Call of Cthulhu is a roleplaying survival horror game by the team Cyanide. Cyanide is known for its ongoing Cycling Manager games and Blood Bowl, but in 2018 they released a game that many people were not expecting. Inspired by the Lovecraft Mythos, Call of Cthulhu is a rollercoaster psychological horror that is based on the short story that Lovecraft wrote, promptly titled “Call of Cthulhu”.
The game is set in the year 1924 and you play as a private investigator by the name of Edward Pierce, an ex-war veteran who suffers from strange nightmares and an addiction to alcohol. Pierce is contracted to pursue a case of Sarah Hawkins and her family’s mysterious death, who resides on an island named, “Darkwater”, because why wouldn’t it be? Darkwater gave me a little bit of a Scooby-Doo vibe, eerie glowing lights, a bunch of fishing men talking about the mysterious Hawkins murder. The whole time I was in the center of Darkwater I felt a little uneasy, maybe it’s because I knew things were about to go from 0 to 100 real quick, or maybe it was just the general atmosphere. You quickly learn that Darkwater was a large whaling industry until a sudden scarcity in 1847. During that year the last ship that came back to Darkwater returned with what the locals called the “Miraculous Catch,” which the residents claimed saved the island. As you explore more of Darkwater, you learn that most of the locals do not take too kindly to outsiders and instantly become suspicious of Pierce.
After moving on from the lovely locals, Pierce meets up with Captain Fitzroy who provides Pierce with some information about the mysterious Hawkins family along with information on some characters you will work with throughout the game, Officer Bradley and Cat Baker. Pierce is then shown the beached killer whale that the locals claimed was killed by something much large. After discussing the newly acquired information with Fitzroy and having a heart to heart with a local at the bar, Pierce meets up with Officer Bradley, who looks like the Joker when he took off his makeup in the Dark Knight movies, and begins his journey to the Hawkins’ mansion. The game for me truly starts here, you travel to locations like the Hawkins’ mansion where within these locations you will hunt for clues and secrets and you’ll find yourself inches away from your screen trying to find little hidden tucked away icons that indicate something to read or interacted with. A lot of the back story can be found by reading the books and notes of hidden objects and speaking with the locals.
During the game, you will find that you have an ability called “reconstruction” where Pierce will use his deduction and intuition to piece together scenes of the mystery and interactions that took place before his arrival. His discoveries play out on screen for the player to enjoy and become immersed in. You learn more and more about the story and what happened to Sarah Hawkins through these reconstruction interactions. The game has a unique way of introducing action to the players, where most gamers are used to running around getting headshots and killstreaks, this game is no Call of Cthulhu Modern Warefare. The action in Call of Cthulhu is more psychological than anything. Pierce has to master his fear and run away from Darkwater’s horrors, you have to balance his sanity and insanity to make the right decisions. But players will also discover that with the right amount of insanity you will unlock special interactions with certain characters in the game.
Surprisingly, the game has a great number of RPG elements for the players to decide from. You gain skill points during your adventure and these can be used to boost your strength or psychology, as well as helping you spot hidden skills. Like your sanity, these skills you unlock will also provide the player with hidden dialogue options and you can even unlock a skill to decrease the amount of sanity that is lost. Decisions you make, whether they are good or bad, will change how the story ends. Many actions you take and dialogue options you choose will be remembered by the characters you interact with and will result in an unique ending. Each playthrough will result in a different ending based on your choices.
When looking at the game as a whole, not the story of the music or atmosphere, just specifically graphically, most players may say the visuals are outdated. Where I can understand where they are coming from, I also have to disagree with that statement. I believe the graphics really fit this game perfectly and the atmosphere really enhances the gameplay experience. Sure there are some minor issues with visual rendering where some textures will not load all the way in during a cutscene or some minor clipping and mouth flap issues, but these are really few and far between to the point where it really did not impact my personal experience.
The story of the game is great too, however, it is a little touch and go. Let me explain. There are some characters in Darkwater that are designed to be ambiguous and that’s cool! But instead, those characters randomly flip a switch and boom they’re hostile one moment and not but 2 seconds later they’re friendly a buddy-buddy. There are a few moments in the game that have some extreme sudden changes to the story elements that can seem a little odd or misplaced. The only other real gripe I can say about this game is that there seems to be an unfinished mechanic that had a lot of promise. During the game, you can recruit characters to help you out during specific parts of the plot, but when you recruit your companion they don’t really offer much of an addition to the gameplay. Mostly, the companion is just ignored or straight up forgotten about. I feel like this mechanic could have added a lot of diverse gameplay and additional story. You recruit Bradley and go up to the mansion or you recruit Cat and explore the asylum and each companion would have their own dialogue option specifically for the events taking place. I just feel like this mechanic was rushed and the potential for a great gameplay addition was completly missed.
As much as I have griped about this game, there are truly more good things to say than bad. Call of Cthulhu has truly immersive gameplay and plot elements along with just the right amount of sound and atmosphere to go with it. With Halloween just around the corner and everyone getting into the Spoopy season, I think it is the perfect time to check out Call of Cthulhu. Dive into the mysterious story of the Hawkins family of Darkwater, explore what secrets the Mansion and Asylum have to offer and escape the clutches of scary squid people while helping to banish the lord and savior himself, Cthulhu. So don’t put him on hold, answer the Call of Cthulhu!