About Tyler F.M. Edwards

Writer, gamer, and nerd of the highest order.

Review: Moons of Madness

I may not be thrilled with Funcom’s handling of The Secret World and its less than stellar reboot, but I love this setting, and I want to keep it alive, so I’m more than happy to support any games using its IP. Let’s be real anyway: A franchise of single-player games is probably what TSW should have been all along.

Mars as depicted in The Secret World spin-off game Moons of MadnessEnter Moons of Madness, the second single-player spin-off of The Secret World. It is significantly bigger and more ambitious than its predecessor, The Park, but not quite as brilliantly executed.

Taking place in the not too distant future, Moons of Madness places you in the shoes of a mid-level Orochi employee on a research base on Mars. Just by saying “Orochi,” I’ve probably given you a pretty good idea of what ends up happening. Suffice it to say things don’t go well.

The strange thing is that Moons of Madness is much more overt in connecting to the story of TSW than The Park was — familiar concepts like the Filth and anima are front and centre — but it still feels less like a TSW game.

What I like about the TSW setting is that it’s not what I would consider to be “traditional” horror. It’s not a barrage of jump scares and gross-outs; it has those things, but it doesn’t use them as a crutch. It’s more subtle.

Moons of Madness is not subtle. There are jump scares waiting around every corner. If you’re a hardcore horror fan, you might enjoy it, but I found it exhausting, and it feels crude compared to what has come before in the TSW setting.

Maddened scrawlings in The Secret World spin-off game Moons of Madness.It does get better near the end. The final couple hours become more surreal and narrative-focused, as you would expect from a good Secret World story. I enjoyed the game a lot more by then.

I didn’t love the very ending, though. It feels like it trivializes the threat of the Dreamers a bit.

When it comes to gameplay, Moons of Madness is competent, if not groundbreaking. When you take away the trappings of horror, this is essentially a puzzle game. A bit like an extended investigation mission from TSW, though not quite so devilishly arcane and difficult. Some puzzles are obvious, like brewing a specific chemical concoction, while others are more environmental puzzles around evading various threats.

I’m not a huge puzzle guy, but I think they mostly did a good job on these. A few are a bit frustrating (usually due to unclear instructions or other quality of life hiccups), but mostly they manage to hit the sweet spot of being just challenging enough to be interesting, at least for me.

They do a good job of keeping it fresh, too. New mechanics are continually introduced throughout the game, so it never starts to feel stale.

A creature of the Filth in The Secret World spin-off game Moons of Madness.On the whole, it’s a solid game, but it doesn’t feel quite as special as previous Secret World games.

Overall rating: 7/10

BlizzCon 2019 Leaves Me With Mixed Feelings

This is a sad day. While it may have had its disappointments before, BlizzCon has always felt a bit like Christmas morning to me. But nowadays Blizzard’s games have strayed far from what made me love them, and after they started creeping on female employees’ periods and stomping free speech to appease China’s government, I’ve decided to tentatively boycott future purchases.

A preview of Overwatch 2's new Sojourn heroStill, I’m watching the coverage. I have to for work if nothing else. The reveals so far give me a bit of hope, but perhaps not enough to turn things around for my dying love of Blizzard.

Yes, J. Allen Brack did open the convention with an apology for their screw-up regarding Hong Kong, and to be fair, he sounded pretty sincere. But waiting until now undermines that sincerity, and so far that apology is not backed up by any action. I’ll need to wait and see if this really changes my opinion in the long term.

Before I go any further, I will mention I’ve had a terrible week filled with health problems and other misery, so if I’m bit more ruthless in my rantiness than usual, I apologize.

Diablo IV:

Huge disappointment.

Everything about this reeks of an attempt to appease the edgelord fanboys who didn’t like Diablo III. It feels like they’re basically trying to pretend D3 didn’t happen. No returning characters, no indication that they’re picking up where Reaper of Souls’ cliff-hanger left off, no mention of the growing power of the Nephalem, no mention of saving Leah’s soul, no reckoning with Imperius.

A screenshot from Diablo IVOh, yes, and skill points are back, so you rest assured that once again get your build from Google and feel superior to everyone who didn’t! Who needs flexibility and meaningful customization?!?

Even the environments feel painfully uncreative. Just the same moors and deserts every Diablo game is apparently required to have. Take us to Xiansai or Skovos and I’d actually be excited.

Honestly, if Diablo III hadn’t happened, this would be an exciting sequel to Diablo II. But in a world where Diablo III exists, this feels like a step backwards in every possible way.

Except the graphics. Those are pretty awesome-looking.

Shadowlands:

I’m not sure how I feel about the new World of Warcraft expansion.

For most of the cinematic, I was terrified they were just going to make Sylvanas the Lich Queen, which would have been the Worst Twist Ever, but then… then things got interesting.

The cinematic trailer for World of Warcraft: ShadowlandsFrom a lore perspective, Shadowlands looks genuinely intriguing. Delving into the afterlife to confront a heretofore unknown threat is daring. It reminds me of Mists of Pandaria; it’s a setting we’ve heard of before, so it doesn’t feel like a total ass-pull, but we know basically nothing about it, so it’s a total blank slate to create new lore and stories.

That is deeply appealing.

On the other hand, Shadowlands appears to be the most unambitious expansion to date in terms of gameplay features. No new race, class, or even allied races.

The only new feature of any note appears to be Covenants, which sound like Legion’s class hall campaigns but fewer in number and therefore theoretically more fleshed out. That does sound cool, though. Encourages alt play, which I like.

Not sure that’s enough to win me back to WoW at this point, though. If they’d announced a permanent end to the faction conflict, or free to play, or an end to the restrictions on flying, I’d be ready to hop on the bandwagon, but as it is I’m on the fence on Shadowlands.

Arcturus Mengsk:

So after years of people asking for Valerian to be playable in StarCraft II co-op, we instead get… his father, who worked for Amon, the villain of co-op.

The Dominion Fleet calldown ability in StarCraft II co-op missions.Sure. That makes sense.

I don’t really feel the need for new commanders in co-op at this point, so I won’t be heartbroken if the new ones are no good, but yeah… this was not a good choice.

Overwatch 2:

Somewhat surprisingly this is what has me most tempted to break my boycott right now.

First off, that cinematic trailer was bloody amazing. Overwatch cinematics usually are, but this one takes the cake. Epic, fun, emotional. I loved Tracer posting a picture of her girlfriend in the cockpit of her jet.

Overwatch 2 itself is essentially a huge expansion pack for the original game that fleshes it out to what it should have been at launch. There will now be a story campaign and repeatable co-op missions that sound a lot like StarCraft II’s co-op.

This is what I wanted Overwatch to be from the start. Finally we’ll get to advance the story and explore this beautiful world Blizzard created.

Oh, yeah, and we’re getting Canadian representation. There’s a new Toronto map that looks fantastic — TTC streetcars! A Jamaican restaurant! — and if I’m not mistaken I’m pretty sure I saw a red maple leaf badge on the new hero, Sojourn.

A preview of Overwatch 2's Toronto mapYeah, this could win me back.

My one concern — aside from Blizzard’s recent scumminess in general — is that it looks you can’t solo the story missions, which could make for an unpleasant experience. SWTOR taught us how well story-driven experiences work with four player PUGs (poorly).

We’ll see what other news comes out over the coming days and weeks. If this BlizzCon had come in a different context, I would be far more impressed. As is, it’s a struggle for them to crawl out of the hole they’ve dug themselves… but there might be a sliver of hope yet.