Call of Cthulhu – Prepare for Madness

When it comes to games inspired by Lovecraft, you kinda know what to expect nowadays. There will be references to cosmic horror, madness and cults, and the environments will have plenty of nautical elements. Call of Cthulhu by Cyanide Studio is no different. Besides the trope checklist, is it still a good experience? I would say yes, even if this kind of story have been told before. The writing is solid, and at times it actually felt true to the source material, which helps with the immersion.

You play as the World War 1 veteran Edward Pierce, a private eye down on his luck with a bit of a drinking problem. But good fortune arrives, a job offer – to look into the death of a painter, which is a daughter of a famous industrial tycoon. This takes you to the forgotten island of Darkwater island, a very strange place shrouded in mystery, and literal green unsettling mist.

Classic Lovecraft setup if anything else, which doesn’t bother me too much, except maybe it plays out as you expect if you have read anything by Lovecraft. Even so, the story is good, characters are well-written, and most of them work. I did find some minor issues with the female bandit leader, how she, of so small stature, could hold such sway on the men of the island. I have a hard time seeing how that would happen, in the 1920s no less, and in a community with a bunch of tough sailors. Nevertheless, the narrative is entertaining, and while not having many twists and turns, it makes for a good spooky story set on a desolated island with a strong Lovecraft theme.

Just your average investigation of a creepy mansion

The game is a genre mix. It’s an RPG with having skills, and unlockable talents that allows for different dialogue paths (for the most part). Adventure as in typical point & click investigating, with a rudimentary stealth system thrown into the blender. Surprisingly, it all works really well together, going from quiet session looking for clues, and talking to people, to trying to avoid enemies sneaking around in hostile areas.

What enhances the experience by a lot is the excellent visuals, and it somewhat dreamlike state to it. While some animations seems a bit lacking, especially when it comes to other characters, I can’t really fault the game on the technical level. It’s good-looking, with nice textures, and in general it’s highly atmospheric. The only shameful thing is that some cut-scenes are not in-game, but pre-recorded in much lower quality than the actual graphics. It’s a bit jarring, and drags down the presentation a bit.

A studio that probably would make many painters jealous

Sound, voice and music is of similar quality, even if some voice actors do repeat, but it doesn’t change the presentation much, but it is noticeable. Overall, the visuals and sound/music is very atmospheric, at times the developers even allow for quiet, which has a sense of its own. I wish more designers would acknowledge this more, silence has its own kind of tension.

Overall, Call of Cthulhu is a nice addition to the Lovecraft mythos, even if predictable. But, at the same time, you can’t step too far away, if you want your work to resemble anything written by the guy. I have seen too many developers hinting at their game being part of the mythos, but then, the only contributing factor is “tentacles”. It does require a bit more, which Cyanide Studio succeeds with. A pleasant time will be had, if you have any interest in this legendary writer, and setting.

Thanks for reading.

/Thomas


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