CALL OF CTHULHU
By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on October 30, 2018
1924, Boston, Massachusetts. I have just awoken from a terrible nightmare. Blearily, I look around my office... my office... why do I even have an office anymore? It's not like the cases are flooding in. No interesting cases, at any rate. Memories of the Great War still haunt my every waking moment, and now even my sleep is being torn apart by horrific images and dark dreams. But where are my manners? Please allow me to introduce myself; I am Edward Pierce, private investigator. Or, at least, I would be if I could just get an interesting case...
Well Edward, old bean, have I got news for you! It just so happens that a case is actually coming your way, and it's going to be a doozy! Poor Edward; he let his past get the better of him, ladies and gentlemen, which resulted in his current somewhat unstable mental state and his addiction to booze and pain pills. Also, by buying liquor, he is actually breaking the law, seeing as how the Prohibition is in full swing by this time. We meet Edward when he wakes up from a horrible nightmare on his office's couch. After walking around for a bit, the telephone rings and a lady from the Wentworth Detective Agency, the organization that Edward works for, tells us she needs a bit of personal info. The game then opens a skill tree screen on which you can distribute so-called Character Points among a number of skills.
Each of these skills have a different impact on how you can approach various situations. For instance, adding enough Character Points to your Strength trait will increase Edward's chances to successfully force a door or other mechanisms, or to use physical or verbal violence during conversations without being knocked on his ass right away. If you want to take another approach, you could add points to your Eloquence trait, enabling Edward to charm your way out of a tight spot. Become more well-spoken and manipulate the people you're talking through by using the right words. There are many different traits to choose from and, as I've already mentioned, each of them has a lasting impact on how the story might unfold, so be sure to choose wisely!
But wait! What is that?! Is that someone knocking at my door?! Oh joy, could it be true? Could it be that a new case is coming my way?! Yes Edward, this is actually the case I told you about. So, let's open the door and see what fate has brought to our doorstep, shall we? When the door opens, an old man enters Edward's office, carrying a painting under one arm. Edward immediately recognizes the man as being Stephen Webster, a rich art collector and industrialist, as well as a well-known figure in Boston society. Mr. Webster, it quickly becomes apparent, is visiting Edward on behalf of his daughter Sarah... his DEAD daughter Sarah, I might add.
You see, Sarah married a man named Charles Hawkins; a wealthy businessman from the island of Darkwater, just off the Boston coast. Sarah and Charles had a son, Simon. The entire family was killed in a fire at their Darkwater mansion and the police suspect Sarah of killing herself, her husband and their son, because they have cause to assume Sarah was going mad. Her father now asks you, Edward Poerce, to take the case and prove his daughter's innocence. All he has to go on is a strange painting that Sarah sent to him a few days before her death and a small collection of files with some fragmented information about the case.
This, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is where your adventure begins. You, as Edward, will travel to the island of Darkwater and try to get to the black heart of this mystery. Once on Darkwater island, it quickly becomes apparent that there's more to this case than meets the eye. The local folk are not all keen on helping you, so you'll have to use every tool at your disposal to crack the case. Although it may seem like a simple murder case at first glance, there are dark secrets lurking under the surface of the murky waters of Darkwater island...
Call of Cthulhu is the official video game adaptation of Chaosium Inc's pen & paper RPG with the same name. The game mainly focuses on exploration and conversation and much less on action oriented gameplay. While Edward is a war veteran, he isn't actually much of a fighter, so you'll need to rely heavily on your wits to make any headway. Because most people on Darkwater are weary of you, you will have to ask the right questions and give the right answers if you want to get anywhere fast. There are usually more than one approach to get things done, it's up to you to make the most of your traits and choose the approach that best suits your strengths and weaknesses.
Now, this being a game in the Cthulhu universe, there is a madness factor in play. Edward doesn't have the most stable mind as it is, so you'll have to make sure he doesn't succumb to the dark and horrific visions you encounter along the way, even when reality breaks down and it is hard to discern between dream and said reality. By exploring Darkwater island, Edward slowly starts to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of Sarah and her family. Just make sure that the case at hand is the only thing that starts to unravel...
Graphics-wise, Call of Cthulhu looks good. The graphics are not mind-blowing, but the chosen style fits the premise of the game perfectly and the grim and dark environments enhance the eerie vibe surrounding the main story. The controls are pretty straight forward and certainly up to the task at hand. The exploration portion of the game is truly fun and it is always good to have more than one approach available to you at almost any time. As you delve deeper and deeper into the mystery, things become increasingly more strange and threatening at a fast rate.
A very cool game mechanic is the use of a skill called Reconstruction. This skill enables Edward to piece back together events that took place in the past by investigating certain pieces of evidence in the environment. By completing the Reconstruction, he gets a deeper understanding of what transpired at a certain location and discover clues that were previously hidden. Another cool mechanic is used during exploration; some items must be illuminated before Edward can interact with them and, seeing as how the environments in Call of Cthulhu are quite dark at times, Edward's equipped with a Zippo lighter or, if he can find one, a lantern to do so. So, if you're stuck, why not try and shed a bit of light on the situation?
Overall, I would say that Call of Cthulhu is a cool horror-like RPG that will perfectly cater to those among us that love a Lovecraftian story, interspersed with puzzles and lots of conversation. It's funny, but the game feels more like a point 'n click adventure at times, although everything is completely 3D and you are more or less free to go wherever and do whatever you like, like any RPG. I personally like this approach a lot. A more action oriented game would have undoubtedly killed the grim and eerie mood that surrounds the story in no time flat, so it's a good thing the people at Cyanide chose this approach.
So, if you're ready for some good old horror storytelling in a truly unsettling setting, be sure to give Call of Cthulhu a chance. Now, it may not be the game for everyone out there but, then again, which game is? See, there you have it! I believe Lovercraft fans and fans of the pen and paper Cthulhu RPG will love to see their favorite universe brought to life in a beautiful yet disturbing way. So, are you up to the task or will you eventually succumb to madness that is constantly trying to enter your unstable mind? Just play Call of Cthulhu and find out!