In the Summer of 1926 H. P. Lovecraft wrote the story The Call of Cthulhu and two years later in 1928 he unleashed it upon the world. The tale is a rather simple transcribing of notes about a statue which leads into investigation to cult worshiping the titular god; this then lead to an entire shared universe called The Cthulhu Mythos. Like many pulp authors of the time his popularity waned with the times leaving The Myth to slumber until the 60’s wherein it began to stir and infect the minds of the masses. Growing up I had a vague idea who Lovecraft was but it wasn’t until 2007 that I begun to submit my mind The Great One when a mysterious trailer for a movie (which later turned out to be Cloverfield) left the Interwebs arguing over whether or not the movie was about a lion, Voltron or Cthulhu. Since then he has dominated Pop Culture from South Park to this years Tree house of Horror, hell even before all this bands like Metallica and Black Sabbath were singing their praises about the Mythos.
Now in 2018 I am presented with the gift of reviewing Call of Cthulhu based on the tabletop game of the same name (Arkham Horror in some later editions) and developed by Cyanide Studio. In Call of Cthulhu you play as Private Investigator Edward Pierce a World War I vet who in risk of losing his P.I. licence takes a case on Darkwater Island regarding the odd circumstances in which the Hawkins family perished in a fire.
Call of Cthulhu wastes zero time in getting you where you need to be after setting up your characters statistics you get on a boat and are off to Darkwater. The bulk of the game is centered around investigation and to aid your character in that you have 6 skills in which you can invest Character Points; Eloquence, Strength, Psychology, Investigation, Spot Hidden, Occult and Medical. This system allows you to discover and investigate how you want to, if your strength is high enough you can TRY to intimidate some or force objects alternatively you may want to talk your way out of it and TRY some eloquence. I say try because it is just that, you may have the necessary C.P. in order to do that but since this is based on a tabletop RPG the game will roll some good ole RNG dice to see if it has worked out. Upon learning certain occult dealings the game really got under my skin and I ended up throwing my controller across the room in scary moment. Another flip side to this is just how it will impact the characters you interact with, early on in the game trying to be eloquent with the local fisherman will often alienate them as they aren’t a fan of the big words you use.
As you investigate you will find certain things depending on your choices on how to do things and where you look, the more you find the more dialogue options will open up allow you to get closer to the truth. Call of Cthulhu will have you spending a good 90% of your time investigating even during stealth sections while avoiding monsters you will still need to keep on your toes to find all the information you can to help you move forward but the game does this with a huge warning; how much knowledge is too much knowledge?
Being a detective Edward Pierce is a man based on fact. Being a WWI vet Edward Pierce is a man with many scars. These small aspects of backstory are incorporated into the game mechanics in a sly way, your sanity. Being trapped in small places gives you panic attacks, dealing with supernatural entities freaks you right out and facing a cosmological god… I bet you can imagine. So, throughout the game you will have to keep an eye on a bunch of different sanity meters which just like your C.P. can allow you to see different things and open up different dialogue options. Are you cray cray enough to drop down the rabbit or are you too sane to get the answer that lies at the bottom? Again you must beware as both come with a price.
I am a zombie who loves him some Lovecraft and The Cthulhu Mythos in particular so it is with a slightly heavy heart that I say Call of Cthulhu is a hard game to recommend for everyone. The first two acts are really good, near brilliant even despite some less than stellar voice syncing. Unfortunately the last act falls to pieces in a sense that could very well leave the player scratching their head unless they discovered the right things and put the time in to put it all together. The game is at its best when it’s unsettling while messing with your mind leaving you unsure if that the creature in that flash of lightening was there or if it is just your mind playing tricks on you. If you want a game that doesn’t hold your hand, leaves it up to the player how they want to play and what they want to get out of it I say submit and become what the voices are telling you. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.
In his house at R’yleh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.
Zombie was provided with a review copy of Call of Cthulhu.