Inherit the Earth: Quest for the Orb
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||This article possibly contains original research. (August 2014)|
|Inherit the Earth: Quest for the Orb|
CD Cover art
|Developer(s)||The Dreamers Guild|
|Publisher(s)||New World Computing
Wyrmkeep Entertainment (new version)
|Release date(s)||1994, 2004|
The adventure featured a world full of talking, humanoid animals, amongst them a fox on his quest to find a stolen orb, a relic of the mythical humans.
The game was originally released for the DOS platform in 1994 and later ported to the Macintosh. The German version Erben der Erde: Die große Suche was first released as a port to the Amiga, followed by the DOS version. Although it wasn't a big commercial success, it gained some popularity with the furry fandom for featuring anthropomorphic animals. The former Dreamers Guild co-founder Joe Pearce started a new company Wyrmkeep Entertainment to re-release Inherit the Earth again after 2000 for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. He also provided the ScummVM developers with the source code of the SAGA engine, which made ports to even more platforms possible. In March 2007, a Pocket PC edition was released.
In a far future, mankind is extinct and Earth is populated by several tribes of anthropomorphic animals – collectively referred to as the Morph – who have achieved a level of technology and societal sophistication roughly equivalent to European civilization in the High Middle Ages. The humans are enshrined in legends as having been the ones who gave the Morph prehensile hands, mouths capable of speech, and the ability to think, but the Morph have very little understanding of their long-lost forebears, who exist now only in stories, ruins and a few technological relics.
The game begins with the protagonist, Rif of the Fox Tribe, being falsely accused of having stolen the Orb of Storms (a technological relic of humankind which is able to predict the weather), primarily based on the fact that he was one of only two foxes in the area at the time of the theft. Rif volunteers to look for the Orb himself, and is given aid (and guards) in the form of Eeah of the Elk Guard and Okk of the Boar Tribe. As added insurance, the Boar King takes Rif's girlfriend Rhene hostage.
The trio circulate throughout the Known Lands over the course of their investigation; along the way, they discover the idiosyncrasies and strengths of the various Tribes under the protection of the Forest King (the Elk Tribe ruler who exerts hegemonic control over the whole region), some of which have other Orbs containing other knowledge left behind by the humans. With the assistance of Sist, the leader of the Rats, they eventually discover that the Orb of Storms was stolen by a Racoon, an animal rarely, if ever, seen in the Known Lands. More worryingly, Sist reveals that the Boar King has formed an alliance with the Wolves who live far to the north; the two incidents are unlikely to be unrelated.
Riff, Okk, and Eeah attempt to pass into the Wild Lands, the untamed regions to the north, but are apprehended by Prince, the selfish, spoiled ruler of the castle that the Dogs have sequestered themselves in. Rif manages to escape, and eventually enlists the aid of Alama, a Cat hermit, and a whole tribe of wildcats in freeing his friends.
The trio then secure passage further north, to the isolated island the Wolves have claimed for themselves. Once there, they learn that the Racoon, Chota, has manipulated the Wolves' politics and stolen the Orb to take over the Known Lands, as the Orb of Storms is apparently the key to some sort of system left behind by the humans to control the weather. Deep inside Chota's fortress, a human hydroelectric dam, Rif, Okk and Eeah are able to outwit their enemies, and Chota and the Orb are presumed lost. The trio return to the Known Lands, where Rif makes an impassioned plea for the Tribes to work together, and that by combining their strengths, they won't need the Orbs to make their lives better. The Forest King take his advice, promotes Okk and Eeah, and release Rhene.
Unknown to all, however, the Orb of Storms was not destroyed, and is preparing to initiate Chota's final command to begin a long drought...
A background theme of the game is the fate of the humans. The game's introduction and manual explain that the humans created the Morph from their constituent animals, and then mysteriously disappeared sometime later. Nearly all information about humans, their civilization and their technology has been lost or passed into legend. The Rats, the most educated tribe, are the only ones who wholeheartedly believe in the humans' existence, due to their carefully documented exploration of human ruins – they have even discovered that their own ancestors were small enough to be kept in cages while they received "The Gift" (presumably the genetic modifications that turned them into the Morph).
