Last updated on November 24th, 2018
Cyanide Studios have released their lovecraftian investigative RPG Call of Cthulthu, combining their own original narrative into a game full of creepy intrigue. I look at what makes this game worth playing, experiencing the horrors that lurk, jumpscares and the mysterious island of Dark Water.
Call of Cthulhu Review – A Tumultuous Tentacle Experience
Genre: Investigative, detective, narrative-driven RPG
Developed by: Cyanide Studios
Published by: Focus Home Interactive
Release date: October 30th, 2018
Platforms: PC (review platform), PS4, Xbox One
Price at the time of review: $44.99
Call of Cthulhu is inspired by a short story from 1928 and the tabletop game of the same name from 1981. Players will take on the role of Edward Pierce, a private detective who is investigating the death of the Hawkins family. The narrative sets to go deep into the Lovecraftian universe, involving Old Gods and a world of insanity.
Detective Pierce is a flawed character to say the least, not only suffering from PTSD from the war but also experiencing vivid nightmares, using alcohol and sleeping pills as a coping mechanism. Doesn’t exactly instil your hope with his mentality to begin with.
The story is told in a way that allows you to discover more at your own pace, with most cutscenes playing out in front of your eyes, mixed in with more interactive scenes that draw you in from the perspective of the character. You not only see things through the view of Pierce but through other characters in the story. Cyanide does well to draw inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft’s original short-story and weave its own horrific tale, the more Pierce discovers, the more his sanity slips away.
Cthulhu leads players down the path of madness literally, the game focuses on a linear storyline that progresses your skills as you develop more of the narrative. There were definitely moments where decisions made heavy impacts on outcomes, since this game is narrative driven, your decisions will effect the ending choices or your “destiny”.
Save points are automatic, while you can start multiple playthroughs and save them to different slots, you cannot pick and choose the chapters you go back to. Without trying to spoil too much of the story, you can view more than one ending but certain outcomes will require for the player to playthrough again if they haven’t unlocked certain options. This extended the replayabilty of the game, if you’re eager to find out if things could have ended up another way.
The skills trees are fairly straight forward, no complicated attributes but straight forward abilities that you level with Character Points (CP). There are 5 abilities in total that you can use your CP to level which you earn from events in the game. There is a further two abilities Medicine and Occultism which only increase through the discovery of items and books. But be warned, certain books will affect your destiny, but without them you will not be able to level Occultism to full. This makes playthroughs a bit of a challenge as you must quickly decide which build you wish to follow, defining your fate.
Stealth is a big part of some of the chapters, the only indicators for players to know if they are safe is the arrow that points to encroaching enemies, it will turn red when they have been spotted you and will lead to a chase until you can find a hiding spot.
While most of the game involves searching for clues, using your skills to piece the story together, Cyanide does well to mix things up with stealth missions and puzzle scenes. Even going as far as completely dark locations such as the hospital, with only your oil lamp to pave the way. This led to some very creepy moments, with a few jump scares creating further tension and urgency. There’s nothing like a dark hallway, a monstrous creature on your tail to make you solve puzzles at an expedited rate, if that’s not motivation I don’t know what is.
A big part of this game is Pierce’s overall stability after witnessing unexplained happenings that test his already strained mind. It’s up to you as a player to make decisions that could slowly tip him over the edge, or hold onto what slight sanity he has in hopes of keeping his mind intact. There is a unique sanity meter that keeps track of all the traumatic events, the more he witnesses, the more the meter will empty towards a psychotic state of mind.
I was not actually expecting any combat until I realised in the keyboard settings there was an allocated button for “shoot”. After this, I was expecting combat to be quite early on in the game but this was not the case. The game focuses heavily on stealth tactics. It is only a certain chapter that features an actual confrontational aspect involving a gun, which is pretty much straight point blank auto-aim, so don’t expect any FPS mechanics here.
Audio & Visual
The soundtrack is chilling, providing that much needed atmosphere to scenes in the game. However, in certain places the music was quite overbearing, lasting for too long and losing its intended dramatic effect. For the most part, the background music was tastefully chosen, including 1920’s inspired tunes that fit the almost noire feel to this detective game. Character voices are well cast for their parts, helping to make their roles come to life.
Players must bare in mind that this is not AAA title and what they have done with their resources is focused more on the playability of game rather on NPC movement or detail character visuals. There is quite a big difference when it comes to cutscenes and gameplay, quite noticeably in fact. Some motions of characters seem stiff or unlife-like but didn’t it really didn’t break the overall immersion of the game’s experience.
Cyanide uses a mix of cut scenes, first-person point of view visuals, hidden view angles as well as reconstruction of past scenes similar to that found in Detroit: Become Human, showing a refreshing variety of ways to tell the tale. Often in investigative games there is a lot of information to absorb, Call of Cthulhu does well to represent this in a diverse set of ways, keeping the gameplay fresh throughout.
Cyanide Studios did well to research deeply into the lore that was created by H.P. Lovecraft, not only taking the horrors that lie within his work but expanding upon it. The amount of detail that was paid attention to in this game was phenomenal, each book discovered, many clues had links to all types of literature involving maritime myth. It’s the plot where Call of Cthulhu really shines, the ability to include various story telling methods, while still keeping the player engaged and intrigued. The narrative is quite clever, letting the player piece together clues to ultimately solve the case which made it more interactive, having a hand in your fate.
For what the developers have achieved with this game is quite admirable, showing that a modest budget doesn’t mean a lifeless or non-compelling storyline. Cthulhu has at least a couple of playthroughs, and if you’re really meticulous a third or fourth to pick up all clues and hidden endings. If you’re someone who really has a love for all things eerie and a fan of tales of the deep, this could very well be an entertaining ride for you.
I honestly I didn’t expect that I would want to play more than once, but completing the first playthrough definitely left some unanswered questions. Since you can’t go back to previous chapters, players must start from the first chapter which might be a little deterring to those who rather just choose specific points to go back to. My second round was of course a lot quicker, being able to skip a lot of the dialogue that remained the same in a lot of scenes. Trust me when I say the outcomes are very different, and well worth another playthrough just to see what the alternatives are, you can also pick up on things that you may have missed in the first experience. I would suggest players just experiencing the game on their first playthrough, to really enjoy the game’s atmosphere as well as theatrics, and then another playthrough to learn all truths.
Call of Cthulhu is available to on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. If you want to see our playthrough you can find it on our Twitch channel.
If you enjoyed this review we recommend you read more our reviews in Red Dead Redemption 2: Making Westerns Great Again and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Review: A Voyage In Time. You can also check out what’s releasing this month in Top 5 Upcoming RPGs Of November 2018 (ESO, Moonlighter And More!).