“The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
-H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu
Call of Cthulhu, by developer Cyanide Studios, is a deep dive into the world of the occult and madness. You play as Detective Edward Pearce who is hired on to investigate the death of Sarah Hawkins and her family. This leads Edward to the isolated fishing village of Darkwater, where he learns of a secret cult and has to unravel the mystery behind this village and its inhabitants.
Call of Cthulhu is one of the best representations of an H.P. Lovecraft story that I have had the pleasure of playing. Unlike most Lovecraft games, Call of Cthulhu is an adventure/puzzle game which just fits the investigative storytelling that Lovecraft stories are known for. There is little to no action besides running away and hiding. While this may discourage some from wanting to play it, I’m here to tell you that Call of Cthulhu is worth every second of your time. The village of Darkwater is just full of dread and intrigue that had me hooked from the very beginning!
The setting of Darkwater is the perfect setting for a Lovecraft story, with all of its hidden secrets and distrustful townsfolk. You feel like an outsider, and because of this, it makes your investigation into the death of the family a lot more difficult.
The gameplay of Call of Cthulhu is fairly simple. You spend a lot of time just searching the area and looking for clues to help you with the occasional puzzles you will come across. The puzzles themselves are unique and fun to figure out, although a little explanation on what to do during some of them would have saved me a lot of time and heartache. There were times where I had to die multiple times to even figure out what I was supposed to do, but even then, I never got frustrated.
You will occasionally have to deal with things that are ripped straight out of your nightmares. These are puzzles in their own right, but this was a nice little twist that kept the gameplay compelling.
Not only is Call of Cthulhu an adventure/puzzle game, but it also blends a bit of RPG elements as well. When you start the game, you get to add points to different stats like Psychology, Eloquence, and Investigate. Strength helps you move objects in the world, Spot which helps you find hidden objects easier and Investigate helps unlock different dialogue options. You will earn points every so often that you can put toward any of these stats just like an RPG. There are also two other types of stats, Occultism and Medicine, where points apply. After you spend these points in the beginning, you will only be able to upgrade these stats by finding books on the occult and medical journals.
Another gameplay element that fits in the world of a Lovecraftian story is not something you can control per session, but affects Edward in certain events. When you encounter something terrifying, Edward starts freaking out to the point that he could lose his sanity. The screen starts to blur and Edward starts panicking which, in turn, makes you panic. Apparently, Edward is a bit of a claustrophobe, because when you go to hide in tight spaces, he starts getting tunnel vision and breathing heavy, which just increases the tension.
These gameplay elements wouldn’t work nearly as well without an engaging story, and Call of Cthulhu delivers on that in spades. The mystery of what is happening in Darkwater is so intriguing that I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even when I wasn’t playing the game. The choices you make throughout Call of Cthulhu will have varying effects on your ending, which gives the game a ton of replayabilty. I can’t wait to see what other endings I may get.
Now, I do have one minor complaint, and that is the length of the game. You can beat the fourteen chapters within twelve hours or so, and that is mainly due to trying to solve the puzzles. I think the reason for that is because Cyanide Studios wants you to play the game multiple times, and with the story being so engaging, I have no problem with that! For me, Call of Cthulhu is definitely a contender for game of the year, and I highly recommend fans of Lovecraftian horror to give this game a try. It is available now on Xbox One, PS4, and Steam.