Call of Cthulhu Review
At The Doorstep Of Madness
"A game inspired by the inconceivable horrors contained within the Lovecraft mythos..."
*This is an old review; much of what you will read here no longer fully represents my view, skills, and knowledge.*
Call of Cthulhu is a modern take on the classic fictional universe created by the American genius H.P. Lovecraft, and it takes full control over the mythos of horrifying, ancient godlike figures created by the author. Developed by Cyanide Studios, the game collects all that is great about the horror contained within the texts left by Lovecraft to create a super interesting narrative that starts perfectly normal and ends up at the verge of unprecedented events that would likely mean the end of reality the way it is known to us at a single mistep.
Criticized by many, — somewhat understandably — Call of Cthulhu is a game that may feel slightly hard to engage thanks to a somewhat weak initial story-hook. After playing the game myself I found out that pushing over that slow, hard to move through mud puddle that is the start, although the story really does feel weak at first, the game proved to become increasingly interesting the more I dared to continue playing it.
Aware of the possibility of problems to exist, I decided to give the game a fair chance to show itself by not being too critical over the smaller things, especially knowing the tighter budget for the game. And, to my surprise, almost half an hour later, the game I had initially anticipated numerous issues to exist, was seriously not that bad ? Weird… I thought to myself. It must go downhill somewhere later on, then. So I patiently waited, minute after minute, to see when the real drop would happen. But hours later and… It still never happened ? Even more surprising than that was to know that it actually maintained impressive quality throughout its entirety.
In my sincerest opinion, the game was just not as bad as it is made seem, which is an absolute pity for a game of such great quality.
Developer: Cyanide Studio
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: October 30, 2018
As previously mentioned, Call of Cthulhu is an atmospheric game that takes the beautiful Lovecraftian texts to the core, thus as a result, the world we see and interact with has just enough depth and complexity to make the whole experience stick out in the memories of those that managed to dive deeper in the story.
Call of Cthulhu is one game that is a rare example of scary without having to resort to common cheap jumpscares techniques to get players holding tight to their chair late at night. It is one of those games whereas the mere effects of the atmosphere and events circling our character are enough to send chills down the spine.
Although the game never really shows more than just a few flashes of the god-like beings that haunt the world in the background, it is the mystery surrounding them that makes it all so good — we are told to fear the unknown, and that’s why the scary parts of the game works so well.
The fact that we never get to directly see the bad ‘guy’ of the story might be what drop some people off the ship, and quite understandably. People want the action, the intensity of an eye-to-eye encounter. But let’s just not forget that standing face-to-face with the bad guy in this case would probably not end up too well, likely resulting in our character's utter destruction if it were to happen.
I feel like people just got too used to demon-slaying games like Diablo, where they can defeat the lords of hell like they are flies.
With that said, the fact that we never get to meet our beloved cosmic deity is truly a thing to thank for, and definitely something no one should be seen complaining.
Now, leaving all the Cthulhu dating simulator behind, let's talk a little about gameplay, shall we ?
Gameplay-wise, in my entire time with the game not once did a single thing feel odd, broken, or out of place. Control/commands always worked perfectly and were never unresponsive.
But of course, that is not to say the game doesn't have issues. In some parts — noticeable right from the starting area — there are so, so many visual effects bombarding the screen simultaneously (namely chromatic aberration, motion blur, and many, many post-processing effects) it can get quite a bit nauseous. And there’s also the field of view that can be somewhat uncomfortable for some people, yet it still can't be adjusted via the options menu in-game, which obviously is a huge miss.
A Dim Light Sways Off In The Distance
Call of Cthulhu is a game with a considerably short story that is only about 9-12 hours long, but still it holds so many surprises in its short journey that the game just doesn't feel short at all.
Divided into 14 smaller chapters, with each adding meaningful portions of mystery to the story, the somewhat simple and medium-sized game still holds incredible value for those eager to explore and uncover its deepest secrets.
Our first minutes into the game we are welcomed to a narrative that is just barely interesting enough to get our attention to some of the soon-to-unfold grand events that would put the destiny of humanity in our hands.
We play as a private investigator called Edward Pierce — a war veteran and one that has trouble sleeping thanks to nightmarish visions that haunt his dreams at night.
When Pierce’s career is put down on the line, right at the start of the game, he sees himself in a spot he has to take any job if he wants to keep his job as a private investigator. Coincidentally a few minutes after he receives a call from his agency, a man arrives, unknown to us for a few seconds until he is finally introduced as an art-collector, father of a painter, a woman who died at home, in a supposedly accidental fire that also claimed the lives of both her son and husband.
Pierce decides to take in the case, and not only because his career depended on that, but also because he, like the father, felt something was off regarding the incident. So he went there, to a distant island, to seek the truth, to know what really happened to that family, and to find out if the fire, the culprit of all the tragedy was really accidental.
