What COULD have been.
Inherit the Earth is a point and click adventure game in a quasi medieval world full of walking talking animals wearing clothes. Not quite your usual suspects when it comes to adventure games and that’s what makes it stand out.
The setting of the game is very imaginative and original. It’s not a true medieval world at all, but what it appears to be is a chain of islands with various tribes of animals who have been specially created by humans to have intelligence, walk on two legs, and talk like people. The introduction makes it clear that they’re products of science through beautifully illustrated cave paintings showing how it was all done and how the humans were forced to leave due to a plague or epidemic of some sort (as symbolized by them being chased away by what appears to be a giant microbe), or maybe they were driven to extinction even, we don’t know.
One really great thing about the setting that this world takes place in is how bizarrely, yet perfectly logically, all makes senses. You have the various animal groups who live by the stereotypes of their species, but all with a twist. The elk are magnificent, but also decadent, the boars are messy and boorish, but also very stalwart and strong, the ferrets are very rigid in thinking, but industrious and hard working. Even the rats have a mythology that they assisted humans in scientific research, which is true, but with some horrific implications that they don’t realize they were tested on and millions of their ancestors died in experimentations. They’re stuck in this medieval system and have never advanced an inch technologically in hundreds of years, which is not even what happened in the Middle Ages… but it all makes perfect sense as to why they’re stuck in time.
There are these things in the games called the Orbs. The denizens of the world don’t really know what they really are, other than they serve some specific purpose. They really are portable voice- activated computers left behind by the humans. There is the Orb of storms, which is what this game revolves around, that has the ability to predict the weather with perfect accuracy, which is something that any farmer in the past or present would give their right arm for. What this allows, from a technological perspective, stagnation in a lot of areas because when they are able to get decent harvests every year, the need for technological innovation is considered by many. The second Orb in the game is the Orb of hands, which basically is a ‘how-to’ encyclopedia that can tell people how to make things. So why don’t they have cars, steamships, and guns? It’s because the Orb needs very, very specific statements in order to give the instructions, and those instructions are said in a very technical manner that is usually above the understanding of the people who hold the thing.
It is simple touches like this that add the brilliance of the setting. They don’t feel the need for more technology because A: They have no concepts of the things we take for granted and wouldn’t ask the Orb of hands on how to build them, and B: They have enough food and what they consider basic necessities, and as such don’t feel the need for more stuff, especially if they don’t have a concept of it.
The main character definitely plays the part of a cunning fox to a T and it’s always funny to see him outsmarting his adversaries, and the game has some legitimately funny moments peppered throughout. Some of the content is decidedly towards adults, such as a wolfess showering and showing slight signs of… umm, side boob, for the lack of a better term. At the beginning of the game there’s even a feline fortune teller who, in no indirect manner, tries to tempt the main character into staying for a little something… extra.
The graphics and the way the world is portrayed is very stylish and beautifully done, and the music is fantastic. I remember when I first saw this game in 1995, the music in the opening scene definitely sent chills down my spine. It really is a very beautiful game when it comes to graphics and music.
The setting was very original and unique, and very inventive, but the plot… I regret to say this, is quite flawed, and some other parts of the game, such as the puzzles, just seems too easy and convoluted.
I want to make some things clear, the plot was obviously intended to be more mature and deeper originally, but because of the meddling by NWC, this would never have been realized. The plot is basically that someone stole the Orb of storms and ran off with it for reasons unknown, and our hero, the Fox is blamed for it because… because… well, because he’s a fox! Of course! All foxes are thieves. And he has to bring it back, or else his girlfriend will die.
The opening is highly contrived and frustrating, and the mentality of the people is just incomprehensible. They continue to blame the Fox even after it becomes painfully apparently that he’s completely innocent. By far the dumbest part of this whole ‘blame the fox’ is the ending of the game, when despite being proven beyond the shadow of a doubt innocent, and risking life and limb in the attempt to bring the Orb back, there was a single character in the background who claimed that ‘he must be punished’! What manner of bizarre logic were these people running on?
The setting was intended to be more mature, with murder sub-plot, a bit more sexuality and sensuality in the plot and characters, and even violent encounters. It was also intended that your character could die a la Sierra Adventure Game style as well. Every single one of these concepts was hacked up by the executives, who insisted that the game must be child friendly because they didn’t take seriously the concept of cartoon animals being used in a serious, mature story and setting.
The results are obvious, not only in the plot and remnants thereof (the ruins at the end of the game provide some very ominous clues as to the humans’ demise, as well as hints that the world would be engulfed in a deadly war), with the villain’s defeat being played for laughs while his motives were very sinister. The ending of the game is the biggest let down of them all, I won’t spoil it, because it is really, really dark and no one could possible consider it ‘child safe’. The game needed a sequel, but due to Executive meddling and a very poor marketing campaign, the sales never justified one, even though it was intended as a trilogy.
The main character’s sidekicks… let it be said that there has never been a more useless duo in all of gaming history. Although they’re supposed to be there to provide support to the hero (as well as ensure that he doesn’t escape, which would become needless as he proves his intent to recover the Orb very early on), they never do anything to prove the existence of their worth, the only puzzles they help with wouldn’t have required their aid if the game was intended to be more challenging. Speaking of which, the puzzles in this game aren’t really all that difficult, they’re just too easy even without a walkthrough or hint book at your side. That’s another downside to the game, the puzzles are a bit too easy and the logic behind them is not to try to think through what might work in a situation like that, but simply to try to guess what the developer wants the player to do.
One other negative part is a maze sequence in the game. My God do I hate needless mazes in the game. It isn’t actually that hard, but it is annoying enough that it makes you wonder why they put a maze in the game in the first place. I would be willing to tolerate a maze in an adventure game if A: There was a reason for it, and B: There was a way of figuring out where to go with an item or something to help show the way (that way, the puzzle is finding a guide or item as opposed to pure guesswork and manual mapping). This game has neither.
Most of these negative points wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for executive meddling, but sadly they had to destroy it and not allow for a good, mature story to be told with cartoon animals, which would have made it very unique in gaming and probably have made Furries more accepted in such circles.
The Bottom Line
This game has a very unique premise and had the potential to be a great trilogy if it wasn’t for the meddling by higher ups and poor marketing that sadly ruined it.
For all that however, this game still has a dedicated following, both from adventure gamers like myself, and a small part of the Furry Fandom. In fact, Furries would find this game especially interesting since this game was made by old-school furries and much of the artwork (both in game and conceptually) was done by Furry artists, many of which are still active and working in the fandom 19 years later.