After years of suspense and intrigue, the H.P. Lovecraft inspired video game, The Call of Cthulhu, has been released by Cyanide and fans are underwhelmed. The game designed for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, has been facing setbacks for years, making its lackluster debut that much more disappointing.
While the game follows the basic mechanics of the original tabletop RPG, it diverges from its pen-n-paper predecessor in a number of ways. It’s these differences that strengthen the game’s character and allows players to overlook all of its shortcomings for a semi-enjoyable gaming experience.
Upon the official announcement of the game’s development in 2014, developers emphasized the game would be focused on investigation, stealth, and a whole lot of detective work. They kept that promise as the game is less focused on action and more about psychological horror and exploration. Odds are with this game, if you find yourself constantly in combat, you’re doing it wrong.
The open world environment of the game, named Darkwater, set in 1924 is visually stunning. The characters in this part of the game are compelling, to say the least, yet still feel unpolished, as if their stories haven’t been completely flushed out. Our titular hero, the cliche private investigator, Edward Pierce has been hired to investigate the mysterious death of a famous painter, her son and her husband.
Much of the time spent in Darkwater is spent negotiating with hostile locals, digging up clues such as newspaper clippings and documents, and examining anything that looks out of place. For some, this is the most entertaining part of the game. However, it seems developers weren’t interested in developing this part of the game further. They mythos of Call of Cthulhu rears its head about two hours into the game, this rushed and sloppy writing robs the games of any tension later on.
While the writing may be sloppy, the aesthetic of the game is appealing, if you’re a fan of B-movie gimmicks like that of the early Resident Evil games. The upside of this is the game is slower paced and fans have expressed pleasure with this aspect of the game.
However, fans have noticed certain limitations that the game cannot overcome. Awkward controls, poorly written subtitles, and the underdeveloped plot makes the game frustrating at best and downright exasperating at worst.
Perhaps these problems aren’t because of the developers, but more to do with the game’s complicated history. When it was initially announced, The Call of Cthulhu was to be developed by Frogwares a much larger development company than Cyanide. Through various developer changes and multiple setbacks, it is clear the game suffers from so many conflicting development teams and ideas.
Yet for all the flaws the game suffers, it can be an enjoyable way to pass the time. Like many RPG games, diligence is the name of the game, and this game is no different. New clues unlock new dialogue options that help you achieve your goals. All of these clues can be retrieved at any time in the menu, which also contains detailed information about Darkwater island.
Edward Pierce’s performance is mainly based on you the player. There are character traits for Pierce that players can pick and choose from in order to help him solve the case. Five character traits can be chosen: Strength, Eloquence, Investigation, Psychology, and Spot Hidden (this is an awesome ability as it allows you to find hidden items in certain specific areas).
As the game progresses other traits are added including Occultism and Medicine, which you obtain by collecting medical texts and occult items throughout the game. All these traits and tools help develop Pierce further so that he may complete his investigation. The great part about these traits is that the game becomes less about statistics. Stats don’t matter in this game as they neither guarantee or prevent your success.
What does matter, however, is the character’s development and strategy for conducting his investigation. For example, when Pierce is attempting to enter a guarded warehouse to search for clues, he has the ability to do this in a variety of ways based on character traits. If you have a high abundance of Eloquence you can talk your way past the guards, if you have a high-level of strength then maybe you can break the lock on the door.
While the game feels clunky and could use some polish, its an entertaining way to spend time if you like mystery games and challenges. The shortcomings of The Call of Cthulhu notwithstanding, the game is an interesting mystery with stunning visuals. Perhaps in the next edition, Cyanide will find a way to smooth out the wrinkles and make this game the best it can be.