Something is amiss with Call Of Cthulhu
Cyanide’s long-awaited adaptation still feels like it’s Caught between an ancient beast and a hard place
format: PS4, Xbox one, PC | publisher: FOCUS Home Interactive developer: Cyanide | release: tbc 2018 | players: 1
After years languishing in development, a very public false start, a change of developer and yet another hands-off demonstration, we’re starting to get a little worried about Call Of Cthulhu.
It isn’t that it doesn’t show promise – because it certainly does – but there’s something about this Lovecraftian-infused detective game that doesn’t sit right with us. Before we get into it, let’s circle back to the premise: you’re a moody private investigator tasked with exploring an ominous and muddy island off the coast of Boston, Massachusetts; a grizzly murder requires your expertise and it’s only through keen investigation and an almost obsessive-attraction to invading personal space and privacy that you’ll be able to figure out what really transpired on Darkwater Isle.
Listen, we aren’t being fussy, that works for us. Call Of Cthulhu is trying to evoke the feeling of the pen and paper RPG more so than HP Lovecraft’s famed short story – or indeed any of the innovative horror games bearing the Great Old One’s name that have come before it. But it’s like we said before, something about Cyanide’s execution isn’t clicking into place. We’ve seen this game demoed at a distance for years now, and the pervading concerns are around pace and structure. It’s as slow as hell, demanding that you crawl through every bit of text, detail and piece of information that can possibly be thrown your way. Given the somewhat questionable writing (not to mention somewhat theatrical voice acting) this is a bit of an ask. Of course, we’ll once again give the studio the benefit of doubt and assume that these elements will be subject to change as Call Of Cthulhu edges closer to its still unknown late-2018 release date.
The studio does, of course, argue that the crawling pace is a deliberate design decision to build tension, as well as giving the game the space to establish the notion that every single person on the island hates you – with your mere presence alone putting you under immense scrutiny. In terms of structure, Call Of Cthulhu is focused around investigative gameplay with four pillars of forensic investigation bringing an interesting RPG element to proceedings; investing in skills such as social, physical, knowledge and investigation will give you new opportunities and lines of
inquiry to follow in the semi-open world, even if, it seems, that all roads eventually lead to the same place.
These types of systems are difficult to demonstrate, they need to be experienced. As that wasn’t an available option, all we are left to go on is what seemed to be a fairly routine set of opportunities to follow. It looks mundane and pedestrian, lacking the venomous bite that you’d expect to see from an official Call Of Cthulhu release.
Where this could change is with the supernatural side to the game, an element of Call Of Cthulhu designed to expose your sanity and prey on your insecurities. We saw only a glimpse of it this year, and none of the scenarios that push the player into the position in which you must fight the horrors of the dark place non-directly, managing your unravelling sanity against a desire to survive by any means necessary. It is here where Cyanide could succeed in executing its vision, where it could transform Call Of Cthulhu into a full-bodied detective story tinged with horror, rather than a drab jaunt through a turgid fishing village. What we’re not seeing right now is all of its elements coalesce into one excellent whole. There are some fantastic ideas, systems and storytelling mechanics in here – we just need to see Cyanide finally prove that it can all work in perfect harmony, a result that will be as attention-arresting as it is unsettling.
Call Of Cthulhu shows a lot of promise, but it still feels a little under cooked. its various elements seem interesting in a vacuum, but we’re still struggling to see how they will come together to form a fun gameplay experience.
the success of Call Of Cthulhu will largely rest on how well the sanity effects and situations are presented in the final game. we’ve heard precious little on the intriguing ‘phobia system’ revealed this time last year.