CALL OF CTHULHU Review: Something Fishy This Way Comes

Developed by Cyanide Studio

Published by Focus Home Interactive

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One

Available for $60 ($45 on PC)


It’s strange with how few straight Lovecraft video games are out there. The man is a legend. His stories have spawned an endless tide of “inspired by” adaptations, non-canon continuations, and well-intentioned knockoffs. If your story has any kind of sea monster or sanity draining abomination, be ready to be labeled, “Lovecraftian.” The moniker has become so popular with my generation (bullshit millennials) that you can practically interchange “Lovecraftian” with the word “spooky.” It’s not that the man didn’t earn the adulation. It would be hard to imagine the modern horror landscape without the likes of Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, and Dagon.

Now if you’re raising an eyebrow at that previous paragraph, I’m talking about games based on actual Lovecraft stories, not just things labeled Lovecraftian. We’ve got Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, Eldritch, Cornarium, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics, and a number of older point-and-click adventure games that no one remembers. I have no idea why; it seems that any game just bearing a Cthulhu title would be launched into success by name alone. Perhaps this is the work of a far greater force, something more insidious and malignant than any creature living or dead: licensing restrictions.

On the other hand, maybe it’s because Lovecraft stories are just a bitch to adapt. As much as I love undying horrors from beyond the far reaches of the cosmos, there’s only so many ways you can say, “I saw something super duper scary, and it broke my brain.” Even the most faithful and direct Lovecraft adaptations use the source material more as a springboard to launch into a more detailed story. Cult favorite Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth takes a lot of creative liberty in stitching like, four different stories together. Which leads us into Call of Cthulhu.

Honestly, just leaving your derelict ships beached on your shores, awash in the ominous glow of a distant lighthouse? Do you WANT fishmen? Because this is how you get fishmen.

Call of Cthulhu, the 2018 video game, is an adaptation of Call of Cthulhu, a pen-and-paper RPG created by Chaosium. Call of Cthulhu (2018) is not related to Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. None of them are direct adaptations of “The Call of Cthulhu,” a short story about a guy who finds a spooky statue. The “Cthulhu-verse” is where all this takes place, although Cthulhu himself hardly ever shows up. Okay… I think I get why there aren’t more direct adaptations.

I’m going to assume you’re unaware of the Chaosium Call of Cthulhu pen-and-paper RPG. I’ve only ever even met four other people that have heard of it, and all of them were in my playgroup. It’s super fun and I’d highly recommend it, but it’s certainly not Pathfinder levels of popular. It has plenty of mechanical flaws but makes up for them with the limitless possibilities and unbridled creativity the medium of pen-and-paper offers. Fortunately, your ignorance isn’t going to heavily hamper you, as the people at Cyanide Studios seem to have also forgotten about it.

Doing away with all of the breadth and creativity the pen-and-paper world offers, Call of Cthulhu is a linear adventure game. All that remains of the system that inspired it are seven skills that you can improve up to five times each. These skills act as gateways to certain dialogue options or puzzle solutions. If your strength is high enough, then you can just muscle your way through some puzzles. If your investigation skills are high enough, you can pick locks instead of hunt for the key. If your occult is high enough, you can speak fish. Cool.

“Hey kid, you wana learn fishpeak?”

You play as Private Investigator Edward Pierce, a WW1 vet with a drinking problem and a troubled past. After a fitful dream rousts you from your mid-afternoon booze-nap, a mysterious stranger arrives at your office with a job to investigate the Hawkin’s family estate. Off you go to the ominously named Darkwater Island. Once there you will point, click, and dialogue tree your way through that one Cthulhu story we have all come to expect.

Ha HA! I’ve got you eldritch horrors! You can’t break my mind if I break it first!

Now, none of this sounds bad so far. I’m certainly not about to shit on a Cthulhu story for being a Cthulhu story. As soon as you saw Cthulhu in the title, the betting odds were on fishmen, cults, glowing symbols, and a hefty dose of wobbly camera distortion. I’m fine with standard Cthulhu. As long as it’s told well, give me all the wall-eyed fish people you can muster. It’s in the execution that Call of Cthulhu ultimately fails.

