achtung! cthulhu tac­tics

Love­craft? We’re not sure we even Like­craft

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - CONTENTS - Alex Spencer

As videogame names go, Achtung! Cthulhu Tac­tics is the kind you’d ex­pect to see in a sit­com script, made up be­cause they can’t use the ti­tle of a real game. It’s a fairly ugly three-way col­li­sion of key­words – but in that, it’s ac­tu­ally rea­son­ably de­scrip­tive. Achtung! Cthulhu was orig­i­nally a table­top role-play­ing game Kick­started back in 2013, with a set­ting that posed the same ques­tion as Wolfen­stein,

Cap­tain Amer­ica, Hell­boy and many oth­ers be­fore it: what if the Nazis’ in­ter­est in the oc­cult ac­tu­ally sum­moned some­thing? In this case, the ten­ta­cle-laden el­dritch crea­tures in­tro­duced by the hand­ily out-of-copy­right books of HP Love­craft.

That’s the first part of the ti­tle ac­counted for, then. The ‘Tac­tics’ suf­fix, mean­while, is an in­di­ca­tion that for its first foray into the dig­i­tal world, Achtung! Cthulhu has de­cided to bor­row the for­mula es­tab­lished by

XCOM: En­emy Un­known. A for­mula that developer Auroch Dig­i­tal seems to have fol­lowed as closely as one of the game’s sorcerer-sci­en­tists por­ing over an an­cient text.

In case you’re un­fa­mil­iar, that means turn-based bat­tles where units are con­stantly dash­ing be­tween cover strewn across the bat­tle­field. You’re gen­er­ally fac­ing a larger and of­ten more pow­er­ful en­emy force, and try­ing to po­si­tion your squad to find the vulnerable spots in, to put it in an ap­pro­pri­ately Love­craftian man­ner, the squa­mous hide of your cy­clo­pean foe.


Help­ing even-up those odds are the spe­cial abil­i­ties of your units. It’s not just the Nazis who’ve got their hands on name­less mag­icks, it seems – your squad in­cludes a French re­sis­tance fighter with a pet dragon; an In­dian cor­po­ral who has bonded with a mys­te­ri­ous amulet; and a Brit whose only touch of the el­dritch seems to be that he’s nick­named ‘Bad­ger’.

Rather than an XCOM- style ro­tat­ing cast of cus­tomis­able can­non fodder, Achtung! Cthulhu sticks with a sin­gle band of he­roes through­out, as you slowly un­lock their abil­i­ties. This is the game’s great­est strength, as each char­ac­ter de­vel­ops into a unique role – whether it’s the shot­gun-and-melee spe­cial­ist Cor­po­ral Singh con­stantly rush­ing for­ward into en­emy ter­ri­tory or Sergeant Carter, hang­ing back in a safe van­tage point and mow­ing down mon­strous foes with a braced ma­chine gun.

The en­e­mies evolve too, from the ini­tial Nacht­wolfe units – your com­mon or gar­den Nazi troops, with a slight sci-fi spin – to the oc­cultist Black Sun, and their blas­phe­mous al­lies. This in­cludes Love­craft’s trade­mark Shog­goths, the be­ing he de­scribed in At The Moun­tains Of Mad­ness as “shape­less con­geries of pro­to­plas­mic bub­bles, faintly self-lu­mi­nous, and with myr­i­ads of tem­po­rary eyes form­ing and un-form­ing as pus­tules of green­ish light”. In Achtung! Cthulhu, they’re big bul­let-sponge blobs with a pro­trud­ing ten­ta­cle, all the bet­ter to whip you with.

Which is to say, the game doesn’t re­ally take full ad­van­tage of its set­ting. Be­yond the odd dream­scape level, and a Stress me­ter that fills up as your units take hits, caus­ing them to lose half a turn to panic or de­velop a shaky aim­ing hand, there’s not much done with the Love­craftian themes of ex­is­ten­tial hor­ror and mad­ness. It can feel like a thin layer of dec­o­ra­tion that has been wall­pa­pered over the fa­mil­iar struc­ture be­neath – which means there isn’t enough to dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from other, sim­i­lar games.

Tac­ti­cal er­ror

The in­evitable com­par­i­son to XCOM isn’t a favourable one for Achtung!

Cthulhu. It’s miss­ing the spark of magic which brings that game’s bat­tles to life. Per­haps it’s the lev­els, which are all flat planes, and lack the de­struc­tible cover which could in­ject some dy­namism. Per­haps it’s the rel­a­tively shonky an­i­ma­tions and cam­era moves, which lack the cine­matic flair re­quired to re­ally sell the stakes of turn-based com­bat. An at­tempt to mimic the slow-mo­tion ten­sion of en­e­mies fir­ing on your sol­diers too of­ten fails to cap­ture the vi­tal mo­ment. At times, you can feel Achtung!

Cthulhu’s bud­get strain­ing to keep up, whether in the blandly dec­o­rated lev­els, the amount of story that’s con­veyed through plain text boxes, and the end­lessly-re­peat­ing voice lines – clas­sics like “I’ve got this!” and “They didn’t stand a chance!” can re­cur twice or more within a minute.

It’s a shame, be­cause the set­ting has po­ten­tial and Achtung! Cthulhu does have some in­ter­est­ing ideas – like us­ing a shared pool of Mo­men­tum points to fuel the whole squad’s spe­cial abil­i­ties, or the Luck bar which drains be­fore he­roes take any per­ma­nent dam­age.

But these seeds never quite de­velop as far as you’d like, held back by too many lim­i­ta­tions. That’s true of all three el­e­ments signalled in the ti­tle – they’re han­dled com­pe­tently, but none of them man­age to blos­som into any­thing unique. Ul­ti­mately,

Achtung! Cthulhu Tac­tics does ex­actly what it says on the tin. Just don’t ex­pect it to sur­prise you by ever do­ing more than that.

“At times, you can feel the game’s bud­get strain­ing to keep up”

Left In awe at the size of this Shog­goth. Ab­so­lute in­de­scrib­able ac­cursed unit.

right Dream-set lev­els are a lit­tle vis­ually dis­ap­point­ing.

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