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.

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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.


‘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.

‘Vampyr’ Sinking Its Teeth Into The Switch

Okay, so Dontnod’s Vampyr didn’t really end up being the amazing game that we’d hoped it would be. That apparently won’t stop Dontnod from bringing the game to the Nintendo Switch, according to publisher Focus Home Interactive’s latest financial report.

According to the document, Dontnod “will continue to maximize the potential of the Vampyr licence. After the game’s impressive success on PC, Xbox One, and PS4, it will be Nintendo Switch’s turn to welcome the Dontnod title to reach an even wider audience.”

By indications, Dontnod scored record revenues of €44.3m over the first six months of its fiscal year, thanks in part to Vampyr. You then of course have the upcoming Call of Cthulhu, which launches October 30, which also helped generate buzz for the French company.

No release date for the port has been announced, but in the meantime, we still have that McG-directed TV series to look forward to.

Six Horror Games That Deserve Sequels

Not every video game needs a sequel. In fact, some work better as one-off experiences. Some games are able to say everything they need to say by the time the credits start rolling, so when you finally set down that controller, you do so with the satisfaction of knowing the tale has been told. As much as I adored my time with games like BioShockSOMA, and Oxenfree, I didn’t walk away believing there was so much more I still needed to see. That’s not to say a talented developer couldn’t find a meaningful reason to revisit those worlds, as 2K Marin did with BioShock 2’s surprisingly thoughtful Minerva’s Den DLC. Some games are special that way.

Then there are the games that clearly only managed to scratch the surface; their beautifully realized worlds left brimming with more stories to share and memorable characters to meet. This is what we’re going to get into today: a look back at a handful of memorable horror games that never got the follow-up I feel they deserved. There’s plenty other series that were building to something interesting before being cut short – such as Condemned, Dino Crisis, or Dead Space, to name a few – but that’s a list for another day.

Without any further ado, let’s get our wish list on.

It feels weird to say it, but Alien: Isolation was better than it had any right to be. A licensed game adaptation of a franchise that’s long struggled to find success in video game adaptations, made by a developer that, while respected, was known more for its many popular strategy games.

If Isolation had merely been a mediocre game, it might’ve been given a warmer reception than it deserved thanks to its close proximity to the colossal turd that was Aliens: Colonial Marines, but it wasn’t mediocre, it was fantastic. Scary, too. A frighteningly advanced enemy AI played a pivotal role in transforming its main baddie, a lone xenomorph, into an instantly unforgettable foe. The creature felt smart because it was smart, and it was scary because you knew that at any moment it could materialize behind you from the shadows like a slender, eight-foot Boogeyman.

Visually, this game blew it out of the park with a world that benefitted greatly from an authentically grainy, 80s aesthetic and an attention to detail in each environment that could’ve only been achieved by developers who were also genuine fans of the films. Unfortunately, it seems a majority of the original Alien: Isolation team is no longer at Creative Assembly, so a sequel seems unlikely, at least for now.

I’ve written about my bottomless desire to return to Bright Falls no less than one thousand times over the last decade, and I’ll continue to do so until I’m certain a sequel is literally impossible. Alan Wake’s strengths lie not only in its quirky cast of characters or the gorgeous world they inhabit but also in the combat, which manages to be fun and frantic, balanced with just the right amount of strategy and skill. It’s still rare for a horror game to deliver exceptional combat like this, and I’d easily rank Alan Wake among the all-time greats like Dead Space and Resident Evil 4.

Alas, our prospects of seeing more of Wake & Friends isn’t likely to happen for the foreseeable future. For years now, Remedy has been open regarding their interest in turning Alan Wake into a franchise – I haven’t forgotten about American Nightmare, I just wouldn’t consider it a true sequel – but for reasons unknown, Microsoft hasn’t mirrored that interest.

It’s a shame because bringing back a series like Alan Wake would go a long way in making Microsoft’s paltry list of Xbox exclusives a little less embarrassing than it is currently.

Perhaps one of the most underrated horror games of the last generation, Shadows of the Damned wasn’t necessarily a critical darling, nor did it light up any sales charts. What it did do was steal my heart with its colorful visuals, stellar soundtrack, and unapologetically juvenile humor. It, too, had some solid combat and buckets of gore to boot.

