Call of Cthulhu
Developed By: Cyanide SA / Saber Interactive
Published By: Focus Home Interactive
Category: Horror-Adventure / Detective
Release Date: 10.08.2019
Call of Cthulhu is a horror-adventure detective title from Cyanide SA that has you trying to decipher the fate of a young family, at the behest of the wife’s father. You are sent to an island of questionable folk, where you are clearly an outsider that isn’t welcome. From bootlegging (during the Prohibition era), to murder and theft, and the occult, you will have a lot on your plate. With some serious callbacks to film classics, such as The Wicker Man and Shutter Island, you have quite an adventure ahead of you. Can you discover the secrets of this island, while also escaping with your life?
You are Edward Pierce — drunken private eye who is at the end of his rope. You are hired by a powerful Boston resident, who says his daughter’s untimely passing has more to it than meets the eye. As you make your way to her home, Darkwater, you find that this island has some secrets that will take a lot of detective work to uncover. Sarah Hawkins, the daughter in question, was a well-known artist, but her paintings are dark and disturbing and reflect the mental issues she has had going on for some time. Was she crazy, or is there something behind the madness? As you take on this case, you will find that the island is not only inhabited by bootleggers and fisherman, but also by cultists who are followers of the great Cthulhu. How will you deal with this series of unfortunate events? Inspired by Chaosium’s classic pen and paper RPG, this title is crafted with deep, H.P. Lovecraft lore, as well as with horror that doesn’t utilize cheap jump scares, but uses level design, world-building, and a story that will rock your world.
As a detective title, this is one of the major gameplay features you will get to work with on this journey. You will need to scan environments for clues, as you collect books, paperwork, and items that deepen the lore and storytelling while also critically pointing you in the right direction. Light is a major factor when searching, as certain items will not appear to you unless you are able to see them. Thus, you will have to keep track of how much oil you have left in your lantern, as well as utilize the natural light and sometimes even your trusty lighter, to make sure you gather all the clues. Missing out on items not only will hinder your ability to solve each locations mysteries, but also will have you miss out on vital increases to your abilities.
Upgrades to your character are available as you level. CP, or character points, can be used to increase your abilities in things like investigation and psychology, as well as more difficult areas like medicine or the occult. These areas allow to mainly open up dialogue options with characters you meet, letting you get down to the truth of the matter more efficiently, but also allow you to interact with the environment in new ways, like with lock picking or the use of brute force. All of this allows for, not only a diverse set of skills that let you play the way you want, but also gives you some replayability with different skills allowing for different outcomes to playthroughs. Medicine and occult skills are special, as you must find items in the environments in order to increase these skills, such as a book on surgery or a ritual sacrifice location. With one of the more unique character sheets to play with that I have seen, this is one that RPG fans and adventure fans alike will salivate over, even though there are just the few select skills to work with.
Once you enter a location that you need to work through, you will sometimes be given the option to revert time and begin to piece together what happened there. This is part of your detective skills, and lets you get a great glimpse into how things went down in whatever setting you are in. I do, however, wish this portion of the game was a bit more flushed out. The only real difference between this phase and the normal environment scanning is that you have ghostly figures around you to give you a first-person view as to what everyone was up to. Due to this, I think some will find the detective work a bit monotonous at times, with most of your time being spent checking drawers and corners for every little hidden object.
Sanity, much like the Amnesia series, is something you will have to manage as you make your way through this title. What differentiates it from that game, however, is that the things you see and experience will have permanent effects on you. You are a veteran of the first World War, and thus you start the game with the “Nightmares” trait on your sanity page. From there, as you go through some pretty horrific things in the game, more traits will unlock that will affect what you see, hear, and how you react in certain situations. This, on top of the ability allocation, allows for very diverse replays of this title, as you can attempt to avoid anything maddening to try to keep your head on straight, or, you can go full asylum head and jump feet first into the crazy. Each offers fun routes of play.
Being a full PC/console release, and now making its way to Switch, brings a lot of questions with it. Luckily for this port, the game doesn’t suffer as much as some ports I have played through on this system. The game wasn’t blowing people away in the graphics and performance department to begin with, and even though that sounds like a downside, it means the port doesn’t take that much of a step back. Don’t get me wrong, you can tell this is the Switch port when discussing graphics, but it holds up surprisingly well. The only truly negative aspect to performance in this one is the loading times between areas, and especially chapters. The game really takes too long to get onto the next section. Even with those long load times, though, the actual aspects of gameplay hold up with the other versions of this title. Kudos to Saber Interactive!
All in all, Call of Cthulhu is an experience I was glad to have played through. With all of the story beats, engaging detective gameplay, and charm this one has, it is hard to find negative aspects to this one. A few performance hiccups and minimal diversity issues in gameplay don’t knock this game down the totem pole very far. For fans of story, horror, the occult, and detective titles this is a must play. Definitely recommended for everyone else, but some parts of the game may be a tougher sell to those that aren’t entrenched in this genre as it is.
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*The Switch Effect was provided a code for this game*