Developed by Rock Pocket Games, Dreamloop Games Published by Funcom Reviewed on PC
To quote H.P Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness:
“It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.”
This is something that is explored in great depth in Rocket Pocket Games and Dreamloop Games recent release of Moons of Madness. Now this game is actually a spin-off to the MMORPG Secret World Legends, borrowing lore and themes found in that series. I’ve never played Secret World Legends and did not really feel like I was missing out on anything. It was only after I had completed the game did I find out it was a spin-off. Moons of Madness is currently only available on PC but it will be released in January 2020 on Xbox and PS4. Just like I quoted above, Moons of Madness relies heavily upon the Lovecraftian mythos as it brings the players down a slow descent into madness.
The player takes control of Shane Newehart, an Orochi Group engineer who other employees are tasked with living and researching on the surface of Mars. The past few weeks for Shane have been pretty tough; not only has there been some technical problems on their base but Shane has been plagued with nightmares that only seem to get worse. Shane starts out the game stuck in one of his nightmares which, while pretty scary, only lasts for a moment. Upon waking up Shane is thrust into doing remedial tasks around the station. Work like getting a cup of coffee, eating breakfast, fixing solar panels all happen before Shane really starts to notice when things are going haywire with the station. Naturally, involving dream sequences as a narrative device means not even is as it seems.
I found Moons of Madness’s pacing to be a little off at times and it’s not because of its length. The game takes around 4 – 5 hours to complete, so I do not believe pacing should have been an issue. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy Moons of Madness‘s story since it kept me wanting to know more, but there would be high points of plot and then nothing. There’s a whole part of the game where for like 30 minutes it’s just exposition confirming what the player already had already figured out upon getting to that point. It took me out of the experience when basically said, “Here’s everything that been happening backstory wise up to this point. Just have it.” The creatures in Moons of Madness are few and far in between. While I don’t mind this, some players might be disappointed to see that there are really only three types of creatures.
Moons of Madness is at its core a horror puzzle game though some have labeled this game a “Walking Simulator” due to the formula that it follows.
Find new area —> solve puzzle —> exposition —-> go to next objective.
I didn’t mind this as much because I found the puzzles to be interesting. Although near the end of the game basically gives you the answers without really having to try for it. The parts outside of the station are tense as I had to keep checking my oxygen tank to ensure I had enough oxygen to do my task. One minor complaint I have is you cannot jump in Moons of Madness. While not 100% necessary there are ledges that the player could easily access by jumping but was instead this was set to a mouse click. This feels unnecessary and would have been streamlined by just giving the player the ability to jump.
There were many times in my playthrough where I got stuck in the environment and was unable to move. I feel this could have also been solved by having a simple jump button. Luckily I was often close to an interactive object that would warp me to the front of it. Most of the game the time the controls feel fine since you’re moving slowly; however, in some action scenes that involve running the controls feel heavy and unresponsive.
Moons of Madness is by no means a terrible game, but it does have its own issues in the terms of uneven plot development, unneeded exposition, and a repetitive formula. Still, for players looking for a quick horror game to play, I would recommend it.