If you haven’t experienced the soul-warming joy that is this delightful little gem of a game, you should know it’s not too late to do the right thing and give it a try. It’s uniquely goofy and often genuinely funny, but the aural pleasure doesn’t end with its foul-mouthed characters, no, that honor belongs to the soundtrack I mentioned earlier. Not only did this game bring together the epic minds that are Goichi Suda (aka Suda51, creator of No More Heroes and Lollipop Chainsaw) and Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil, The Evil Within), it was also backed by a score composed by longtime Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka.

If you missed Shadows of the Damned and you’re not yet scrambling to remedy your past mistakes, I wish you all the best in life, but you’re probably a broken person.

As surprised as I was when the teaser for From Software’s next project turned out to be the excellent-looking Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, I’d be aghast to find out they weren’t going to return to Yarnham eventually. It feels like an inevitability that Bloodborne will get a similar level of attention the developer’s given to Dark Souls, but seeing as the last three games on this list each have decidedly less optimistic futures, I just thought I’d break up our shared misery with a modicum of actual hope.

Vampyr gave me something I’ve spent years asking for: a serious vampire game. I’m of the opinion that vampires will never not be cool, no matter how hard authors of young adult fiction try to ruin them. My hope is this game will open a door, of sorts, for more vampire-themed video games to follow. If it simultaneously breathes some much-needed life into B tier video games, that’d be swell, too. The world of Vampyr is one that absolutely needs to be fleshed out more, if only to give developer Dontnod an opportunity to flesh out the morality system, as well as fix the disappointing combat – and also, maybe, because I’m an insatiable lush for period gothic horror and I desperately need to feed.

It’s too early to say whether or not we’ll get to step back into the muddied boots of Jonathan Reid, our doctor-turned-vampire antihero, but it has been recently confirmed that Vampyr was successful enough for publisher Focus Home Interactive to label it a “robust” commercial success. We also know its setting is still ripe with more stories to tell, as the game is currently making its way to small screens with an upcoming TV series. It seems Dontnod has the beginnings of a franchise here, and I for one am fascinated to see what that means for a possible sequel.

I’m going to go ahead and cut the shit and demand we get more Little Nightmares. Come on, Tarsier Studios, what are ya, chicken? [Insert chicken noises here with your mind’s eye] Are you too afraid to give us a sequel, is that it? You know, I bet that’s it. That’s got to be the reason.

Alright, I may still be a little upset over Alan Wake, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Little Nightmares is a beautiful indie horror game that needs a follow-up. You can beat the game in just a few hours, guaranteeing it never outstays its welcome, and that ending? Boy, what an ending. You want me to tell you about it? Without spoiling anything, let’s just say it’s the kind of ending that leaves you hungry for a sequel.

I’m not aware of any talk of a Little Nightmares 2 just yet, but it could be a good sign that Tarsier felt it worth returning to for three (very good, also woefully short) story expansions. Then again, you could also see that as their wrapping up a great game with a solid DLC epilogue, though I’m going to go ahead and hope for the latter.

What about you? Is there a game you’d like to see get a sequel? Let us know in the comments!

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Ahead of its release next month, the first hour of gameplay from Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game has been uploaded to YouTube, and can be viewed below. Although it won’t be a strict adaptation, developer Cyanide drew inspiration from both H. P. Lovecraft’s original novella and the subsequent tabletop role-playing game, so Lovecraft purists should be very happy with the final result. Publisher Focus Home Interactive are currently offering a ten percent discount to those who pre-order, so you might want to keep that in mind if you were thinking of picking it up.

As you can see, the main focus of Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game will be on atmosphere and exploration, and whilst there will be some combat, you certainly won’t be fighting your way through hoards of enemies. Similarly to the seminal Lovecraft-inspired game Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, there will also be a sanity meter, which means that the more horror you encounter, the weaker your grip on reality will become. And you’ll be encountering a lot of horror throughout the twelve to fifteen hours of gameplay.

The semi-open world RPG will place you in the shoes of private investigator Edward Pierce, who sets out to solve the death of a family on Darkwater Island, and soon uncovers a plot to unleash upon the world the sinister Great Old One known as Cthulhu. The new footage sadly does not give us a look at Cthulhu himself, so we’ll probably have to wait until Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game releases on PC, PS4, and Xbox One on October 30 to see how Lovecraft’s most famous creation will look in glorious eight generation graphics.

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