Mansions Of Madness Deserves A Better Video Game

Illustration for article titled Mansions Of Madness Deserves A Better Video Game
Image: Asmodee

Fantasy Flight’s Mansions of Madness, the standout game from the publisher’s Arkham Horror line-up, is one of my favourite board game experiences of all time, a near-perfect blend of occult investigation and unforgiving combat. Both things that its new video game adaptation is terrible at.

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Which shouldn’t be too surprising, given this game’s rocky history. First announced back in 2018 as an adaptation of the board game, only with extra video gamey bits, and even sharing its Mansions of Madness name, it was originally due out in 2019. But then developers LuckyHammers went bust, publishers Asmodee had to find the game a new home (which they eventually did, at Artefacts Studio), and it slid from that 2019 release all the way to 2021.

The game, finally and officially released last week, is now called Arkham Horror: Mother’s Embrace, and it is most definitely not a straight adaptation of the board game. Whatever development hell the game endured in those missing years has taken its toll, because rather than taking in the full scope and scale of the board game, this is a rudimentary turn-based combat game with some limited investigation/adventure stuff padding it out.

There’s almost nothing to recommend here. Animation is clunky and excruciatingly slow, the interface is drab and limited, combat is simple and incredibly repetitive, and the whole thing just has this strong energy of being a bad Telltale adventure game clone from the early 2010s.

Perhaps most disappointing is that, developmental (and financial, remember, Asmodee is a board game company) issues aside, Mother’s Embrace’s cartoony presentation and poor voice acting mean it never comes close to matching the sense of foreboding and sheer terror present on the tabletop, which is a big part of its appeal.

I’m bummed out by this! I love the board game so much, and on paper, Asmodee’s efforts to branch the series out and bring it to a wider audience are a really good idea. But they just keep messing it up, first with Final Hour, and now with this, to the point where I worry instead of making Arkham Horror more popular they’re just going to turn folks away from the series instead.

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Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

DISCUSSION

soildsnake
Soild Snake

I have been a long time fan of all the TT FF Arkham games (Arkham Horror, Eldritch Horror, Mansions of Madness, Arkham Horror Card Game) . All of them have great parts, and all of them have a ratio of bad parts to those great parts.

Somehow Mother’s Embrace managed to not get a single thing right. The parts it included from its sources are the worst bits plus a bunch of terrible bits it came up with itself. And on top of that, the narration and wildly fluctuating tone manages to make it even worse. Like I can’t think of another recent game that is this wrong.