Call of Cthulhu Review
Released at the end of October, Call of Cthulhu is a survival horror RPG from developer Cyanide which focuses on stealth and investigation. Featuring a partially open-world environment, Call of Cthulhu is set in a world based on H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” and is also inspired by the role-playing tabletop game of the same name. With a focus on psychological and cosmic horror, Call of Cthulhu brings into doubt the very nature of reality. Are you ready to answer the call?
In Call of Cthulhu, you play as private investigator Edward Pierce, a Boston native who has a hard time finding cases. He passes his days filled with drink and other various substances, until one day he is visited by a desperate man with a very mysterious case. Solving this case becomes the main plot point and your efforts to do so lead you into a world wherein reality and illusion blend into one.
The first impression I had when I started playing Call of Cthulhu was that everything from the movements, graphics and dialogue choice interface were familiar. Turns out this is not a coincidence as this game was originally being developed by Frogwares, the group behind the Sherlock Holmes video game series. Development was taken over by Cyanide, but still seems to have retained many of the elements from the Sherlock Holmes series.
That being said, Call of Cthulhu quickly identifies itself as a unique title with the Lovecraftian themes that are ever-present through your journey to solve this truly bizarre case. This game does a marvelous job of immersing you in a strange and twisted world whose secrets and mysterious continuously feel beyond your comprehension. This, of course, is the entire basis of Lovecraftian (or cosmic) horror.
The gameplay consists largely of exploration and dialogue through a semi-open world environment. Discovering various evidence and asking the right questions will unlock more information, providing you with an advantage in future interacts on the subject. For example, if you learn something and then speak with someone who tells a different story, you will have unlocked the option of calling them out on their lie. It is up to your discretion which option to choose, and each choice can impact your path moving forward.
Your character also has different skills that will help you in your work. Your skills in Eloquence, Spot Hidden Strength, Investigation, Psychology, Medicine and Occult knowledge will all impact your chance of success when attempting various actions throughout the game. You begin with a set number of points to distribute as you wish and obtain more as you complete certain parts of the game. These skills are critical to your success, as they will impact your ability to connect pieces of evidence, get information from evasive persons, pick locks and more.
Feeling as though you are caught in the middle of something far beyond the scope of human existence can have quite the impact on your mental health, which brings me to another aspect of Call of Cthulhu which is quite unique: Sanity. Your character, Edward Pierce is a war veteran and an alcoholic. Combine that will his experiences on Darkwater Island and you have one very fragile mind to contend with.
Decisions you make throughout the game will impact your sanity level, and your sanity level very much affects the game. I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone but let’s just say that straying too much in either direction (recklessly abandon your clarity or protecting your mental state at all cost) can be an unwise choice.
The subversion of reality, as a constant theme of Call of Cthulhu, is done spectacularly. I often found myself questioning what was real and what wasn’t, and the only thing I could do was keep working towards my objective. It has been a long time since I have felt as truly immersed in a game as I have in Call of Cthulhu.
Overall, Call of Cthulhu, is a wonderful experience. I have seen some mixed reviews and I can only imagine that people who are displeased with what it has to offer did not go in with an open mind. If you don’t like taking your time and enjoying the storyline and world that have been created around you, Call of Cthulhu is not for you. Those who enjoy Lovecraftian works (and anyone who is a fan of psychological horror), however, will find a gripping and immersive experience that will keep you guessing all along the way.