A Vision, A Bad Omen For The Distant Future
What I really liked about Call of Cthulhu was how the story is told. A really nice narrative that is straightforward and quite easy to understand. While playing the game, one of the first things you’ll likely notice is that when you collect some items, on the left side of the screen you’ll receive a notification saying “clue saved”. I will have to admit I never used these myself, so I’m not entirely sure how they work, but I’m assuming it is just a way to help people keep track of what to do next in case they get distracted, or simply help make up the full picture of the game without referring to pure intuition.
I actually felt the game was, story-wise, easy enough to follow by simply playing it, so I figured that reading each and all texts for every clue there is to find would likely be just a waste of time, so I simply avoided it completely, and I never felt like ignoring it affected the experience in any way.
Another thing I really enjoyed about the way the story is told in Call of Cthulhu is that, despite the game’s weak initial hook for the story, at the end of each chapter I always found myself wanting more. The chapters endings with the brief cuts hit precisely, always ending in a point you just keep wanting to know what happens next.
The constant change of focus, the increasingly surprising revelations, the tension of each encounter, all brewing up in each chapter to only later reach the climax. All that makes the few hours into the game really enjoyable and full of excitement.
Never Too Much Green
We’ve got this far and still no comments regarding the most important part of modern video-games ? Well, let’s fix that right away while there’s still time !
Visual effects, images, awesome scenery, graphics… — all highly important things when it comes to creating a powerful visual identity. And… Call of Cthulhu, huh ? What does this crazy-ass game could have to offer to the supreme, spoiled by all there is beautiful in the world, incapable of seeing low-poly graphics these eyes of mine, huh ?
Visuals-wise, Call of Cthulhu is an incredible sounding('…'), very special thing. If we put all the craziness contained in this beautifully-crafted game to the side for a little while, we can also find one exquisite greeny piece of art. In all seriousness though, this game’s visuals, as much as they are not the most beautiful thing ever created in the history of video-games, I found it to be surprisingly charming… rather unique.
The world is incredibly detailed, and I really do mean detailed when I say it. Although the difference between the low and high settings isn’t exactly comparable to a RTX OFF/RTX ON (in the sense it doesn’t get awfully better), the game still deserves absolute credit for creating a world that exhales filth (in a good way), in the form of foul visuals, and a heavy greasy atmosphere that surrounds every visible area.
As much as I already have commented about the atmosphere in this game, undeniably the most expressive way to create atmosphere is quite obviously through visuals, but Call of Cthulhu does such a great job at this, using all the surrounding elements to build up the atmosphere I just can’t help but mention it.
The Faults Of Cthulhu
I think the biggest issue I had with the game is that from the very beginning we are told to trust that our every decision will have a greater impact later on. And they certainly do, but in a way that is probably not exactly how you’d expect. You see, the game has four endings in total which you unlock by taking some special actions at certain points in the story. Playing the game myself, without paying significant attention to the smallest of details, or reading wikis I managed to unlock three out of the total four endings.
Did that last sentence sound weird ? Alright, I'll say it again: I unlocked three out of four endings… But what exactly does that mean ? Simply put it means decisions don’t affect the ending in any way other than expanding the options you have for endings. And even more awful is to know you can play all unlocked endings immediately after reloading the latest save file if you so desire. So, uh... why even bother taking certain actions if the ending can be whatever the heck I want ?
I know multiple dynamic endings would be a lot to ask, but the end result we got really felt like a letdown from what the game worked so hard to build through the entire fourteen chapters. If decisions wouldn’t matter a whole deal later on, just don’t try to induce players into believing they do, and part of the problem suddenly disappears.
The ending was a seriously great problem to me — so loose I simply couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the game a 100% simply because of how it ended.
Call of Cthulhu was an overall really great game that surpassed my expectations by a long shot. I really do feel like a huge portion of the negativity that rained over this game over the years to be undeserved and does not do it full justice. The game, executed at a level of finesse close to that of perfection, profusely delivers an intricate dark-themed story that is not too deep, but is also far from shallow and is one I believe to be deserving of way more attention than it got.
Still, as much as I will compliment the game from a full-picture perspective, upon closer inspection, although beautifully executed it still isn’t quite at the level of a true masterpiece, with lots of small yet existent things that feel like they could have been treated to some refinement to reach the full glory achievable only in this context.
The game plays nicely and mechanics that are introduced work perfectly, giving players a fair bit of control over events.
Visually rich game, with many carefully placed objects and details that further supplement the atmosphere and world building.
A game that doesn't have to resort to cheap techniques to get players holding tight to their chairs late at night.
Set in a beautifully constructed, very atmospheric setting, with many areas of elevated spooky factor.
Graphics options that will work alright for most people but may be limited to the ones who like tweaking settings to their taste.
Weak initial story hook that is likely to get most people yawning by the time the game starts to get interesting.
Multiple yet mostly unsatisfying endings, leaving a lot in the open, and not giving players lots of control over how the game ends.
Very little interactions with the bad guys that as much as it may seem like a bad thing, was pretty much alright for me.
Call of Cthulhu
An intriguing game that surpassed my expectations by a long shot. Despite the intense negativity raining over the game for years now, playing through it proved to be a really engaging and fun experience, and it was much more than anything I had previously anticipated.
10/05/2020 - Caius, The Mgvulgtor N'ghftdrn