Moons of Madness – Review
Follow Genre: Sci-fi, Horror, Adventure, First-Person
Developer: Rock Pocket Games, Dreamloop Games
Publisher: Funcom
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Tested on: PS4

Moons of Madness – Review

Site Score
6.6
Good: Spectacular visual graphics and cinematic story-telling, interesting story
Bad: Chore-like gameplay
User Score
6.5
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 6.5/10 (2 votes cast)

Moons of Madness’ gameplay is a mixture of SOMA, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and Outlast, giving us a first-person horror adventure in space, sprinkled with some Lovecraftian sci-fi ambience. Very story-driven and mostly comparable to games like Call of Cthulhu and The Sinking City. Be prepared to explore Mars, solve problems, and encounter malicious entities.

Story

You play as Shane Newehart, a technician who is stationed — along with other Orochi scientists — at Invictus, a state-of-the-art research outpost on Mars. Shane’s job as a technician is simply to keep the place up and running until the transport ship Cyrano arrives, bringing with it a new team to take over his duties. Seeing Shane’s security clearance, he is completely unaware of the core of the researches that are going on at the base.

The player gets the chance to get familiar with the controls right away by walking around and exploring parts of the base. But the game truly begins after Shane wakes up from his eerie nightmare that weirdly seems more like a premonition of the upcoming day. Not soon after Shane’s first cup of freshly brewed coffee, we discover strange and unusual setbacks: the security system is on lockdown, the greenhouse is flooded, and there is Martian dust leaking into the infirmary. Many things are starting to fall apart and it’s time for Shane to start off his workday. However, no one has expected that this day will become very strange. Dangerous even. We discover dark hidden secrets on Mars while we also begin to see and hear things that aren’t there. Visions, hallucinations, … Are they real? Or are we slowly descending into madness?

Moons of Madness forces you to explore the fears of isolation and paranoia, enhanced with supernatural elements and cosmic horror. Terrifying visions and monstrous apparitions that jumpscare you will make you question what is real and what is not, as the very fabric of reality threatens to tear at the seams. All of this is truly in the fashion of the noted fiction horror author H.P. Lovecraft.

The narrative is told through gameplay, written notes, and various emails that can be found by checking computers. It’s mostly through reading that the player can fully shed a light on what is going on at Invictus and with Shane. The story is intriguing, mysterious, and thrilling.

Graphics

The visuals are phenomenal and quite realistic. The design of Invictus and everything with it looks pretty realistic as if it could actually be a rendering of a future-NASA habitat. Not only that, but the lighting in the game is quite realistic as well, seeing how it falls on and reflects off the surroundings. The interactive objects, however, look more cartoony and painted, but still nice-looking, but a bit mismatching. Unfortunately, there are more bothersome things that are worth mentioning such as the other characters in the game (even though you barely encounter anyone). They are much more 3D-looking and lack details and texture, making them appear like plastic mannequin dolls. There’s just something really off-putting about it.

What is most notable is the camerawork. The game is divided into different chapters and it is beautifully shown as a floating title while the camera pans over it. It’s a great way to show your progression in the story without interrupting gameplay. The visuals are truly impressive and the use of multiple camera angles gives Moons of Madness a nice cinematic aesthetic.

Sound

If the game doesn’t seem appealing enough to play because of the narrative and visuals, the music, the sound effects, and all voice-overs could instantly win you over. Everything you hear is so perfectly suited for the moment you are in. It empowers the ambience up to the next level and enriches immersion for the player.

Moons of Madness is never silent. Next to the on-point, realistic sound effects, there’s this gloomy, dark soundtrack behind every step you take in the game. It truly brings out the atmosphere of the in-game surroundings, giving you an uneasy, eerie feeling. Everything is very suspenseful and mysterious.

The cherry on top of the game sound is the phenomenal voice-over. Even though the story is mostly told through reading material, the game is accompanied by outstanding voice-actors who you hear throughout the game. The actors sound fantastic and quite believable, making the story-telling much more enjoyable. It’s a pity that we don’t get to hear the actors alongside all the notes that have been left lying around. Reading is great and all, but that’s not why we play video games. 

Gameplay

The game sounds like a decent game so far, right? Well, it’s sad to say that it all goes downhill from here. Moons of Madness is a sci-fi horror/adventure game that is played in first-person mode. The game is made out of chapters and follows a linear story that is very H.P. Lovecraft inspired. The intention of the game is that the player walks around and explores the environment, trying to complete the current active objective. So basically, you go from task to task, chapter to chapter. But it’s not that simple for there are many problems and obstacles. As Shane, we have a lot of matters to solve. Everything seems to be broken in-and-around the Invictus base and it is up to us to fix things. 

The game is mostly made up out of reading, picking up items, lethargic puzzles, and not-so-thrilling chase scenes. Most of what is mentioned feel very chore-like. It makes the game slow-paced and frankly quite boring at some times. The game is only around 4 hours long but it feels much longer because of this.

There is also a lot of camerawork involved for the player. To find interactive items, you will have to walk pretty up-close to a specific area and literally pan around to find interactive spots. The game actually forces you to explore and check out every nook and cranny. Making it more of an obligation than a choice. This is so frustrating because there isn’t actually that much to discover. You also have to pan the camera around a certain subject to navigate through different options which can be tiresome; annoying even, when you want to choose an option rapidly and you have to pan around to finally get the right one.

The game also includes various – quite easy to solve – puzzles. Most of them are essentially just connect-the-dots puzzles, fusing items correctly by putting object A with object B together, or fill-in-the-blanks riddles such as passcodes. But then you also have the signal connection puzzles where you have to fiddle around with your analogue stick, trying to find the right coordinates to get a 100% signal connection. It’s immensely frustrating and time-consuming to find the exact coordinates. All these together just feels like silly busywork to fill in the gameplay.

But this is all just nitpicking compared to navigation. Besides walking, the player can crouch under obstacles but also sprint to run away from malicious foes. Sprinting is very crucial since the game has multiple chase scenes. But for some reason, our character Shane is the slowest protagonist that has ever walked Mars. Sprinting isn’t that much faster, making these chase sequences excruciating.

Conclusion

Moons of Madness has promising elements. The game’s story and the atmosphere are heavily inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, which could entice players who like his works to give the game a shot. The game is also very easy to play. However, this makes the game barely challenging. It is also quite slow-paced and has many gameplay flaws. Most of the credit has to go to the incredible voice acting, visuals, and sound design.

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Rating: 6.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Moons of Madness – Review, 6.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
JenRox
JenRox


“Keep your friends close, but your memes even closer”.

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