Storywise, the pacing really screws the pooch. You very quickly sense that something is off in the world of Darkwater, but the game lacks the length or depth to allow that foreboding sense to naturally grow. The game is only like seven hours long, and by the end of the first level, you’ll have glimpsed your first painting of a fishman. By level five, you’re already locked in an asylum after coming face-to-face with a creature of the deep. It all just happens so fast, you have no chance to let the feeling of dread and mystery build. You’ll learn about, discover the location of, and acquire the fucking Necronomicon all in the same investigation of a derelict bookstore.

Cthulhu flies in the skyyyyy. Your whole world will dieeeee! Just take a look, it’s in this book, the reading brain blowwwwww.

Side characters suffer from the same lack of development. The cast is pretty standard, consisting of a mad scientist, crime boss femme fatale, tortured artist with evil premonitions, an insane scholar, and a fish person. Okay, so not “standard” standard, but certainly what we expect from a Cthulhu story. Once again, the major issue is that none of the characters get enough screen time to really give a shit if they survive.

Seriously, detective no-eyes here is a pivotal character

It’s a big problem when a Cthulhu story doesn’t grab you, but all of this could be forgiven if the game was fun to play. Unfortunately, the gameplay suffers from the same lack of pacing. Fundamentally, Call of Cthulhu is a point-and-click adventure in 3D. You’ll investigate crime scenes, amble about towns, and stumble your way through conversation trees in an attempt to suss out all the eldritch secrets your mind can fathom. There are also a few stealth sequences and one abysmal “gunplay” section that boils down to “click mouse to kill zombie.”

Once again, I’m not going to shit on an adventure game for being an adventure game. You’re a detective, so I expect most of the gameplay would revolve around your detective stuff. The big issue is that none of the skills feel meaningful. Aside from unlocking certain dialogue/puzzle options, there’s no benefit to upping your skills. If you go for better lockpicking, you’ll be able to pick better locks. If you pick higher strength, you’ll be able to shoulder bash more locks. If you pick higher dialogue skills, you’ll be able to convince people to open the door for you. Three different skills, all the same conclusion.

If you look very closely, it kind of looks like he’s pooping.

None of this is helped by the fact that none of the puzzles are particularly difficult or intriguing. Even without the beneficial skill checks, I didn’t once have to look up a guide or bust out my thinking cap. One particularly egregious action sequence had me smashing open different display cases trying to find which dagger was the magic monster killing dagger. There was no thought involved, just trial and error until I picked the dagger with the special blue marks on it.

God, you don’t just KNOW that the bone dagger is the only one that can kill the dimensional shambler spawned forth from the nightmare painting of a cursed oracle? You absolute scrublord.

Now I’m getting pretty down on the game, but I don’t feel like Call of Cthulhu is all a wash. The core story is pretty great, with enough spooky eldritch depth to feel like a true Cthulhu story. If the game just gave itself some more time to tell it all, it could be something really special. There are also a number of fantastic set-piece moments, where the line between what is real and what is imagined blur to a point worthy of the Lovecraft name. For fans of the mythos, it will be fun just for that alone.

I have to also acknowledge that much of my opinion is contingent on the $60 price tag. For a game this short and mechanically limited, it’s absolutely absurd to be charging full price. If this were a $20 fan game, I could easily see this making its way onto some Game of the Year lists. As a $60 title, I cannot imagine buying this and not being disappointed.

Ultimately, Call of Cthulhu is a cool idea that just doesn’t deliver. Building a game off of the Chaosium system is a monumental task, so I can see why they slimmed it down. But the amount of fat that they trimmed also cut away all of the meat. Call of Cthulhu is anemic, too short and contained to properly elaborate on either the story or mechanics. There are some great moments, and I would highly recommend it as a discount buy during a sale. As a full priced game, there’s no way I could recommend it to all but the most diehard fans.

The post CALL OF CTHULHU Review: Something Fishy This Way Comes appeared first on Dread Central.

Bigben Interactive to Publish Cyanide Studios’ ‘Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood’

Let’s face it: There aren’t enough video games where you can play as a werewolf. Luckily for us, Cyanide Studios (the same folks behind the recently-released Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game) has been working on an adaptation of White Wolf Publishing’s Werewolf: The Apocalypse entitled Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood.