Most of the human relics are in the third area of the game (although the exterior structure of the dog castle implies it too, might have been a human construction). In the third area, the North Island, one spends a good deal of time wandering through ancient human ruins of such places as hydroelectric dams, airports, and solar observatories. The most perplexing feature of the human ruins that they do not include cities or towns. A few theorists postulate the land where all the morphs live is only an area isolated from the rest of the world (where humans may still exist).
The game sets a serious mood but also leavens it with humor for these parts. There are tantalizing clues, like the flashing "EVACUATE" sign in the lobby of the building near the airport, and the fact that much of the equipment in the solar observatory and dam was left on. This implies that a sudden disaster overtook the humans, but this is not necessarily so.
While the question of what happened to the humans and where they went to is never fully resolved during the game (given that it isn't actually a plot point) David 'Talin' Joiner, one of the game's key developers, revealed in an interview that humanity was eradicated by an airborne biological weapon, a scenario that was inspired by the Alistair MacLean novel The Satan Bug. This possibility is actually alluded to in the game's opening sequence, which shows a tapestry depicting humans fleeing what looks like a giant microbe. Another idea that the developers had was that there were still a few humans living in some sort of lunar base; this was also alluded to in-game, when an astronomer/cartographer named Tycho Northpaw claims that the humans literally carved the features of the "Man on the Moon" to remind the morphs that they are being watched. Inside a hangar in the airport, there is a vehicle that appears to be an incomplete space-craft (when the mouse is moved over it, the game identifies it as "A giant dart.") Because of the rocket-like object, some believe the airport might also be an aero-spaceport.
In an interview Lisa Jennings, one of the original artists and animators, revealed that the game was originally intended to be part of a trilogy, but due to conflicts with the developer and publisher, this never happened. This is why the game ends on a "To be continued" like note.
Players have commented that some sections of the game feel contrived, particularly the opening scene, which establishes all major elements of the story within a few minutes with no player decisions. This, combined with the lack of development of the Rhene character, has been attributed to the difficulties associated with combining a serious and detailed plot with anthropomorphic animals - a theme usually associated with children's entertainment. The abrupt opening suggests part of the script may have been removed.
Lisa Jennings, concept artist and animator for the game, confirmed this: "Our biggest conflict was simple: the developers wanted something that was rather adult in nature. The publishers saw animals and equated it with children, and so forced us at every turn to cater to the 8-12 range, up to and including removing any death scenes to keep a Children's Rating."
Pop Culture Influences
At least one writer has been inspired by this game's backstory to borrow an element in his work. The webcomic Anima: Age of the Robots details the myth of planet Anema's creation. It begins with:
We see the sky, the mountains and the sea And we wonder how we have come to be. In the beginning there was nothingness Then behold, the guardian cometh...
This greatly resembles the "creation myth" narrated during the game's introduction:
We see the sky, we see the land, we see the water And we wonder, Are we the only ones? Long before we came to exist, the Humans ruled the Earth. They made marvelous things, and moved whole mountains. They knew the secret of Flight, the secret of Happiness, And other secrets beyond our imagining.
Also in Anima: Age of the Robots, there is a minor character called Rif, also an orange-colored fox.
Webcomic Sequel and Sequel to the Game
The story of the video game is continued in the official webcomic, Inherit the Earth, which takes place ten months after the events of the game. The webcomic is drawn by Allison Hershey, the game's original art designer, and co-written by Joe Pearce, the owner of Wyrmkeep Entertainment.
The wyrmkeep website's forums have seen recent activity as an official sequel for the game has been declared to be in the works by the owners (and current right-holders) of the website. Little has been revealed about it, except that it will feature some 3D elements. A page at Kickstarter for the sequel's developmental funding was made, but the goal was not met.  Another Kickstarter campaign was started on July 16th, 2014 with a higher goal to account for adding voice acting to the project.
||This section has an unclear citation style. (August 2014)|
- Wyrmkeep's webpage
- Inherit the Earth webcomic
- Inherit the Earth: Quest for the Orb Soundtrack at MusicBrainz (list of releases)
- Interview with David 'Talin' Joiner and Lisa Jennings
- Jennings interview
- Inherit the Earth: Quest for the Orb at MobyGames
- Kickstarter page for the sequel (cancelled)