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Call Of Cthulhu

Posted by GG Goblin On November - 12 - 2018

It’s the tentacles that scare me.

Cyanide Studios are one of those slightly smaller studios that seem to keep on churning out games. Not all of them hit the intended spot, but you have to admire the studio for their persistence. The latest video game offering is once again an adaptation, but this time of a pen and paper RPG rather than a board game. Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu, based on the Lovecraft-created mythos, has been around for ages. Cyanide Studios have taken the atmosphere of the pen and paper RPG and created a video game adaptation. Although Cyanide may not be the first to tackle Cthulhu, I think it is fair to say that this is the best.

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Let’s get something straight from the very beginning. With the Call of Cthulhu game launching around Halloween, you may be mistaken for thinking that it will be an all singing and all scaring horror game. Well, it isn’t. Being able to translate the atmosphere and gradual loss of sanity found in the Lovecraftian tales to a video game would be near impossible, I would imagine. A lot of the terror comes from the whole fact that the human mind would not be able to comprehend such horrors. So, Call of Cthulhu will not scare your socks off.

However, what Call of Cthulhu does well is tell a tale. The gameplay may be hit and miss, but the story telling is very nicely done and compelling enough to push the player forward through this atmospheric game, possibly as far as to lose their mind.

It’s 1924 and players take on the role of Edward Pierce, a damaged former soldier who is struggling to make a living as a private investigator. Pierce is hired to look into the death of Sarah Hawkins, an artist who dies in a fire on the family home of Darkwater Island. It all seems fairly straight forward until arriving on the island and having to interact with the former whaling community. Then, well, all bets are off.

cthul2 (Copy)

Pierce has his own demons to deal with, but they are nothing compared to the things happening on Darkwater Island. The whole place is dripping with atmosphere and a sense of unease, as if every single person is keeping a secret that they are worried Pierce will uncover. The place is dark and damp, feeling as though it has been forgotten by the rest of the world, and the characters to be found by the docks, from the local cops to the unsavoury regulars in the bar, are all suspicious of strangers. As the player progresses through the game and starts uncovering the secrets of Sarah Hawkins and Darkwater Island itself, things will get even more unsettling.

Cyanide have done a great job of setting this atmosphere for the player to investigate. It really feels authentically Lovercraftian. It has to be said that the visuals do feel somewhat last generation, with a certain graininess and not the best character modelling ever. However, it is partly down to these rougher looking graphics that the game feels authentic, almost casting a layer of suspense over the whole thing that would have not been possible with shiny, AAA visuals. The soundtrack also goes a long way towards setting the atmosphere, and even the voice work seems to fit well with the setting. It’s not always perfect, but it really does work.

When it comes to the gameplay, players will mostly be looking at investigation and exploration, with the occasional puzzle thrown in. The puzzles range from finding objects in the environment, to some really clever puzzles later in the game. Either way, the puzzles are interesting and there are often different ways to solve them depending on what skills Pierce has concentrated on. Pierce has a number of skills that can be upgraded with points as the player levels up. These skills, which range from Eloquence and Strength to Medicine and Occultism, will open up different options to players in how they approach or deal with things on the island. There will be a lot of dialogue as the player is talking to various characters, trying to get information, and the effectiveness of different skills will open different dialogue options. Or a skill may allow the player to find some hidden artefact that will allow the player to bypass an entire puzzle. Medicine and Occultism are not upgraded in the normal way, but rather through items found during gameplay.

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Call of Cthulhu is packed with secrets and information, and a lot of this can be bypassed altogether if the player fails to explore fully, or even depending on where the player has put their points in the skills. This, added to the multiple available endings, will give players a good reason to come back for more than one playthrough.

That being said, the enjoyable exploration and investigation side of the game is joined by a rather uninteresting stealth aspect. It makes sense for there to be a stealth side to the game, as the player will be exploring in some unwelcome areas, and possibly facing foes against which they have no defence, but it feels a real shame that the stealth side wasn’t better. Players will often find themselves having to awkwardly sneak around, trying to either get through an area or find whatever information they need, without being seen by enemies. If they spot Pierce, then it is time to try again. Enemies are marked to show where they are, but it still becomes a matter or trial and error as to the player getting through unseen. Sometimes, the enemies can even look right at the player without seeing them, so any sense of threat is pretty much removed.

As the player progresses in the game, they will inevitably call into question the sanity of their character, Edward Pierce. Cyanide have managed to create the sense of losing ones mind really well in the game, and Pierce will find himself losing control as he finds out and witnesses more and more disturbing things. This will have the player starting to question what is real, but doesn’t go so far as to fall into chaos.

chtul4 (Copy)

Cyanide’s Call of Cthulhu is a solid Lovercraft-inspired adventure game with an emphasis on investigation and exploration. The atmosphere and writing will pull the player in as they need to find out what on earth, or off earth, is going on in Darkwater. There are a few failings, such as the stealth sequences, that throw off the balance of the game. And the game is certainly not scary, for those looking for a post Halloween thrill. For Lovecraft fans, Call of Cthulhu manages to create an authentic experience that invites madness.




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