In Moons of Madness, players experience various episodes of characters pushed to their psychological limits in remote and isolated areas on Earth and beyond. Forced to contend with their past and the horrors that stalk them, many of the stories will offer a personal, and haunting tale of the human condition, while also focusing on the larger horrors at play. Infusing elements of Lovecraftian fiction-with a focus on body horror, isolation, and nihilism–and along with the narrative and introspective style of characters found in story focused adventure games–Moons Of Madness plans to show how a number of different characters deal with the darkness inside of them, as they confront the larger terrors of the unknown.
Set in proposed series of interconnected series of stories, Moons Of Madness tells different sides of larger story, all of which are related in themes of mental illness, and how a darker force within the universe may be connected. Speaking with designer Aaron Dintino and producer Natascha Röösli at Rock Pocket Games, they discussed the genres that have inspired the game, and the style of stories they want to tell in the upcoming horror adventure game.
“We’ve been trying to stay away from something that is super linear,” said Dintino the designer. “It’s more like having the player explore the environment and investigate. To really get a feel for the area and get a better context for the story and the character. It’s very much inspired by the classic point-and-click adventure games. Throughout this journey for Shane Newhart [the lead character of the Mars story], we learn more about his family’s history of mental illness, and how it’s affected him personally and the people around him.”
While some stories will be more modest in scope, others will take players off-planet, and into places where humanity has only scratched the surface of exploring. In this particular story, players find themselves in the boots of Shane Newehart, an astronaut on the planet Mars. Set in the near future, the Astronaut must deal with technical issues plaguing Earth’s manned mission to the surface of the red planet, but he’ll soon learn that there are deeper horrors ready to pick apart his already fragile psyche, which has been wracked with guilt and depression due to his family’s history of mental illness.
Similar to titles like Firewatch and SOMA, Moons of Madness relies heavily on environmental story telling and dialog between multiple characters. There are many items to interact with, some of which Shane has an attachment to–such as pictures from home and notes to himself. Along the way, he’ll get responses from his partner Orson, who will ask him questions, mostly casual and friendly, while others somewhat personal. Though Shane can either respond to or ignore outright, oftentimes how you react to them is more telling–which will come out in a variety of strange results through dialog or other interactive moments. While this approach isn’t that all unique, the setting certainly adds a certain amount of flavor to the experience, giving it a stronger sense of isolation and calm–which of course is soon disrupted.
Though despite the focus on scares, and featuring characters with issues relating to their mental health, the developers don’t wish to use mental illness as a crutch to justify the horrors happening in the game. While it is used to illustrate the character’s current mental state, they don’t plan to use it ways that would fall into horror cliches where those suffering from mental illnesses are in constant distress.
“Above all, we didn’t want to antagonize people who suffer from metal illnesses,” said producer Natascha Röösli. “We found that in a lot of horror games, that people who suffer from illnesses are portrayed in a negative light. We definitely want to show that in a different way. So it’s more there to tell the story of the main characters, and the experiences they’re going through. To see them being confronted by their past, in the face of this other force.”
As you explore Mars and repair several solar energy panels, Shane’s mental state will begin to unravel, imagining instances where he’ll talk to his partner Orson, and the sudden appearance of constructs that shouldn’t be there. The Astronaut will have to solve some interesting puzzles involving the equipment lying around–such as restoring power to rigs and elevators, and other things that just don’t belong on Mars–while also trying to stay engaged to his partner and what they have to say. While it starts off fairly calm and collected, it soon descends into dark territory. Since he’s out on Mars, the main character must continually monitor his oxygen, which will drain quicker during some of the more tense moments.
While Moons Of Madness is still a ways off, it’s interesting to see more titles try to reexamine horror and its focuses. Though there’s still a jump-scare or two to be had in the game, this Lovecraft-influenced game has much more going on, and it plans to show that though character moments and how their past connects to their present state. From there, it’s a dark decent into the horrors of man’s subconscious, and the forces that lurk in the further reaches of the universe.