Knowledge is power, or so they say. But, in this Lovecraftian cosmic horror, is that really a good thing? Welcome to the world of H.P. Lovecraft inspired by the Chaosium RPG of Call of Cthulhu, where madness and reality are balancing upon a knife’s edge. The game is created by Cyanide, published by Focus Home Interactive and released for PC, Xbox One and PS4 on the 29th October 2018.
The Beginning of Everything
In this story, you play the role of P.I. (private investigator) Edward Pierce. He is a bit of blank slate at the start, so you get the usual backstory of traumatic circumstances that lead your playable character up to their present day situation. But, in this case, that works to your advantage as he is ready to be moulded by you. You are then tasked by a gentlemen who wants you to investigate the mysterious death of his daughter, Sarah Hawkins. He is convinced that she is not dead and has hired you to prove this. Sure enough, your character accepts the job, and you travel to the island known as Darkwater to begin your investigation.
You arrive on the mysterious island and immediately begin your investigation, asking the locals questions, getting a feel for the place and knowing who’s who. I quickly learned that not everything is at it seems. Despite the fact that Darkwater is remote, the locals aren’t exactly welcoming of outsiders. Nevertheless, you begin to turn up stones that the locals would rather you left undisturbed. Secrets reveal themselves through the environments you explore. Atmospheric, gritty and foreboding. If it was anything else, it wouldn’t feel right for a Lovecraftian inspired story. From the shores of Darkwater to the stranded Whale Inn, the attention to detail on the island is paramount, giving you the feeling that this place is hiding many secrets, all of which is your task to find and explore. By piecing together hints and clues, you begin to build a picture of what events have transpired, like following a trail of breadcrumbs in the Hansel and Gretel fairy tales. Good job you’re a P.I. then, isn’t it?
You, Yourself, Madness and Cthulhu
Progression through this dark tale sees your character evolve by leveling up skills within a skill tree. You have many areas in which you can progress your skills, such as strength, intelligence and the like, much like with other RPG-style games. Choosing how to spend your points as you journey through this adventure is how your story unfolds. You will begin to see how your version of Edward Pierce tackles certain situations. If he is more talented at eloquence and the occultism branches, he will be able to ascertain more info from questionings of the locals than, say, an Edward Pierce who is more skilled with medicine and strength-related advancements.
But, be careful as to what knowledge you acquire as certain pieces of information will have a detrimental effect on Edward Pierce’s psyche, thus altering the fabric of reality and the world around you. Here is where the game truly shines. The lore from which this game is based upon runs riot with visions of horrific creatures, nightmarish scenarios and cosmic dangers, to name but a few. To tell you what dangers you face would be spoiling it as the reveals in the game are what I found to be truly captivating, hooking me in to play more.
Down the Rabbit Hole You Go
The more you progress, and also how you play, through this title will see the story unfold in different ways. If you’re a bit of a sleuth, you’ll be wanting to leave no stone unturned, and you will definitely be looking everywhere. But, should you miss a few clues, the game will take that into consideration when tackling situations, and certain options to gleam info from suspects may remain locked to you.
Upon investigating the circumstances that surround the Hawkins family, you will begin to unravel the mysteries that have cast a shadow over all the island and its inhabitants. You’ll find clues in recreating crime scenes by going into a dream-like state with what evidence is at hand; kind of like a CSI reenactment. Through this feature you will learn more information to help you progress with your investigation. But the more you learn, the more the madness will start to creep in, gnawing at the edges until you can’t ignore it anymore. Secrets will reveal themselves to you, and the very fabric of reality will be questioned by Edward Pierce the further you go.
I have taken my time to play this game, and I’m so glad I did. To rush through this title would be to not do it justice. The real terror is in the atmosphere that it provides. The creepy music along with the dark and gritty undertones of horrors unknown were what kept me wanting to savour every moment as one challenge was replaced by another.
There are extra little touches help to heighten the stress and fear that your character is going through. For example, Edward Pierce has a grave fear of confined spaces. So, when exploring an old asylum is on the cards, you can bet that your character isn’t very pleased when he has to hide in wardrobes and closets to avoid detection. Also, certain segments of the story help to pull respective players into the lore of the Lovecratfian horrors that are found within.
But, in stark contrast there are some segments to the game that should have been left out, in my opinion. Now, I know that all games need variety, or people will get bored. But, in this scenario I feel they should have been left out as they don’t lend themselves to sleuthing and investigative narrative that the studio have aimed for. An example of this is when you are tasked with getting to a warehouse while fighting your way through enemies with clunky shooting mechanics that don’t feel right. It brought me out of the experience a little, but I won’t go into detail as to what scenario this relates to as it is a major story point.
In contrast, however, you get to visit an old bookstore to find a specific book. To find said book, you need to look at all the clues within the immediate area and piece them together. But, nowhere does it say where the clues are to be found. It’s entirely up to you to find and piece together the fragments needed. It took me a good while to see through the clues, and reaching that moment of “Ah, I see” is a major achievement, bringing back the sleuthing and investigative angle the studio have aimed for.
In my conclusion for Call Of Cthulhu, this is a title worthy of your money. It has great depth in terms of horror and the occult lore that surrounds H.P. Lovecraft. For fans of horror and all things scary in general, you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for with this game. There are a few game mechanics that need work in terms of the gunplay, but all in all, it had me captivated from start to finish. I’m ready to dive back into this world a second time and see what options I missed on my first playthrough. Oh, word of advice, to truly get the best experience for this game: 1. Play in the dark. 2. Wear headphones. 3. Play at nighttime, not the daytime. Happy Gaming, and dare you heed the call of that which should not be named? I know I will when I play my second time.
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Release Date: 30th October 2018