And now, Focus Home Interactive has announced that Bigben Interactive has acquired the publishing and distribution rights for the game, which has been in development since January of last year. Cyanide will still remain in charge of the the game’s development, which is expected to hit consoles and PC in 2020.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is an action-RPG adaption of White Wolf’s role-playing game. In it, players take on the role of Cahal, a banished werewolf forced to return to the aid of his endangered clan and master the devastating Rage within him to punish all those that would pollute, destroy, and corrupt Gaia, or Mother Earth. On his quest for redemption, Cahal will play a “pivotal role” in the Great War of the Garou against Pentex, a powerful corporation whose activities are upsetting the balance of nature.

Yeah, it’s a long ways off, but if you’re hankering for other White Wolf Publishing properties, you can always grab one of the Vampire: The Masquerade games on Steam or GOG.com.

Or, if you’re an old-school gamer, you can always check out the ridiculously awesome Werewolf: The Last Warrior on the NES.

The ‘Call of Cthulhu’ Accolade Trailer Celebrates the Lovecraft RPG’s Success

Focus Home Interactive has released an accolade trailer for Cyanide’s Lovecraft RPG Call of Cthulhu.

It features plenty of praise and high scores for the game from a wide variety of sites. You can see what positive things have been said about Cyanide’s game in the trailer below.

Despite some heavy criticism from some quarters, Call of Cthulhu has managed to find its fans both in the press and in the gaming community. At Bloody Disgusting, we gave it three skulls out of five, praising its conversation and investigation aspects, but criticized its technical faults, rushed finale, and poor stealth and combat.

Call of Cthulhu is out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

 

[Review] ‘Call of Cthulhu’ is an Immersive RPG, But Struggles to Remain Consistently Enjoyable

See if we can play with madness in our Call of Cthulhu Review.

On paper, Cyanide’s Call of Cthulhu has the potential to be a deeply enriching dive into classic Lovecraft mythos thanks to a heavy influence from the 1981 tabletop pen and paper role-playing game of the same name. and you know what? Those pen and paper roots are where Call of Cthulhu tends to be strongest, but that’s also a part of the reason the game’s weaknesses are so prominent.

You play as private detective Edward Pierce, stuck in a rut via existential crisis when an intriguing case lands in his lap. Pierce must travel to Darkwater Island to investigate the death of the Hawkins family, who all tragically died in a fire at their home. Pierce hasn’t got much to go on, but a disturbing painting by the family’s mother could provide an otherworldy clue. Before you know it, there’s cultists, unspeakable creatures, and a sense of impending doom around every green-hued corner.

Call of Cthulhu is presented in first-person and gives you a procession of large open areas to explore and investigate during each chapter. Pierce can interact with the people of Darkwater, asking them questions to gain fresh insight and information on the case. Here is where Call of Cthulhu shines. The game doesn’t point out its clues to you in an obvious way, rather, it asks you to pay attention to what you see and what you’re told and go back over the notes in Pierce’s journal. As you complete smaller objectives you gain points to upgrade your skills in deduction, conversation, and knowledge of the occult among others. These effectively improve your chances of succeeding in certain sections of the game, be it gleaning extra info from an artifact or sweet-talking a disgruntled fisherman into starting a ruckus.

call of cthulhu review 01

While this method oversimplifies interaction in some ways, it makes for a great spin on the visual novel genre where you have a bit more control. Not so much a ‘walking simulator’, but rather a digital equivalent of a pen and paper RPG. This means you can fail an opportunity to progress one way, and still have a variety of other routes available depending on how skilled you are at a certain thing. The system is the most in-depth part of Call of Cthulhu and it’s a very good reason to persevere when certain other aspects of the game fall spectacularly short.

You see, while Call of Cthulhu talks a good game, whenever it tries to be a more ‘traditional’ video game it struggles. Stealth is introduced a few chapters in and is of the insta-fail variety. The first time it appears it’s fairly easy to navigate, though the game doesn’t explain itself very well in regards to how it works. It’s when it shows up the next time that it’s a frustrating mess. You’re hunted by a foe, unable to defend yourself without obtaining a certain weapon. Problem is, the stealth is implemented in such a patchy, ineffectual way that it makes traversing the environment a harrowing affair as you’ll be killed the second you’re touched by the enemy and its view of you is a tad vague.

Combat is another sore point. It’s very, very rare, confined mostly to situational button prompts that you can barely class as combat to begin with, but it does appear in an ever-so-slightly more fleshed out form later in the game, and it is wholly unpleasant and ill-fitting with the game. It’s telling that the source material has an aversion to combat in the first place, but quite why that extends to shonky stealth is a bit of a mystery, especially when Cyanide is no stranger to it.

