• Call of Cthulhu review by Rick Moscatello



    Clan requests......-chtsplash-png


    At Long Last, From the Depths, Something Worthy Undulates Forth


    The Lovecraftian Mythos, headed by Cthulhu, has spawned many a gaming product. The vast majority were abominations, left to hide in deserved obscurity, but a highlight was the Call of Cthulhu (CoC) tabletop role playing game, which I daresay left an impression on everyone who played it even once.

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    Yeah, call it an allegory. Whatever helps you sleep at night, princess.

    Cthulhu is about horror, the deepest horrors of your most twisted nightmares…certainly there’s room for a game there, but it’s tough to sustain. I mean, you can always pour some goblins into a cave and call it a fantasy adventure, but the same nightmare over and over gets old. So, despite the great source material, most CoC games just can’t cut it.

    This one cuts it, and cuts it, and cuts it one more time, to be sure.

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    Lots of...interesting...paintings here.

    Key and critical to this type of game is story—you can’t get scared if you don’t care about any of the characters. You play a mildly unstable private detective, and quickly acquire a case involving an obscure fishing island (folks, this is a Lovecraftian as it gets, though a touch stale), an accursed painting (bonus points for originality), and a deadly fire that is not what it seems (more bonus points).

    Now, this is an adventure game, so if those aren’t for you, well, tough. This is an awesome adventure game, rich in atmosphere. This does limit the play value, but there is, barely, enough here good for two plays.

    The artwork and characters you meet are done crudely but stylistically acceptable, even the guys from central casting still have enough unique flourishes and speak their lines credibly enough that it’s not too annoying when they repeat themselves (it’s what NPCs do, after all).

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    Note to self: do not improve strength on second play through.

    Character development follows a basic system—apply character points to improve your abilities (pro tip: strength is useless, there is nothing in this game you can fight without a gun, you’ll be running and sneaking mostly). Two stats are determined by finding books in game—medicine, and the occult. As you read occult books, your sanity drains away, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just realize you’re making a trade-off of knowledge for vulnerability.

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    I love the smell of rotting fish guts in the morning. Smells like...Cthulhu!

    For all my enthusiasm, there are some issues. Some of the puzzles are stupid-hard. My first encounter with The Shambler led to many, many, deaths/reloads because I missed a critical clue just a few minutes earlier. While it was nothing a quick YouTube consult couldn’t address, there were a few other places where I found myself stuck just a bit harder than I should have been.

    The whole game is on railroad tracks, and you don’t get any tapbacks. So, if you learn how to pick locks, you can’t just go back and open the lock (to, presumably, get an important book or clue). It’s an unfortunate design choice, but it does at least keep the story moving, as you always know the solution to whatever puzzle you’re working on must be in the immediate vicinity.

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    Now that I'm psychotic, I can finally solve this mystery.

    Another issue is you often take control of another character. Yes, in-game reasons are provided for this, and I’m willing to overlook much when the Necronomicon is involved, but in a RPG I want to play a character here, not jump around and play whatever character would make for a good chapter in the story. Ultimately, character development just doesn’t mean much here.

    Bottom line, even with the design issues, there are real flashes of talent in the writing and presentation of the story. If you’re looking for a good horror game, or for, easily, the best representation of Lovecraft’s ideas on the PC, this one is a must-have for your collection.

    Overall Rating: 89
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Call of Cthulhu review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post
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