Conarium Preview: A Haunting Expedition into a Lovecraftian Madness
I have always been a fan of HP Lovecraft and anything inspired by his writing. So I was thrilled to get to preview a new game by Zoetrope Interactive, an indie studio from Istanbul, Turkey. The game, coming soon to Steam, Xbox One and PS4, is psychological horror adventure called Conarium. It draws a lot of inspiration from one of Lovecraft's novella called "At the Mountains of Madness".
You play as one of four scientists who are on an Antarctic expedition explore the limits of the human consciousness and to go beyond it with the help of a mystical device called the Conarium. Something disastrous happens which knocks you unconscious.
You wake up alone and with no recollection of what transpired. To avoid giving anything away, I can only say there is a particular reason why you can't remember anything -- but as you journey through the base and explore the temples and caverns you come across, you start to piece together what has happened.
An Eerie Aesthetic
The look of Conarium is fantastic. I suppose you could say that it looks like anything that is inspired by Lovecraft -- dark, detailed, and full of shadows. It also leaves quite a lot to the imagination. In some places, it tricks your mind into thinking that there is something there that really isn't.
There are certain things that you will certainly find familiar if you've played other games in this genre. There are statues of Cthulhu-esque monsters, reptilian skeletons, and images of the Elder Sign all over the place (the Elder Sign is a protection charm, made of a roughly drawn star shape with an eye at its center).
So Atmospheric It Drives You Insane
The theme of madness runs deep into Conarium. The moment you see something creepy or something you can't explain, you are sent into a maddening stupor. Your vision blurs and you can't move as quickly as you would normally. This brings a fantastic edge and sense of vulnerability to the game. Rather than just the player getting scared ( which believe me, it will happen), the effects of what you experience have a prolonged grip on your character, which brings a different dimension to the madness. This means that you need to try and avoid being scared -- but you won't always be able to.
Conarium also boasts an extremely haunting soundtrack. While there isn't much in the way of music, what there is is very subtle and atmospheric. You get all the eerie sounds of being in underground caverns, coupled with strange whispers and odd whooshing sounds. While this sets about creating the atmosphere, the real thing you need to listen to is the storytelling. Some serious thought and research are obvious here, and have coalesced into an experience that is worthy of being called Lovecraft-inspired.
Aside from all the sights and sounds and how well the game has been made, you can't forget that you are trying to piece together memories and events that you have forgotten. Occasionally you come across puzzles that need to be solved and clues to be studied to unlock secrets. Death itself also plays a big part in the game. When you die, you get transported to another area -- which in turn unlocks more secrets and clues.
It is clear that the developers have done their research and created a game that anyone who is a fan of Lovecraft and other eldritch literature would love. The story, the setting, the atmosphere...all of it is really on point here. Conarium follows in a long line of games of this genre, but all things point to this particular title being a very strong contender as one of the best. I am really looking forward to playing the full game once it has released on Steam. I have high, insanity-inducing hopes for this game!
Conarium releases on Steam on June 6th. But make sure you check back with GameSkinny for more Conarium coverage!