Call of Cthulhu: The fO­fi­cial Video Game

Rolling in­vis­i­ble dice in the creak­ing port town of Dark­wa­ter

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - Robert Zak

Last year’s footage of Call of Cthulhu felt more tai­lored for the ‘quiet-quiet-BOO’ let’s play au­di­ence than it did to the im­pla­ca­ble hor­rors of Love­craftian literature. But now I’ve be­held an­other side to the game, which has es­chewed jump scares for a taste­ful at­mos­phere of sickly un­ease. It’s okay, Howard, you can stop turn­ing in your grave now. I meet with the de­vel­op­ers for a guided, hands-off demo. We fol­low pri­vate eye Ed­ward Pierce as he trav­els to Dark­wa­ter Is­land—a dank fish­ing vil­lage—to find a mys­te­ri­ous paint­ing be­long­ing to a wealthy de­ceased cou­ple. Dark­wa­ter is a place of surly mariners and sludgy jet­ties. Loom­ing over it all is a scabrous spike of a moun­tain. Re­al­ity here seems to be be­ing en­croached upon by the en­er­gies of a cold, other di­men­sion.

Upon ar­rival, you are free to snoop about. A nat­u­ral place to start is that mu­ti­lated car­cass of a whale ly­ing on the jetty. The lo­cals mur­mur about the vi­o­lent na­ture of the crea­ture’s demise, while oth­ers whis­per about a ‘mirac­u­lous catch’. We head to the tav­ern to find out more.

A sharply dressed woman at the back of the room catches our eye. Clearly, she knows some­thing. CallofCthulhu has a four-pronged skill tree, divvied up into Speech, In­ves­ti­ga­tion, Phys­i­cal and Knowl­edge. Your ex­e­cu­tion of these abil­i­ties—whether it’s in­tim­i­da­tion, lock­pick­ing, or spot­ting ob­jects in the

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en­vi­ron­ment is ef­fec­tively down to dice rolls based on the char­ac­ter skill level. As per the table­top game, this is as much about build­ing a role­play­ing char­ac­ter as it is about your own skills as a player.

Ev­i­dently, Mr Pierce hasn’t in­vested many points into Charm, as we blurt an open­ing line to the ef­fect of ‘What’s a girl like you do­ing in a place like this?’ Just like that, we’ve blown it, and must track down the paint­ing an­other way.

We read a news story about the Mirac­u­lous Catch of 1847, be­fore go­ing up­stairs to talk to one Cap­tain Fitzroy, de facto don of Dark­wa­ter. This is more like it. No un­com­fort­able one-lin­ers; just two stone-faced men getting down to it. We im­press him with our grasp on lo­cal his­tory, and he tells us that Hawkins used to own Ware­house 36 across the way.

Ten­ta­cled ter­rors

The free­dom of ap­proach be­comes pal­pa­ble here. We can try to sneak past the guards into the ware­house, smoothtalk them, or bribe the nearby drunks to cause a dis­trac­tion. As we’re prob­ing, how­ever, we hear of a network of tun­nels con­nect­ing the ware­houses. How could we refuse?

First, we need to fix the pulley sys­tem to open a hatch. We use our ‘Spot Hid­den Object’ skill, which gives use­ful ob­jects in the en­vi­ron­ment a chance of glim­mer­ing faintly as we pass over them. This time, the in­vis­i­ble dice roll in our fa­vor, and we spot the cog that grants us pas­sage into the sub­ter­rane.

Once again, Love­craftian styl­iza­tion trumps re­al­ism, as the green wa­ter of the un­der­pass seems to pul­sate with ra­dioac­tive ra­di­ance. Then, a splash, a mass of ten­ta­cles, and we’re pulled un­der, glimps­ing a kalei­do­scopic un­der­wa­ter world, or maybe a be­ing, of glo­ri­ous and ter­ri­fy­ing ab­strac­tion. We resur­face to see that we just got tan­gled in sea­weed.

The in­ter­est­ing thing is that we wouldn’t have had this en­counter (a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the game’s In­san­ity sys­tem) had we cho­sen a dif­fer­ent path. Maybe we need to talk to peo­ple bet­ter, or we should just suc­cumb to cu­rios­ity and em­brace the hor­ror. Ei­ther way, Cyanide has ev­i­dently grasped the tone of this slippery source ma­te­rial.

A nat­u­ral place to start is that mu­ti­lated car­cass of a whale

Beau­ti­ful or ter­ri­fy­ing? It’s like Rorschach test for cultists.

There’s more of a re­liance on tra­di­tional scares.

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