• Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics review by Rick Moscatello

    Boring Nazis and dull Cthulhu-oids is an achievement, I guess.

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    There are only a handful of enemies where there’s no moral issue about killing them, even in a game. The most ubiquitous are zombies, of course—you seldom concern yourself with killing the walking dead. A close second are Nazis; we’re trained almost from birth that these guys are the “ultimate enemy,” and if it’s ok to “punch a Nazi” in the real world (note: I disapprove of such violence), then it’s perfectly fine to kill them with extreme prejudice in a game.

    Past those two, there a host of other bad guys arguably worth killing in games, but the rarest come from the Cthulhu Mythos. Cthulhu, for those who don’t know, is an Ultimate Evil God, a dead thing who sleeps, but nevertheless hopes to someday awaken and kill all living things. Crazed cultists are forever trying to wake Cthulhu, who heads a whole pantheon of betentacled creatures, all drawn from the fertile, gifted, and somewhat deranged mind of writer H.P. Lovecraft, who wrote much of Cthulhu nigh a century ago (he was a contemporary of, and exchanged ideas with, Robert E. “Conan” Howard).

    Much like Nazis, Cthulhu-stuff has appeared in many games, and even movies. While Nazis seem to work reliably in both movies and games, Cthulhu seldom translates to either medium well. Chulhu is more of a horror thing, but despite the general success of horror movies, most movies based around Lovecraft’s work have failed—about the only one that captures the heart of Lovecraft’s ideas is Dagon (well worth the $5 rental fee). I can’t even begin to list good movies with Nazis in them, and it’s about the same with computer games…a great Chulhu computer game? I’m drawing a blank, though I’ve played several (forgettable) such games.

    Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics combines Nazis and the Cthulhu Mythos in a turn based game that consistently surprised me with how astonishingly boring it is. The overall strength of Nazis for game material should help offset the less-reliable Cthulhu ideas but…the Nazis don’t do much Nazi-like, they really could be anyone in uniform with a gun. So, let’s talk about the game directly, picking apart why nothing works here:

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    Ah, the fog...it's everywhere, even where you've already been.

    It’s a turn based shooter, but from the very first mission you see there’s going to be a problem: all you do is wander around in “the fog,” snuffing out Nazis, who greatly outnumber you (not that it matters because the AI is feeble). Later you’ll deal with tentacle things…but they just bumble around while you blast them. Eventually you’ll meet betentacled Nazis…more annoying than interesting.

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    That's right: mission 2 and you're outnumbered 7 to 1.

    There just aren’t any interesting tactical considerations here—get behind cover, and blast away.

    Your team is a mere 4 soldiers, paltry considering the number of enemies you’ll generally face. Now, picking the right team for the right fight could be fun but…you have no choices. You have a leader, a big machine gun dude, a wannabe sorcerer-girl, and a Sikh with a knife (and shotgun). And…that’s all you get.

    You can equip your guys, and that could be fun, but once again we have failure. You don’t have much in the way of choices again—one weapon mod, and one piece of equipment. Actually capturing some of the weird Nazi/Cthulhu tech and using/studying it could be fun, but it’s just yet another missed opportunity here.

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    Everyone gets a trophy at the same time.

    There’s an experience point and leveling system but it’s so lean that you generally have only have one good choice when it’s time to gain a new ability—everyone gains the same experience at the same rate per mission, adding more to the monotony.

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    It looks like a dinner plate, but it's a skill tree, honest.

    You can buy some neat skills (like “life drain”), but you can only activate such skills when you have sufficient “momentum.” As you can also use momentum to just fire your pistol for an extra shot (doing as much damage as most bonus skills), nothing here is particularly game-changing.

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    You don't have to know what it is to kill it...a good rule for a Cthulhu game.

    There’s not much of a story here. Go on a mission to blast Nazis/monsters, and then another mission, and another…and so on. You’re on railroad tracks for the most part, systematically completing “story” and “side” missions as you move towards your ultimate goal of…killing Nazis and monsters. It would be so neat if they took a few pages from Call of Cthulhu (a tabletop role playing game) and you learned something about the Cthulhu Mythos (to the detriment of your characters) as you played, giving you choices about whether the mystic knowledge/power is worth the risk of driving your soldiers insane, but all you ever do is follow railroad tracks.

    If you want to blast Nazis and things with tentacles, the game is ok, I guess, but there’s really nothing here to make the game notable, a real achievement considering how incredibly rich the underlying source material is.

    Overall rating: 70
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post