tended to show that at nearly every turn. Though the manual and the setting were clear on what was going on, the game itself could tend to be a little thrifty on the details. Puzzles weren’t too overly complicated to solve, and some of the situations that the characters would find themselves in felt lifted from children’s fairy tales. It was a game that felt as if it yearned to be mature, yet still treated its audience as first-time adventurers who had never watched a Disney film before.
The music for the game was also quite good along with the voice acting. While much of it helped to color the world of the game, not a whole lot was spent in trying to lend deeper depth to any of its characters. Still, I had read elsewhere that this was to be the first in a trilogy of games so some of the thrifty liberties that it takes could be forgiven in the light of that information. But at the time, it seemed that it was all that there would be.
I didn’t find it too difficult to get through for those reasons. One or two puzzles could be a little tricky, but you were never stuck for long. What was more intriguing to me was the world that the game took place in. Its version of Earth stood out from the scraps left to piece together the forgotten history of its past from the intro.
I could guess bits and pieces of what had happened to the humans and appreciated the turnabout in making their ancient works and relics into the Morph’s medieval versions of ancient ruins and “magical” artifacts. It was a fascinating “post-apocalyptic” vision of the world because from the clues, I felt that something terrible had happened to humanity leaving behind this grand mystery that the Morph have transformed into an almost reverential story passed down across generations. Certainly, this was a very different take on what humanity had left behind as opposed to what Interplay’s Wasteland visited on everyone years before.
The game had even ended on a pretty huge cliffhanger never to be resolved except through “what-ifs” such as what Talin relates in his interview linked above. It’s really too bad. The game felt as if it had never been given a fair shake, though the problems it had within itself were also partially to blame. It was a simplistic adventure game that had a fascinating setup though fell short in terms of its challenge, or in some of the logic that its story had tried to follow, though in hindsight much of that was probably done to make it as appealing to everyone as possible…ultimately hurting its focus. But it was still a great, interactive world even though it left me hanging on what was to come next.
Although it didn’t enjoy as much commercial success as it could have on release, it lives on thanks to being ported to many other platforms in the years that followed. Today, you can even get it for your iPhone and adventure with Rif and his friends to solve a mystery that might be solved one day. That is, if plans for a sequel can ever be completed by its most ardent fans at Wyrmkeep.
Inherit the Earth played on the medieval trappings of its world with the parchment look of its ad and the Old English “C” that it starts its text out with. A few screens also show off what the game looks like in what might be as close as anyone will get to something akin to a game based off of Don Bluth’s Secret of NIMH which is far darker than Inherit the Earth. It’s a unique adventure that, furry or not, also projects a very different outcome for a post-apocalyptic Earth. That alone should sell its world. It doesn’t have to be deserts and radiation. Seeing the grass turn out much greener after we’re gone can also be as unnerving.