When a game begins its life at one studio and then jumps to another, that troubled development cycle, which Call of Cthulhu had, usually delivers a trainwreck. Call of Cthulhu started out with Frogwares - who, ironically, have their own Lovecraftian action/adventure game, The Sinking City, coming out next year - before several delays saw it been handed over to Cyanide Studios. Cue some more delays and finally Cthulhu emerged, squinting at the glaring sun.
Call of Cthulhu isn’t a direct adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s famous short story. Instead, it’s an adaptation of the pen-and-paper roleplaying game that was inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos. The game liberally borrows elements from the Cthulhu Mythos at large, with a scenario that was partly scripted by writers from the boardgames, and it incorporates a lot of the boardgame role-playing elements into its design. As with many Cthulhu adaptations, they've also drawn on the The Shadow Over Innsmouth short-story; a shadow many game designers and filmmakers can’t seem to get out from under.
Players take on the role of Edward Pierce, a private investigator based in Boston, who has hit rock bottom. A former World War 1 survivor now suffering from PTSD, Pierce is a wreck of a man, content to spend his days working on drinking himself into a stupor, while occasionally spending a weekend following a cheating spouse. Threatened with losing his job, Pierce takes on the next investigation that comes his way and, don’tcha know it, he’d have been better spending the weekend with another bottle instead. Pierce is tasked with investigating the death of Sarah Hawkins, a famous painter of the macabre, at her family's estate on the ominously-named Darkwater Island. Sarah’s father believes that her death was not the accident that the local police have declared, and wants Pierce to discover the truth.
Call of Cthulhu - (CoC from here on out) - is an exploration adventure game of the point-and-click variety, rolled into a first-person experience. Players are tasked with progressing through the narrative by exploring locations to find clues, talking to people and, occasionally, solving a puzzle.
CoC wasn’t quite what I was expecting, I must admit. While I knew the game would be an updated take on the point-and-click adventure games of yore, I was expecting it to be an open-world title, or semi-open at least. Instead, CoC is level-based, separated into chapters to keep with it’s literary origin, and clearly shows it was in the lower budget end of the development spectrum. That said, some areas look better than others, and I do think Cyanide have done a pretty good job with the dough they had to play with.
Darkwater Island is an inhospitable crag of rock, just off the coast of Boston... Why anyone would settle there to begin with is easily one of the game's greatest mysteries.
Whether I was picking the harbour masters brain for information, or was not-so-nicely told to bugger off by the islands local gangster, the sense of characterisation was wonderful.
There are four [endings] in total - with one considered “The Good Ending” - but they all felt equally underwhelming.
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Focus Home Interactive
PC, PS4, Xbox One
30 October 2018
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