Good games based on the works of Lovecraft are few and far between, mostly because insanity and the unspeakable, mind-bending nature of the creatures in his mythos are hard to properly portray. The more successful examples of attempts to adapt his work include Penumbra, Bloodborne and Darkest Dungeon, all of which root themselves in the thematic elements of his work through an elegant blend of lore and gameplay mechanics. Inspired by these titles and the works of the man himself, Zoetrope Interactive, a newcomer to the indie scene, has announced its first project will be Conarium, a puzzle-focused survival-horror game which draws heavily on one of Lovecraft’s longest and more famous works: At the Mountains of Madness.

The game has already received a place in the Steam store, and is set for release in Q2 of 2017. Based on the initial teaser trailer, I was immediately hooked, given the SOMA-like ‘questionable sanity’ vibes given by the way that odd artifact wiggles and buzzes like an image on a TV screen. My interest was further enhanced when the protagonist was then transported to a strange ruin and ambushed by what I assume to be one of the Elder Things (if Zoetrope is indeed sticking to the established lore).  According to what I was able to glean from the press kit, the game is set in a location near the site of the titular Antarctic expedition featured in At the Mountains of Madness, and possibly deals with the follow-up investigation that the narrator of the story warns feverishly against sending. The press kit has the following to say about the details:

​You, as Frank Gilman, open your eyes inside a room filled with strange, pulsating noises. Patterns of lights executing a Danse Macabre on the walls is presented by a queer device on the table. Having recalled nothing other than that you’re in Upuaut, an Antarctic base located near south pole, you find the place deserted and have a distinct feeling of something being terribly wrong.

The more recent gameplay footage released by Youtubers like GameZine who were allowed to try a demo of the game seems to indicate a heavy focus on puzzle-solving and sanity-based horror, which is to be expected. It does seem heavily inspired by titles such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent, at least in terms of mechanics, but I have no issue with that, given my love of virtually anything that resembles that game. There also seems to be a high amount of production value as well. Environments are quite beautiful and will immediately make any Lovecraft fan think of the sunken cities and wind-torn ruins that seem to be favored by the alien civilizations of the Cthulhu Mythos, complete with cyclopean architecture and the odd tentacle.

Of course, the most important element of any Lovecraftian tale is the plot itself. The gameplay indicates that the developers are aiming for a non-linear narrative, with flashbacks (or possibly hallucinations) featuring prominently as the protagonist goes from the belly of a steampunk one-man submarine to a cabin aboard a small sea vessel, then to the wasted ruins of a long-gone civilization. In my quest to know more (so often the doom of Lovecraftian protagonists), I was also able to dig up an interview with the game’s 3D artist, Onur Samli, which sadly spoiled some of my hopes regarding the game’s inclusion of certain features. On the subject of a sanity mechanic in the vein of Amnesia, he had the following to say.

​Actually, I can’t say the concept of perception exceeds the storytelling to become a major mechanic of the game. We’re strongly limited to the narrative design. We tried to incorporate such elements as a main mechanic but we quickly realized, being a team of three comes with its limitations

​That being said, I’m still excited. Onur’s statement about the Zoetrope team’s goal about telling a story is more than enough for me to go off of, provided it’s a good one.

​Our sole desire is to convey a Lovecraftian story that players can immerse into and feel as if they are exploring secrets spanning from the modern world of 1950’s to what remains of an unfathomable antediluvian epoch when civilizations unknown to men arose and fell to ruin.

​While it might be Zoetrope‘s first outing into serious game development, I still have high hopes about what they might achieve. What do you think? Does it look worth it? What are your thoughts regarding their objectives? Let me know in the comments below! And in case you wanted to see the gameplay yourself, here’s the trailer!

Original Article @ Gatekeeper Reviews