It’s 1924 and alcoholic ex-serviceman turned private investigator Edward Pierce is sitting in his quiet office, drink in hand, wondering where the next job is going to come from. All of a sudden there’s a knock at the door and before he knows it, he finds himself whisked off to a remote island to investigate the death of the Hawkins family in a fire that consumed their home.
The intro to Call of Cthulhu may seem a little cliche but that’s probably because because it’s the beginnings of a tale of Lovecraftian horror, a genre of horror that until now I thought I had no experience with. Truth be told H.P. Lovecraft has huge prestige in the genre and whether you directly choose to read one of his books or not, the chances are that if you enjoy horror in any of it’s mediums you will most likely have come across his influence. It’s at this point that I feel Cyanide Studio have set themselves a hard task, to convey their twist on a story told many times before while making it fresh and interesting.
The first couple of chapters of Call of Cthulhu feel a little on the slow side to me. Characters are introduced, you go to a couple of new areas but nothing much actually happens. Thankfully at chapter three things start to pick up and I begin to sense there is something not quite right with the island I have found myself on. While investigating various points around the island I get the same feeling as when I watched The Wicker Man, that everyone knows something that I don’t and that something is not good.
As this is my first real experience with a pure Lovecraftian story I find that the mystery behind the island and the deaths of the Hawkins family are one of the strongest points in Call of Cthulhu and they really carry the game forward. The developers have really nailed the setting, game design and atmosphere on the head and this creates a really spooky (but enjoyable) environment in which to explore and find out information from the other islanders.
Another strong point in the game is the stealth. Call of Cthulhu doesn’t afford you many weapons and being able to take out others by yourself is very rare. Instead you slip about the levels causing distractions that let you into areas you otherwise couldn’t reach. While some people may see this as a cheap way of making the game harder, in my eyes it increases the intensity and feeling of unease when trying to reach your goal. You feel a little helpless and less likely to just run about destroying everything and for a horror genre game I’d say that’s no bad thing.
On the whole the voice acting and writing is good although there were some irregularities with the volume of the voice acting from the main player character. Sometimes his voice would be really quiet compared to everything else. However I’m going to put this down to me playing an early release of the game as there really were no other problems with the game or settings what so ever. It ran really smooth and I was able to play through on the highest settings without any problems at all which is impressive considering how old my PC is.
There are slight RPG elements to the game also. You have the classic conversation options but in most cases you need to exhaust all options in order to advance anyway, so there’s not a whole lot of choice aside from a few occasions. The other element is the skill tree, which works much like Focus Home Interactive’s other game The Council in that it allows you to grow your character in the way that you see fit. You can put your skill points into things like being able to better spot clues or being more able to influence people when speaking.
Unlike in The Council I didn’t notice much of a difference when levelling up the skill tree and almost feel like they would have been better not even including skills in a game with only 10-15 hours game time. It almost seemed like an illusion of choice because if you explored each area thoroughly enough and spoke to each person for long enough you generally discovered everything you needed to advance anyway. This leads me to my biggest bug bear with the game that it seems to be very on rails. Yes you can explore areas, yes you can choose conversation topics but for the large part the game seems to pull you to the same point regardless of what you do.
The last few chapters of the game also feel a little disappointing in that they seem far more rushed than anything else. I get that towards the end you want to ramp up the intensity and finish on a bang but there were moments when I wasn’t quite sure what was going on in terms of the Lovecraftian lore and the game didn’t explain well enough for a newcomer like myself. Was it possible that the game was rushed to release or did they perhaps overlook the fact that a complete Lovecraft beginner wouldn’t be able to fully understand every aspect with ease?
On a whole I enjoyed the game but would have loved to have seen it fleshed out a little more to include more explanation of the lore and more scary areas to investigate. It would have been great to be able to better understand why I got the ending that I did as I know there was multiples ways for the game to end and again wasn’t entirely sure what I had done to reach the one I did. The gameplay was enjoyable, especially when investigating new areas and reconstructing crimes much in the same way you would in a Batman game and when dealing with the games ‘bosses’. Production was lacking in a few areas but like I said this could be down to having access to the early release version of the game.
The Verdict – On Target
Platforms Available – PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch
Platform Reviewed – PC
Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Steam review code supplied by PR.