Conarium is an upcoming horror game by Zoetrope Interactive For the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game is inspired by Lovecraft and it shows. From a tentacle monster to some pretty creepy local, there is some potential here. However, from the preview build I played, it is has a lot of work to do. The gameplay just can't live up to the strong environmental design.
Conarium will be available for purchase on Steam.
I don't have much to say on the story just yet. You play as Frank Gilman on an expedition in Upuaut Antartica. Someone from the expedition contacts you and tells you to take a submarine and meet up with them. All of this is told rather poorly through a block of text on the screen. That is about all that is mentioned in the preview build.
The story takes kind of falls off as puzzle solving and lore takes over. The lore mentioned isn't very interesting and is almost always just memories that pop up to give you a hint as to what you are supposed to do. It isn't very involved or interesting, but the preview build only takes around half-an-hour once you know what you are doing so there is plenty for them to expand upon.
Adding more to the story, however, won't help its presentation. Everything is told to you for no real reason. While you are exploring, you come across weird bodies attached to the walls in some goo. Your character then proceeds to explain what you just saw for no other reason than to talk. He also did this earlier to announce that the doors I tried to open were locked. This comes down to showing vs telling and Conarium is doing far too much telling. Let me piece together the pieces. I don't need everything explained to me. I can figure out that a door is locked.
The gameplay is really where Conarium begins to fall apart. As I mentioned before, if you know what you are doing this preview build can be beaten in half-an-hour at most. It took me over an hour-and-a-half to beat the preview build. That would be fine if it was because I was stuck on a puzzle that I couldn't figure out. However, that wasn't really the case.
I got near the end of the preview build only to figure out that apparently, I missed something. That's fine, the game even told me to just go back and find it. That would be great if I could do that. However, I can't. Trying to backtrack actually just kills me. Instead, I had to start the entire game over again to go back and get what I needed. I then thought I did something else wrong because it showed the same death cutscene only this time, for no reason at all, I live. That about sets the tone for the gameplay.
The game is about finding items and solving puzzles only known of them were difficult. I only got stuck at the part where it kept killing me for trying to backtrack. The puzzles just consisted of using the axe you just got to do stuff. Which also leads to another issue I have with the game. The axe is terrible.
The game often has these very obvious weak walls in your way. All you have to do is take the axe out and chop them out of your way. While it sounds simple, it is actually incredibly annoying. It takes forever to hack at these walls and even then it is incredibly easy to get stuck on tiny pieces on the ground because you can't jump. The space bar is actually how you access you inventory, which is kind of annoying. I found myself pressing space to jump only to open my inventory because jumping isn't actually a thing. I admit that that is more on me, but I would like to see the walls be destroyed much faster than that we have a jump button. It just feels odd not having one in this style of game.
Conarium also suffers from just being boring. The preview build offered no enemies what-so-ever. There was no way to die until the very end which really hurts the tension. If there was a monster hunting after me, it would have at least made solving those super easy puzzles a tense experience. Instead, I just took my time and walked around a lot. It has far more in common right now with a walking simulator than a Lovecraft-inspired horror game.
Graphics and Sound
The sound isn't quite as good, but it isn't terrible. The random rock falls would have been far more terrifying if there was actually something there, but as it stands they just became background noise that I stopped noticing. The music is forgettable but it didn't distract me from the experience.
In conclusion, Conarium has failed to impress. The gameplay is boring, the puzzles are easy, and it is rather cheap with the one death it has for the preview build. Killing a player and making them start the game over for simply not finding a symbol they need without knowing they need it is absolutely terrible design and I hope to see that fixed before it launches in Q2 of this year. The axe also needs to be changed so it can go through those walls faster because it is an annoying process as it stands right now.
While the art style and graphics are pretty good, it doesn't save it. The sound is lackluster and forgettable while the story is told far too heavy-handedly. I don't need or want everything explained to me. I don't need someone to just quote what I can observe for myself. The story needs more showing and less telling. As it stands right now, unless the full game drastically alters how the preview version plays, this just isn't a game I can see myself recommending to other people.
|+ Graphics||– Boring creature design|
|+ Art style||– Simple puzzles|
|– Forced game restart|