ACHTUNG! CTHULHU TACTICS (SWITCH RELEASE)
By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on January 24, 2019
1944. The Allied troops are making a lot of headway into the Nazi occupied European mainland when they encounter a new kind of Nazi soldier on their path to freedom. Armed with a comprehensive knowledge of the occult and advanced technology, these troops prove to be a most formidable foe. And as if that weren't bad enough, Eldritch creatures also begin to stir deep within the darkened heart of the Ardennes...
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, to Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics; a digital adaptation of Modiphius Entertainment's tabletop RPG, developed by Auroch Digital and published by Ripstone Games. Released back in October 2018 for PC and a month later for PS4 and Xbox One, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics now makes its debut on the Nintendo Switch! So let us journey back to the dark times of WW2 which, in this game, are made even darker by the arrival of the Ancient Ones! You see, the Nazi occult division, known as the Black Sun, as well as its advanced science division, known as the Nachtwölfe, have seemingly joined forces in what is to be one last attempt to stop the Allies from reaching Germany and overthrowing the Reich. To do so, they have awakened creatures from the Cthulhu mythos and use them as weapons against the Allies. Now, if that doesn't paint a disturbing picture, than I don't know what does!
Luckily, there are a few brave souls who will stand against the mighty oppressor and are more than ready to lay their lives on the line for the good of humanity! So, without further ado, let's meet the team. As we start our story, we join French resistance leader Ariane Dubois, a young woman with a few powers of her own, and Corporal Akhee Sing, a man of action but few words. These two are soon joined by Captain Harris, member of the British Section M, and Sergeant Carter, a seasoned warrior of the American Majestic division. Together, these four must do their utmost to stop the Nazi's from gaining the upper hand and winning the war.
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is a turn based strategy game in the finest tradition of the genre. The map of any given level is made up out of tiles, on which the characters make their way through the treacherous environment. Some tiles are marked with a white symbol, signifying that a character can interact with this tile, provided they are standing on it. These tiles usually give you background info on the mission at hand, open a locked door or complete a mission objective. These objectives vary from mission to mission but staying alive is, as you might suspect, a big part of successfully completing the mission at hand. The game is made up out of eleven missions, each with their own set of objectives and ten of which have a side mission attached to them, which are accessible from the map screen. If you choose to play these side missions is entirely up to you, but the rewards these missions yield are certainly not to be sneezed at.
During any mission, when not in combat that is, you are free to roam around to your heart's content. When you enter an area with enemies, the game goes into combat mode, and things start to work a little bit differently. When you enter a battle, your characters' Action Points (AP) become somewhat of an important issue. You see, a character can only perform actions as long as it has enough AP to do so. For instance, walking a number of tiles will cost you a number of AP. If you spend all your AP on movement, you will find yourself quickly surrounded by the enemy without the opportunity to fire your weapon. This, of course, is usually not the desired outcome, so be sure to keep your eyes on your AP while engaging the enemy.
What makes deciding on which approach to use, is the fact that your map is obscured by a black shroud. All characters have a field of view and everything in this field is perfectly visible. Everything outside this field is obscured, so there might be more enemies there, but you just can't be sure. Forming a decent defensive position is always your best option. And yes, I know there are people who say that the best defense is a good offense but, in this case, that might not always be true. If you just rush headlong into every confrontation, you'll be in a whole heap of trouble really, really fast! A nice feature to help you decide what to do next is the rotating map. With a press of a button, your isometric map can be turned clockwise or counter-clockwise in ninety degree increments, giving you a fresh perspective of the battlefield.
Now, don't worry if you run out of AP; you are going to do that sooner or later. When this happens, it is good to know that characters can build up Momentum. This power can also be used for certain actions, as well as for extending your movement range by sprinting. So now that we've got that somewhat covered, let's move on to another pretty important character trait: your health. As you might suspect, your enemies are not just going to sit back and let you obliterate them without putting up a fight, now will they? So yes, they will fire at you, or clobber you with electric claws, knives or slimy tentacles. So what happens if an enemy hits you? Well, a few things, actually. First up, the damage taken depletes your Luck meter, which is represented by a blue line surrounding your health bar. When your Luck meter is fully depleted, any additional damage you take starts depleting your health bar. When your health bar reaches zero... well, you figure it out.
Your Luck meter will refill automatically between fights, but your health level stays where it's at, until you use a medkit or manage to successfully complete your current mission. Also, when you get hit, your characters suffer a stress penalty. When this meter fills up completely, the character at hand may start to behave in a quite erratic way and may even pose a threat to him- or herself as well as others, so be sure to keep an eye on your characters' condition before deciding to use that character to engage an enemy. Also, certain enemies can put a character into a staggered state, which basically means that he or she will have only half his or her AP for the next turn, making it harder to do all the things you might have had planned for that character.
Let's just, for a second, focus on one of the most important issues at hand when engaging the enemy in combat: actually defeating them! So, how do we actually do this? Well, it's a simple matter of aiming and firing, really... okay, okay, there's a bit more to it than that. As I've already mentioned, actions cost AP and/or MP during battle and, seeing as how making an attack qualifies as an action, attacking the enemy will also costs you. You can keep attacking as long as you have enough AP or MP to do so. When you run out of both, that character's can no longer actively participate in the round and will have to wait until the next round to get back in the action. When aiming at an enemy, you will see a few things pop up on your screen. Firstly, a health bar with the type of the targeted character will appear above their head. Also, you will get a pop-up at the bottom of your screen, telling you how much damage your selected attack can do, as well as how good your chances of actually hitting the targeted enemy are. If you manage to deplete the enemy's health bar, you make a successful kill and that particular enemy is no more!
After all your characters have made their moves and attacks, it's time for the enemy to try and do some ass-kicking of their own. This, incidentally, is also where one of the coolest game mechanics ever comes into play: Overwatch! This über-cool trick involves spending some of your MP during your character's turn, in order to have your selected character watch a certain area of the playing field, even when it's not your turn. So, when an enemy makes a move during his turn and happens to stumble through the area your character is watching, he or she will automatically fire a shot at the enemy. Now, it's nowhere near a sure-fire hit, but I've had this truly great move save me a lot of trouble quite a few times while making my way through the increasingly challenging campaign.
As one might suspect, your characters all have different stats. These stats can be upgraded by earning XP when successfully completing a mission. Earn enough XP and your squad will level up, increasing their stats as you progress through the game. Also, for each level you go up, you earn a number of Skill Points (SP). These points can be spent on new awesome skills for your team members. Not every member of your team has the same skills, so try to remember which character has which skills and use them to your advantage. The skills are divided into two categories: active skills and passive skills. The passive skills are always "on" and will automatically trigger when the skill's requirements are met. Your active skills work in exactly the same way as other actions and usually cost Momentum, with or without the additional AP.
All in all, I can only say that Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is one hell of a fun experience. Usually, I'm not that big of a fan of turn-based games, but somehow, this game got me hooked! I mean come on; what's not to like? A group of bad-ass soldiers fighting for freedom? Check! Challenging gameplay and beautifully crafted characters and environments? Check! Nefarious enemies, just itching to take you on in battle? Check! And, my personal favorite; Eldritch horrors from the nightmares of H.P. Lovecraft? Check aaaaaand double Check! So, if you're a fan of awesome turn-based strategy games, do yourself one hell of a favor and start playing Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics. Go on... you know you want to!