Game Review: Moons of Madness

Release date: 2019
Version played: PlayStation 4 in 2020

A first-person psychological cosmic-horror game developed by Funcom, Moons of Madness was released in late 2019. Taking control of engineer Shane Newehart, you are tasked with maintaining the Mars space habitat along with the crew stationed there, including realigning satellites and ensuring the water filtration system is up and running. Sooner or later, everything goes bananas and you’ll be running for your life from creatures, androids, and various hallucinations, as you uncover the history of the Red Planet, its twin moons, and your own past.

+ I love a clever UI, and much like Dead Space, there is no on-screen health bar or the like; instead, you’ll have to actually tilt your view down at the display inside your spacesuit to see your heart rate and suit integrity – not that it ever really matters
+ horror movie atmosphere is really helped by the first person animations. The way Shane will fumble trying to refill the oxygen on his suit if his heart rate is too high is incredibly immersive, and the way he bursts so suddenly through most doors means you’ll just wait for that one time something is standing right in front of you

– the voice work is not good at all. There is almost no emotion in any of the dialogue, and characters will make jokes in the face of death before flipping a switch to being terrified of whatever they were previously ignoring
– the story starts off pretty good, but falls off a cliff around the two-thirds mark. Piecing together the story-under-the-surface, as it is, is fantastic at first, but that soon gives way to characters outright stating the obvious. Between you and me, I hated the ending like you wouldn’t believe, with so many un-answered questions it is like the developers just decided they had had enough and wrote a ‘fade to black’ at the end of the script with no rhyme or reason
– the gameplay is neither smooth nor responsive, and the severe lack of anything to do just makes me frustrating more than anything. There is no real-time combat in this game, but at the same time it is hard to even call it a game. A handful of incredibly easy puzzles dot the quite short story, but they might as well just be items to pick up instead (and then one puzzle so difficult I wanted to scream before realising the instructions were a bit unclear and getting it first try)
– there are a lot of little things that bother me, such as dialogue being cut off mid sentence, when the subtitles imply there was more, or dialogue not playing at all as the subtitles run through. A few times triggers did not occur leaving me stuck in a room, but upon restarting the checkpoint, the things that should have been there were now there, allowing me to progress
– it’s a petty negative, but there is no chapter selection menu, and a missable trophy was only available if you went out of your way to do the wrong thing in the face of a very obvious and clear trap. We don’t need crap like that in this gaming age

Should you play this game: This was not good, and in fact I’d say this was bad. A great atmosphere can only take the game so far, before the clumsy gameplay, repetitive story structure and horrendous ending ruin any goodwill I had built up.

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