E3 Hands-On — Moons Of Madness

Moons Of Madness

While at E3, I was able to see Moons Of Madness in a more intimate setting than just a trailer. Here is my take on Moons Of Madness.

We are definitely in an era where the cosmic horror game and story is all the rage and we have another to add to the list out of E3 with Moons Of Madness. Sure, Rock Pocket Games did not announce the game during the event, that took place a lot earlier, but they were out there with Funcom to show off where the game was at as we get ever so closer to the October 31st release date for the game. Just the perfect time for the setting of Moons Of Madness and for all of those who get scared easily to stream to the world on their PS4, Xbox One, and PC. I am not one of those scaredy cats, though, and took on the challenge while on the show floor. In a decently lit room… with a bunch of the developers in the room…

If you are left out of the know for Moons Of Madness, it is a first-person horror game that places us on Mars as we get a new colony ready to start to take it over. We play as Shane Newhart who is one of the main technicians going about the normal routine on the station when things start to go not so right. In the demo I was able to see, it started out in the middle of a nightmare, and then led to a normal-ish part, and then back to a nightmare. Just as one would assume given the themes and setting Moons Of Madness is going to place us in. Keep all of that in mind as I break down the rest of the gameplay and experience. There will be a quiz later.

Everything started out in a powered down portion of the station and I was left to wander about the area trying to find some reliable source of light. Once I did that, I began to try to make my way down to the power grid to reboot the system and see what caused all of the issues. The interesting part here is that while it looked like a walking simulator in a horror setting, Moons Of Madness was able to pass along that feeling of dread and terror without needing to rely on jump scares or over-the-top gore to get the point across. The layout, use of lighting, and extra elements placed around the station had me slowly creeping along and worried something was going to end my life at any moment. In a few minutes I was sucked into the world and the terrors within.

Moons Of Madness — E3 2019 Gameplay Demo

Publisher Funcom and the developers at Rock Pocket Games today announced Moons Of Madness, a cosmic horror game coming to PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 during the Halloween season this year. Set on Mars in a not-so-distant future, Moons Of Madness mixes the scientific exploration of the red planet with the supernatural dread of Lovecraftian horror.

Some might recognize Moons Of Madness from before as developer Rock Pocket Games have previously shown early footage from an in-development prototype version. After Funcom came onboard, the two Norwegian studios got together and took the initial concept to new heights through expanded gameplay and scope to fully realize the potential of the bone-chilling story.

In Moons Of Madness you play Shane Newehart, a technician stationed at the Invictus, a secret research base built by the Orochi group. Your low-security clearance means you are completely unaware of the existence of a mysterious, intelligent signal that has been detected as coming from the red planet. Your job is simply to keep the lights on until the transport ship Cyrano arrives bringing with it a new team to take over your duties. Soon you discover strange and unusual setbacks. Crucial systems are malfunctioning, the greenhouse is filled with a strange mist and the rest of your team has yet to return from their EVA mission. You begin seeing and hearing things that aren’t there. Visions, hallucinations – or is that even what it is? Is this real… or are you slowly descending into madness?

Moons of Madness draws upon the rich lore and mythology of Funcom’s Secret World Legends. Both games exist in the same thematic universe, but playing one is not a prerequisite to enjoy the other.

Once things progressed to an insane level of horror, Shane wakes up and I realized I was given a quick look at how these horrors will be driving forward. Moons Of Madness looks to be using more of my own expectations to drive that part forward and not just some cheap effects. Then, after getting back in the groove of it all, I moved forward with the routine that the character needed to go through each day. That also meant that I needed to look around and explore a bit more to learn more for the character and solve a few "puzzles" along the way. One of them being a basic password to access a terminal. This is where the exploration side of Moons Of Madness felt to start shining too.

As in most games out there, there are many items in the world that can be picked up and interacted with along the way. That is the same here for Moons Of Madness with some items having multiple ways to interact with them. For the above puzzle, I needed to search around for a picture of Shane's family with the code written on the back. This was one of the more basic puzzles, but something that could be overlooked and bypassed if a player wanted to try and brute force their way through. Given the creeping dread feeling throughout the game, it is not the best of options as you will want to move to the next section quickly to alleviate any kind of panic you or Shane may be feeling. I am still not sure if my words can paint that all in the best of lights.

Moons Of Madness — Screenshot Moons Of Madness — Screenshot Moons Of Madness — Screenshot
Moons Of Madness — Screenshot Moons Of Madness — Screenshot Moons Of Madness — Screenshot

From there, the rest of the demo for Moons Of Madness played out as a space station simulator with all of the horror elements still mixed in. I was tasked to restart the greenhouse and remove some of the flooding. Something that required me to find multiple tools and gain security clearance to open more doors. This would be about where my only real issue with the game came in as I needed to cycle through everything I had to try and figure out what was needed for the new step. Not that I wanted my hand held while doing this, but when walking up to a door that shows a level 2 security clearance is needed, it felt like it slowed things down to make me cycle through to the badge that had it. Maybe this will build tension later in the full version of Moons Of Madness, but it struck me as an odd choice to go with.

Outside of that, the rest of the puzzles and gameplay moved along fairly well. It never felt too difficult or too easy to solve the few extras that required me to turn valves and find missing components. Something that started to feel mundane and lull me back into my sense of security. This is when I think the next shining portion of Moons Of Madness struck as the horror came crashing back in and led to the end of the demo. Not in a bad way at all, but that it was all paced out to make sure I started with the fear and slowly came to think it had all passed. Then the surprise came and I was back into the horror and feeling as I believe Shane would be in the game. Read that as they have nailed the immersion down for Moons Of Madness and move right along.

I was amped to see what Moons Of Madness was going to offer up in terms of cosmic horror and the real-world style setting the game takes place in. Even if it all looks like it is something we have seen or played before. After playing this short demo, I can say that this game is going to be much more than what we know from before. Rock Pocket Games seems to be setting a new bar, for me, when it comes to how you can immerse a player in horror without needing to rely on the usual tropes. Mix in the fact that it will tie into Funcom's The Secret World and I am ready for Halloween to get here already. More than I normally am every year. I will also be brave enough to stream Moons Of Madness for those brave enough to join in.