This product was reviewed on a PlayStation 4, and is also available on Xbox One and PC. A code was provided for review purposes.
Cyanide Studio takes their first step into the Lovecraft universe, in the official adaptation of Chaosium’s beloved table-top RPG. Take control of Edward Pierce, a Private Detective from Boston, in 1924. He’s just taken a case to investigate the deaths of the Hawkins family at their mansion on Darkwater Island. Delving into the island’s secrets plunges Pierce into a world of conspiracy, and otherworldly horror.
Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game is a first person RPG-investigation game, with stealth and horror elements. The story unfolds over multiple chapters, across various semi-open world environments of Darkwater Island. While there is a bit of combat in the game, the game mostly requires you to use your skills as a detective to solve this case. By talking to people, or by sneaking around, you can learn their secrets. Would you rather find a key to open a particular door, or try to pick the lock? As Edward Pierce, everything you do will affecting your destiny, even having a drink.
Your skills in a particular area of expertise depends on how many Character Points (CP) you apply to them. You may not be able to open a door if you don’t have enough in the Strength stat. You could spot more hidden items, leading to more clues and information if you invest in the Spot Hidden stat. There are even stats that can only be raised by searching the environment and finding certain items. There is also a Sanity stat in play, though it functions differently than in the pen-and-paper classic. Witnessing certain events, or even items in the environment can lower your Sanity, to the point that it causes panic attacks, leaving you with distorted vision. It really only comes into play late in the game, but can affect the outcome in many ways. It’s a nice formula that leaves Call Of Cthulhu with replay value, for the sake of seeing how differently things can play out.
The stealth elements of the game, while nothing special, works well enough. Enemies’ awareness to you is indicated by a small arrow above their heads. If it’s white, you’re unseen. If it turns red, they will begin to chase you. You can crouch, and peek around corners to navigate as needed. There are even closets to hide in at certain points in the game.
Call of Cthulhu’s sense of horror is felt from the opening scene. Everything, from the locale and inhabitants of Darkwater Island, to the overall tone of the story give off a very “Lovecraft” vibe. Pierce’s reactions to the truth behind the island, and the madness that he uncovers feel genuine. His vision blurs and breathing rapidly in tense situations or environments, that make for some interesting gameplay segments.
As enjoyable as Call Of Cthulhu is, it’s not without a few issues. Certain investigation segments refused to cue the next clue, forcing me to reload a checkpoint a few times in order to progress. Thankfully, the game has a fairly generous autosave system. Conversations with other characters use the speech wheel system we’ve seen a lot of in the years since the previous generation. It works the same as in other games, but can be a bit finicky now and then. While these issues do present an annoyance, it’s nothing that will hinder you or take away from your enjoyment.
While Call Of Cthulhu may not be visually stunning, its design works well with the tone of the game. My favorite aspect would be the lighting. For the most part, Darkwater Island is dimly lit. You can see well enough when navigating, but during investigations, use of your lantern will often reveal new clues. The environments have a fair amount of detail, if you take the time to look. Cyanide Studio paid attention to detail on the time period, as well. The design of the more “Lovecraftian” elements are where the game really shines though. There’s a creature you’ll encounter at multiple points throughout the story called the Dimensional Shambler that could send shivers down your spine. This, combines with how the game handles Pierce’s perception of such otherworldly sights makes Call Of Cthulhu a fairly unique experience.
The sound is mostly what you would expect from a horror game. The background music or sound effects add a tense feeling to some situations, if you’re the type to get that immersed in a game. The characters are all decently voice acted, though there are a few that I didn’t care much for. In a game like this, it’s more about the information they provide anyway.
Call Of Cthulhu: The Official Game isn’t a horror masterpiece, but it is an experience worth having. Mostly following the trope of other games, it does nothing to differentiate itself from other investigative horror titles, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. All of the aspects combined form a game that is faithful to both Chaosium’s table-top classic, and the Lovecraft universe in general. Fans of one or both have a real treat on their hands with this one. With a well written narrative, interesting gameplay, great use of RPG mechanics, tense horror, and multiple possible outcomes, Cyanide Studio have given us a horror game that justifies the price tag.
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