Call of Cthulhu Review
There have been plenty of games that have tried to pay homage to H.P Lovecraft, to varying degrees of success. One on end, you have titles like Bloodborne and Call of Chtulu: Dark Corners Of The Earth that are surprisingly thorough with their nods to the cosmic horror writer. On the other end, you have games that merely make reference to it via a sidequest, or an in-game item you can read. Cyanide Studios on the other hand, is delving headfirst into the madness, and while Call of Cthulhu has its rough edges, it’s a title that does more with the source material than most, and enjoyable from start to finish.
Did you know this is Cyanide Studio’s first foray into a horror game? You wouldn’t be able to tell, considering how excellently they nail the oppressive atmosphere one would expect from Lovecraft’s works. Playing as Edward Pierce, a former soldier turned private investigator, you’re approach by a local magnate who is searching for answers regarding his daughter’s disappearance. Left with nothing but a town name, and a particularly spooky looking painting, Edward begrudgingly accepts, setting off to the whaling town of Darkwater. From here, your detective work is vital, and Edward Pierce has various skills you can pour points into at the beginning and over the course of your adventure to help (or inadvertently hinder) your pursuit for the truth. It’s nice to see games make use of this concept and actually execute upon it, especially since it’s one that can indirectly harm a game more than it helps. That’s simply not the case in Call of Cthulhu though, and I was pleased to see my attempts to pass conversation checks didn’t always get me to the result I was hoping.
Another interesting aspect of this game is that despite Edward’s clearly outlined background as a war veteran, he’s not meant to be fighting in this game. Instead, it’s on you to try and defuse situations via other means, such as careful investigation of his surroundings or by choosing the right thing to say. It’s a nice subversion of the trope that you’d expect with a character with this background, but Edward is clearly tortured, and his already fragile psyche put to the test more times than he may like as you unravel the mysteries in the town of Darkwater, ultimately affecting just how your playthrough will end. Your character points do seem to impact how your investigations go, as well, and the reconstruction system gives off Detroit Become Human vibes. Edward will delve into situations and work backwords, seeing what lead to the scene he is currently investigating. Particular choices in conversations are also dependent on the information you find, so it always felt like it was worth trying to really comb a scene for clues and information before advancing the story.
In true lovecraftian fashion, I was never really able to comprehend just how twisted Edward’s mind had become during my time with the game. I did try to reach out to the devs to confirm about just how the sanity mechanic impacts the game, but my initial impression is that it is like a completion list. Across Call of Cthulhu, you’ll run across various events that leave a mark on Edward, and you can check the status of your sanity as well, so it’s likely that your endings are shaped based not only on how close you got to the truth, but what state he is in by the time you get to the end of the game. Your sanity is also impacted the longer you hide from hostile NPCs, For those expecting a mechanic like Eternal Darkness, you may be disappointed, but this system still very much impacts the game overall, and your sanity or lack thereof may prevent you from getting to the truth. I was unsure of how it impacted my adventure outside of dialogue choices, but there may very well be subtle things I hadn’t noticed. You can bet that I’ll be sure to try and pay closer attention upon subsequent playthroughs though, without a doubt.
As charming as Call of Cthulhu is, it is not without its flaws. The voice acting seems very inconsistent. Primary characters are voiced well, whereas secondary and even random NPCs clearly have less effort put into their lines. There’s also a number of times where the animations of particular events came off as unintentionally hilarious, but they were so few and far between that they didn’t really take away from the experience overall. The plot is also very much a slow-burn it feels like. The beginning acts feel like they kind of trudge along, but I assure you that it is absolutely worth playing through to the end, as things very quickly ramp up, with a number of horrifying moments and elements that absolutely pay tribute to the source material better than most recent attempts from other games. There are a few plotholes I did find with the game though, with some characters fates being left unknown, but this could also likely be assumed, based on my ending I had gotten. It would just be nice to have those character arcs actually feel like they conclude, rather than just sort of peter off into the void.
Overall though, I was pleasantly surprised with Call of Cthulhu. What started off as a story that seemed to plod along quickly escalated and kept me hooked from start to finish. Despite its technical hiccups, there’s almost a certain charm to the way game looks and sounds, and those goofy animations at moments, and almost cheesy voice acting from some characters only help it further. There do appear to be multiple endings as well, which makes this title very replayable. I fully intend to try and put Edward through a different set of situations than my first playthrough, and I’m sure you’d enjoy it as much as I did, if not more.
***PS4 key was provided by the publisher***
- Excellent homage to source material
- Story keeps you hooked to the end
- Charming B-Movie vibe
- High replay value
- Some goofy animation
- Inconsistent voicework
- Some translation issues