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Call Of Cthulhu Review - Madness or Masterpiece?

VO: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Ty Richardson
The Lovecraftian horror game Call Of Cthulhu is here. Is it a brilliant horror adventure game worthy of the Great Old Ones, or is it just too much agony to suffer?

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Horror games have been surprisingly dormant throughout 2018. With the exception of a few ports and “complete editions”, there hasn’t been a horror game for this year that’s been worth talking about. Most of the titles have been lukewarm at best, unimaginative and lazy at worst. Just take a look at our review of “Agony”... One game that has grabbed our attention is “Call of Cthulhu”, developed by Cyanide Studio and published by Focus Home Interactive. Although, before we jump in, it’s important to note that this game has no correlation to Bethesda Softworks’s “Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth” from 2005. Instead, this game is based on the pen-&-paper RPG published by Chaosium. So, no, you aren’t going to wake up to the townsfolk banging down your door.

“Call of Cthulhu” sees you playing as Edward Pierce, an alcoholic private investigator who has been asked to investigate the death of the Hawkins family. As you begin to unravel mysteries, you’ll quickly discover that Darkwater Island houses a creepy cult of Cthulhu fanboys. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t get more interesting than its source material. Most of the dialogue comes off either silly or repetitive. The number of times I was reminded of Pierce’s alcoholism or a Hawkins being dead was about as many times as I’ve been reminded that my rent is due, which is too often! There doesn’t seem to be much effort coming from the voice acting either, which ends up downplaying the dramatic moments. Making things more frustrating was how Pierce would mildly freak out over a character dying only to shrug it off like its nothing two seconds later. Dude, these characters are resurrecting like they’re freakin’ Superman! How can you ignore any of this when you saw them die with your own eyes?! We suppose part of this unanswered question is our fault because we didn’t make Pierce more intelligent in speech. So, some mysteries won’t be solved because, basically, we made Pierce was too stupid.

Oh, yeah, did we mention “Call of Cthulhu” has some RPG elements? You can upgrade Pierce in seven different areas - Strength, Investigation, Eloquence, Medicine, Occultism, Psychology, and “Spot Hidden”, which makes hidden objects more obvious to you. Each of these statistics will allow you to interact with the world in a variety of ways. There are some locks you can’t pick because your Investigation stats might be too low, or some questions might be locked because Pierce’s Eloquence stat isn’t high enough, making him negligent in asking important things like, “How the $#%@ are you still alive?!” However, if you’re looking for a complex skill tree of stats and abilities, you’re not going to find one here. “Call of Cthulhu’s” system isn’t anything more outside of spend a point to increase a stat, and hopefully that stat will prove to be useful later on. We can see that Cyanide had some idea for an interesting RPG system, but it just didn’t translate well

The gameplay is a different story. Most of your time will be spent mucking about and wandering around an environment until you see the white dot that says, “Hey, you can do something with this!” Stealth segments aren’t much of a challenge either, but we had some fun messing with the AI because of their oblivious behavior. Nope, you totally didn’t see us running across the room a few feet away!

While we’re on the subject of technical issues, “Call of Cthulhu” isn’t as disjointed as the Great Dreamer’s victims, but its still worth mentioning that we had some weird moments. Audio levels were often fluctuating between pre-rendered cutscenes and in-game dialogue. Characters would occasionally interrupt each other, too. We also had an instance where after we interacted with Fitzroy, he levitated forward and talked to us with his back turned the whole time.

We’ve been talking a lot about the bad stuff, but that isn’t to say “Call of Cthulhu” is as maddening as an unsupervised asylum. In fact, it boasts a unique artstyle and does an excellent job at building an atmosphere. There are many moments where you’ll want to stop and take in the views for as unsettling and disturbing as they may be. One might also be enticed to find the various collectibles strewn throughout the environments. Finding sleeping pills has never been more fun! Another strong area is the puzzles. “Call of Cthulhu” will make you think, and those “eureka” moments are highly rewarding! Some puzzles will simply require quick actions while others involve decoding hidden messages. One of the best puzzles involved listening to audio tapes and interacting with objects in order to learn the combination to a safe. We actually had to get out a paper and pencil for this one because of its complexity, and it was immensely satisfying to solve on our own!

Oh, wait… This is a horror game, too. Is “Call of Cthulhu” a scary game? Well, it’s a yes and a no. There were a few times where the game managed to scare us or send us into a panic, but these moments were so few and far apart that we were often forgetting that this is a horror game. To its credit, “Call of Cthulhu” does have plenty of eerie moments, yet they aren’t enough to make your skin crawl. That being said, if you’re looking for something that’ll make you cry in the corner, “Call of Cthulhu” isn’t that kind of a ride.

“Call of Cthulhu” is far from a terrible game. There’s a few good scares in there, a beautifully creepy world to explore, and the puzzles are a real mental challenge. (We mean that in a good way, not the “driven to insanity” way...) However, it’s hard to recommend this game to many people with its messy plot, weak voice acting, occasionally dumb AI, and Wonderbread RPG system. If you’re a fan of H.P. Lovecraft and all things related to squid-dragons, you might get a kick out of “Call of Cthulhu” - just don’t set your expectations too high.

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