These are somewhat brief ripples in the water thankfully. The structure outside of it is so well handled you can almost forgive these indiscretions. Take the way the game handles sanity. It’s woven into every kind of action you take, and your understanding, or lack thereof, can determine just how Pierce’s psyche holds up over the ten or so hours he spends on the damned island. That then flows through into the game’s branching choices and eventual multiple endings too, and the results are satisfying even with the more risible things you have to endure to get there.

These deep systems are nothing though if Call of Cthulhu can’t capture the tone and atmosphere of Lovecraft’s work, and for the most part, it does that exceedingly well, but this is a game with a fair few rough edges to navigate in the technical department. Visually-speaking, Cthulhu is a suitably uneven beast. On the one hand, it’s strong in its world design. The somber, grim greens of the game’s visual atmosphere wash over everything, giving an ethereal look to this once-proud fishing town. The biggest compliment you can pay Call of  Cthulhu is that it often manages to feel positively Lovecraftian. Not all the time (there are some sections that are a tad humdrum and could be from any first-person horror), but a significant portion of it.

Detail isn’t always Call of Cthulhu’s friend sadly. The character models are largely stunningly similar, and for a game that does not exactly have the biggest cast of characters around, it’s rather unfortunate how cheap that makes Call of Cthulhu look. The animation commits a comparable crime. Lip-sync is well out, and character models move rigidly and mechanically. It surprisingly doesn’t take as much out of the immersion as you’d expect, but the wrong combination of issues (which is an all-too-common occurrence) really can derail the mood.

Throw in an endgame that funnels you towards the conclusion in a far more basic manner than the opening sections and the overall feeling I came away with was one of frustration. There is a lot of promise here, but not quite enough of it fulfilled. The combat could have been done away with completely (rare as it is anyway) and the stealth either ditched or simplified. The strong suit of Call of Cthulhu is in its conversation/investigation mechanics. Sure the game would have been a little lacking in variety if that’s all there was but honestly, it would have been a much more consistently enjoyable and immersive adventure for it.

 

Call of Cthulhu review code provided by the publisher.

Call of Cthulhu is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

‘Call of Cthulhu’ Launch Trailer Cranks up The Cult And The Creepy

October 30th is right around the corner, so what better time to remind you to snag Cyanide Studios’ Call of Cthulhu on that day? In fact, we’ve gotten the launch trailer for the game, which like so many of the previous trailers, is heavy on the Cthulhu and the weird. It also does a good job of getting the game’s story up and running for those who “walked in late”.

Look for Call of Cthulhu to hit PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC next week.

Latest ‘Call of Cthulhu’ Trailer Keeps The Madness (And Praise) Rolling

That thirtieth of October is creeping ever so closer, and Cyanide Studios are hoping to keep Lovecraft fans’ collective attention on Call of Cthulhu with this new trailer. And really, it shouldn’t be that hard, because the game looks friggin’ awesome visually, and hopefully will be a blast to play.

Of course, the trailer itself is laden with quotes from the gaming press who have had a chance to play it, and at the end of it all, encouraging you to pre-order the game. So all in all, mission accomplished? Neil will have a little something to say on the game once it hits October 30th for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Latest ‘Call of Cthulhu’ Gameplay Trailer Tests Your Sanity

Cyanide Studios have come through again with a second gameplay trailer for their upcoming adaptation of Call of Cthulhu. Narrated by one of the devs, this trailer focuses on the sanity and phobia aspects of the game, which in turn affects the number of choices you have throughout the game, which in turn affects the ending.

In order to protect your sanity, you’ll have to rely on your skills such as speech, medicine and knowledge of the occult. Invariably, you’ll end up facing cultists and other supernatural horrors, but the idea is to mitigate the damage to your sanity, rather than completely numb yourself.

Things are made even more complicated with your fear of the dark and small spaces, which heighten the probability your sanity will be affected. If you mess up, your perception of reality starts to crumble, and your ability to make rational decisions in gameplay decreases. Bad decisions lead to bad endings.

It definitely sounds like Cyanide were able to effectively adapt Chaosium’s sanity aspect into the game, but as always, execution is key. We’ll find out come October 30th if the mechanic works as it should.