Moons of Madness




Genre:    Adventure 

Developer:  Rock Pocket Games

Publisher:    Funcom

Released:   October 22, 2019


Requirements (minimum):

  • OS: Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10 x64 
  • Processor: Intel i5-760 or AMD Athlon X4 740 or equivalent processor
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Geforce GTX 460 or MX150 or Radeon R7 260X or better
  • Storage: 15 GB available space  



By flotsam

Moons of Madness

Rock Pocket Games

Are you slowly descending into madness?

It's a question worth asking, as it might explain the hallucinations, or the dreams, or whatever they are. Or might it all be real – you aren't alone in your experiences.

You play as Shane Newehart, a technician on a Martian research station. Not everything is within his pay grade and security classification, but he knows what he needs to in order to keep the lights on and the satellite dishes aligned. Which need tending to, so onto the surface you go.

But not before a glimpse behind the curtain. The station appears abandoned, the greenhouse is flooded, and the strange plant life is taking over. But then the vision passes and the "real" and mundane world returns.

Pacing is one of the many high points in this game. It starts slowly, settling you into the controls and the events, but promising a fair bit more. Which comes, and then recedes, and then comes back again. The events can and probably will kill you, but the game is never overwhelming. Frustrating here and there perhaps, as you grapple with how to proceed, but it walks a nice line between the broader and more prevalent exploration and puzzling, and the action.

With respect to the latter, there is more running away or avoiding than there is outright confrontation. Stealth plays a part in some sequences as does hacking – taking control of security cameras and moving them can enable you to pass by without triggering the security bots – and staying off the sand as much as possible strongly diminishes the chance of being eaten by a Dune-like sandworm. In another area, a large black tentacle-thing will halt its advances if looked at, and retreat if advanced upon, making proceeding through that part far less problematic than it could otherwise be. In the same vein, retreat when the tendrils start to literally scratch at your faceplate, and think again. Observe the path of security bots and move to avoid them.

Even the out and out action is designed to be "managed". A chase sequence for example gives you plenty of time to reach a safe place to draw breath. Taking the wrong exit point from there will get you killed every time, whereas the right one will again give you time to move on. The most direct battle, one involving a sentient tree and a crowbar, is dependent on finding the right sequence of weak points to hit. You will die doing so, definitely more than once but knowing that it isn't a bludge fest (and the game gives you feedback to that effect) just means try again but do something different.

There are even encounters which are not really encounters. A squidlike thing that you run away from early on will cross your path on a number of future occasions, but you won't have to actually do anything. The game manages the "interaction" for you.

Which is not to diminish the action elements, rather to paint a picture of how they work, especially if these things aren't usually your stock in trade.

You can't save at will, but the save checkpoints are fairly generous, including within the action sequences. This ensures that e.g. the chase sequence referred to above doesn't have to be done from the very start if you get killed along the way.

With respect to the puzzling, I was well pleased. There are a range of different types, some deceptively clever in their simplicity, and none obtuse or opaque. Reading notes and emails will assist with many, clues (or answers) being scattered throughout. It's a fairly linear game, and you don't do a lot of backtracking (although you will return throughout the game to some locations more than once), so most of what you need will be in the immediate environment.

Then there is the horror element. The game is self-described as being "where the scientific exploration of Mars meets the supernatural dread of Lovecraft", and Mars is a pretty good place for Lovecraft-ness to flourish. While there are occasional jump scares (and jump I did) it isn't terribly scary, the horror being more of the slow building tension and freakiness kind. Which it does well, building an atmosphere in which something untoward might be just around the corner.

The emails and notes I referred to will help detail the backstory, as will the scrawls and scribbles on the walls and whiteboards, along with your radio conversations with other team members. The plot is over the top as you would expect, not terribly sensible but so what. The experience is the thing.

Which I liked a lot. The look, the sound, the weirdness – it ticked a lot of my boxes.

The more mundane exploration I particularly liked. The planetary surface and the station environments are impressively detailed, and the soundscape helps build a realistic feel to those elements. Not that I have ever been to Mars of course.

It's a solitary first person endeavour, save for your radio interactions and the visitations from … whatever. The keyboard is used to move around, as well as to navigate within various of the puzzles. You steer with the mouse. The left mouse is used to interact with the game world, and the right mouse will also scan your local environment, allowing you to connect to all manner of things through your wrist "communicator". This is how you hack cameras and interact with machinery. It is also an essential part of destroying toxic plant life.

Pressing "O" will remind you of your objective, and indicate whereabouts it is (and how far away). Having items in your inventory will allow them to be used through a context cursor. There is no inventory management in the traditional sense.

Looking down while wearing your spacesuit helmet enables you to read your vital statistics but more importantly see how much oxygen you have left. Filling stations are prevalent, and oxygen was never an issue, but I did keep it topped-up as much as possible. Nice little touches such as an increasing heart rate, breathlessness and your hands shaking added to the realism of the exertion.

There are two endings based on a choice you make just before the finish. Either was fine by me given what had come before.

Moons of Madness took me about 8 hours, and I liked every one of them, and all of them together.


I played on:

OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit

Processor: Intel i7-9700k 3.7 GHz

RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4 32GB

Video card: AMD Radeon RX 580 8192MB


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