Conarium (PC) Review

By Wes Maulsby 04.04.2018

Review for Conarium on PC

Back in the '90s, the adventure genre would regularly produce some of the best games in a given year. Led by primarily by LucasArts, it pumped out titles that could appeal to fans of a variety of genres from action to sci-fi, to horror and to comedy; adventure games had it all. Nowadays, the genre is much less prevalent, and fans most often get their fix via indie developers, and this is where Zoetrope Interactive comes in. It has released two previous adventure horrors with the Darkness Within series, and its latest release, Conarium, continues the trend of releasing psychological horror adventures inspired by the eldritch tales of H.P. Lovecraft.

Waking up from a strange dream, players will take control of Frank Gilman, an anthropologist, and part of the Upuaut arctic expedition, to find a lost pre-human civilisation. Being a Lovecraftian psychological horror, though, things don't just quickly go awry, they are that way from the start, and Frank must discover what has happened to the leader of the expedition, Dr. Faust, as well as the rest of the crew.

One aspect that sticks out is that it is so upfront with its Lovecraftian inspiration. Fans of the genre will find many common themes that are present in not only other Lovecraft-inspired releases, but in other entertainment media, as well. The constant talk of the pineal gland means that the 1986 film, From Beyond, was kept in mind while reviewing for virtually the entire length of Conarium's roughly six-hour experience.

Screenshot for Conarium on PC

While on the one hand fans will find everything they have come to enjoy from this sub-genre, they will also find that much of this has been done before. Throughout the journey, there will be many familiar symbols, words, and elements that give an element of predictability that most certainly does not work in its favour. Anyone familiar with Lovecraft will be three steps ahead and will know the ending long before it begins its approach. Newcomers, however, will find the tumble down a Lovecraftian rabbit hole a very strange, yet enticing trip - and Conarium serves as a fine first voyage for anyone curious about Lovecraft's cosmic/eldritch horror.

Working in Conarium's favour is the noticeably high amount of polish that has gone into its presentation. Virtually everything encountered feels as though it has been scoured with a magnifying glass, and cleansed of any possible imperfections. The 3D models and textures all look sharp, and the environments that function as a guide through psychological madness all drown the player in a sea of crisp details and touch.

Screenshot for Conarium on PC

The other key aspect of the polish comes through in the story, which is told either via a vocal delivery from one of two primary characters, or through the vast amount of textual notes and clues the player will stumble upon. Other than a very rare difference between a vocal line and a subtitle, these aspects of the game are done at a very high level, and one that may not be expected from an indie title.

The early hours are enthralling. Exploring an empty facility battered and beaten by a blizzard are the high point of the entire experience. The sound effects of the wind, and creaking and buckling of the walls around the player, work to maintain an ever-increasing tension level. Scattered throughout the station are notes and clues that shed more light onto the situation and what sort of fate may have befallen the rest of the crew. Stumbling around in the dark for the first couple of hours, and fearing what may be around the next corner, is beyond satisfying, and gamers will have an eagerness to push forward and discover what other secrets lie in wait.

Screenshot for Conarium on PC

Unfortunately, that eagerness comes… and then goes, along with the sublime environment of the arctic station. About a third of the way into the experience, you begin your descent into an ancient land beneath the ice, and that is where Conarium begins to stumble. Once out of the station, the trail of textual breadcrumbs comes to a complete halt as the player explores a new environment that is stricken with uniformity. The new rooms, locations, and environments eventually begin to bleed into each other to form one amoebic mass. Along this new route, there are certainly some scares to be had, but most will become too accustomed to what they are, as well as their source.

After walking around for hours looking at the same statues and hieroglyphs, it becomes all too clear what is going on, and once the audience knows what the monster is, it is no longer scary. Although the final location does come along at what feels like the perfect time to break up the monotony, it is unable to return the game to the highs of its early portions. With too much already revealed, it means that the finale cannot quite measure up to its start, despite making a solid attempt to the contrary.

Screenshot for Conarium on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Conarium is a game with a lot of potential. Those early hours spent with it will prove to be difficult to walk away from. However, it is too willing to toss away its fairly slow and tense pace to thrust forward the reveal of the truth behind its mysteries. With those questions gone, all that remains is a standard adventure experience of some puzzles and brainteasers on the way to the end of the story. The ending does its best to redeem the weak middle section, but it is not quite strong enough to lift the whole thing back up to those suspenseful and tension-filled first couple of hours.

Developer

Zoetrope Interactive

Publisher

Iceberg

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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