E3 2019: Funcom Showcase

Moons of Madness

For being a dead guy, H. P. Lovecraft is a pretty popular these days. There have been many video games that have adapted, in one way or another, Lovecraft’s writings of the weird such as  FromSoftware’s Bloodborne and the more recent Call of Cthulhu by Cyanide Studios. Funcom, publisher of games Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, Conan Exiles, and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is getting in on the action with Rocket Pocket Games’ Moons of Madness, a first person horror adventure that puts Lovecraft’s brand of cosmic nightmare fuel in its rightful place: Mars. 

With a title that draws allusions to Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, Moons of Madness brings horror back to space, something that hasn’t been done nearly as well as Alien Isolation and the first two Dead Space games. You and a compliment of scientists have been sent to Invictus, a state-of-the-art research facility designed to study the red planet at the behest of a potentially shady organization. As a technician, your day to day routine involves keeping the lights running until you can be replaced by a fresh, new crew. Problems begin when your seemingly normal life is disrupted by nightmarish visions of...something. In a dark version of Invictus, the facility has been completely trashed and overrun by ugly and gross biological masses that cling to walls and ceilings and sprout black tentacles. During the waking hours, the station is normal apart from a few glitches terminals and locked doors and the crew is alive. It was hinted in my demo that parts of Invictus were kind of falling apart. I didn’t know the extent of which as the bulk of my session was spent through the “normal” version where I could talk to staff, make coffee, and take a run on a treadmill. Though brief, I got to experience the game’s horror bits and while I really dig sci-fi horror, I still played the game with half-covered eyes. 

The demo ended with a sudden flurry of activity as a result of hitting a normal switch on a completely normal panel. Judging by the giant tentacles that sprung forth, I’m guessing what I did was bad. Or maybe not? Maybe is was another vision? You’ll have to wait and find out but not very long. Moons of Madness releases on October 31st, 2019 for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. 

Conan Chop Chop

Conan Chop Chop was probably the best game to see after a long, busy day at E3. Built from the ground up as an online/couch co-op game, Conan Chop Chop takes the deep, expansive lore of the Conan series by Robert B. Howard turns it into a fun, somewhat cutesy rogue-like where the characters have sticks for arms and legs and the music is delightfully tinny. Considering all the Conan video games Funcom has published, it makes sense to add this game to their roster!

There’s a story to Conan Chop Chop but because this was my last appointment of what was an exhausting day at E3, I had trouble following along. Not because it was bad, cheesy, or confusing--far from it! It’s obvious that someone at Mighty Kingdom, the developers of the game, is a huge Conan nerd because the pitch made to me contained all sorts of references to the character’s adventures in Hyboria. It all flew over my head because my only exposure to the character was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian film. The good news is that you don’t have to be a Robert B. Howard mega fun to appreciate the delightful and violent fun of exploring the world and dungeons with friends and hacking monsters and huge bosses to bloody bits. 

This rogue-like adventure begins with putting players inside a village, a central hub where they can heal up, talk to the locals, and spend any coins you collect in the wild on weapons, gear, and special abilities. Once everyone it kitted up, you’re free to wander about the world, moving one enemy filled screen at a time. Exploration may lead you to zones marked by contrasting biomes that you cannot traverse unless you’ve found a special item that’s dropped by dead bosses. Combat is easy and straightforward, with swords that go chop-chop and arrows and other projectiles that strike targets at a distance. New weapons and items can be found in the field as random drops though if you die, you’ll lose them for good. Death is a pain--it sucks to lose stuff--but when playing with friends, they can revive your corpse by mashing one of the face buttons to fill up a health meter. Reviving a friend is its own risk and reward system because the more you mash the button, they more health they come back with. However, doing this leaves you open to attack and when the action is fast and furious, like in a boss battle, well....let’s just say there’s bound to be a lot of yelling. 

With easy to get into gameplay and controls, sense of humor, and visual design that made me think of Cyanide and Happiness, Conan Chop Chop looks great and plays great. Although you could easily play it by yourself, this is a game that’s better with friends if only for the joy that comes from screaming, shouting, and cheering at each other. 

Conan Chop Chop hacks and slashes its way into our hearts in September 2019. 

Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.