Moons of Madness is a narrative-focused adventure game set in a future where Orochi, the largest multinational on Earth, established a secret research outpost on Mars. Players will impersonate Shane Newehart, a low rank maintenance engineer, whose seemingly routine repair mission soon turns out to be a maddening journey, amidst secret technology and extra-dimensional events.
This title does well in multiple compartments, delivering a good quality narrative-driven experience. First of all, the sci-fi setting of early space-age mars outposts is depicted beautifully and realistically, with great art direction and consistent quality in environment design, care about details. Mixing this setting with lovecraftian paranormal events, depicted accurately and following the “canon” decently enough, creates an involving combination both horror and sci-fi fans can enjoy. Secondly, also important for this genre, the story pacing is well done, alternating moments of action such as chase sequences or stealth sections with more calm, but still tense situations, more focused on reading the optional lore scattered around or solving one of the numerous puzzles. Gameplay variety is good enough aswell for the genre, offering varied enough situations to not become stale, adding QTE-based combat sequences, stealth, chases and plenty of puzzles.
This said, there also are some flaws to note: first of all, some puzzles are not very clear in explaining all of their mechanics, this can lead to frustration simply because the player does not know in full what can, or can’t be done in a certain puzzle. Also, at times the progression could result excessively on-tracks and streamlined, with generally very few secondary areas to explore and no other side activities, even minimal, to do apart from the strictly “main” path.
Overall, Moons of Madness is a solid narrative adventure, nailing atmosphere, setting and story pacing, which are the core components for this genre, and also offering a varied enough gameplay to not become boring in the long run. Priced at 25€ by default, and offering 5-7 hours of content depending on exploration and time taken to solve puzzles, even with good content quality but no replay value, I would suggest to all but the most hardcore horror fans to wait for a sale before buying.
Pros & Cons
+ Excellent graphics, atmosphere and art direction in both high-tech and lovecraftian environments.
+ Varied gameplay offering stealth sections, QTE-based combat, plenty of puzzles, chase sequences.
+ Numerous optional lore entries to know more about the events transpired on Mars and the general setting.
+ Good quality writing, narrative and dialogues contribute in constructing a tense horror atmosphere.
– Some puzzles’ mechanics are not explained / hinted at very well.
– Almost no side areas or other content (except lore entries) detached from the main path.
🎮 Gameplay Analysis
The gameplay of Moons of Madness is divided into Exploration, Puzzles, Stealth and Action Sequences.
Exploration constitutes the majority of the experience, and is mostly performed on foot both inside structures and outside on the Martian surface, with the aid of a spacesuit, while at certain times also a rover can be used, but has auto-pilot and cannot be controlled directly. While exploring, players are be able to interact with computer terminals, documents and select items in every environment, and while some of them result critical for progression, the majority are instead additional lore material to have a better understanding of the setting. Given the realistic tone of this experience, oxygen depletion is a thing, but very slow and almost never a problem with abundant resupply stations – while fall damage, environmental hazards and other things can effectively kill you, restarting from the last auto-save checkpoint. Generally, exploring the environments is satisfying, lore is interesting and the atmosphere is good enough to make every new environment exciting (if not frightening) to explore.
Puzzles are numerous throughout the adventure, and mainly consist in logic-based conundrums such as assigning the correct values to an electrical system, re-routing circuits in the correct order, or making various shapes go right with each other by recognizing patterns. Other puzzles might also be about finding an hidden item, or performing something a little more outside of the box. The only problem is that some of these puzzles are unclear about what players can or can’t do, and this can lead to frustration and over-thinking when mostly it was a simple, yet obscure solution.
Stealth sequences are found only a couple times, and consist in staying hidden from surveillance cameras and drones, while also disabling them temporarily with a special tool if needed. They are decently realized and a nice variation without particular issues.
Action sequences mainly consist in chase scenarios, where players need to run away from impending death, choosing the right path. They are not particularly long but definitely well made and involving, and again a nice change of pace. One particular sequence consists instead in a “boss fight” where players need to perform quick time events in order to deflect and dodge enemy attacks in order to advance and repel a vicious enemy.
🔩 Performance Analysis
PC Specs: RTX2080Ti, Ryzen 3900X, 32GB RAM DDR4
The game does not present any technical, performance or stability issue to note. No bugs to report. Using high-end hardware well within the recommended specifications, the game runs smoothly without particular issues. An option to individually remove DoF, Bloom and other post-processing effects would be good, as it is not possible currently, Bloom especially can be exaggerated and annoying. Given the excellent graphics quality and good environment detail, this is a game that would need at least a mid-range machine to run well, low-end or older machines probably will run into bad performance.
Moons of Madness is definitely a solid narrative adventure that merges lovecraftian horror with high-tech space sci-fi in a well done manner. Fans of both horror and sci-fi games definitely should consider this game.
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