Title: Call of Cthulhu
Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Genre: Survival Horror
Official Site: Call of Cthulhu
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Where to Buy: Nintendo Game Store, PlayStation Store, Xbox Live
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.” – H.P. Lovecraft
H.P. Lovecraft’s stories are gripping, terrifying, and engaging. While they may feature horrific monsters and revolve around the occult, that isn’t their main focus. What makes his stories so unique are the interactions between humans and the creatures and the inner battle with the human psyche. The quote captures the essence of Call of Cthulhu and wraps it tightly in a sticky tentacle. The game tells a rich and detailed story that keeps the player guessing with every new piece of lore learned. It’s thrilling, shocking, and mesmerizing and has a high honor among horror games.
Call of Cthulhu takes place in 1924 and follows private investigator Edward Pierce as he investigates the mysterious death of a family on Darkwater Island. While looking into the case, Pierce discovers something sinister going on and uncovers a cult also calls the island home.
The storytelling is perhaps the strongest point of the game. Along the way, the player has the option the select different dialogue choices to move along the plot. Some may allow Pierce to learn new lore and information about the culture of Darkwater while others will open up different opportunities and plots for Pierce to follow.
It’s these moments that make Call of Cthulhu not only addicting but engaging as well. As soon as you make the decision, it’s cemented in history. You aren’t railroaded into making a decision but can choose your own destiny. This gives the player plenty of options to go back and replay the game to see various outcomes. Which is necessary because the campaign isn’t terribly long. You can blast through the game’s 14 chapters in a matter of hours.
Destiny plays a major role in Call of Cthulhu as well. Your choices have a lasting impact on the world and Pierce and will make all the difference in the final moments of the game. Choose to betray a character’s trust and they may not assist you in a key point of the game. While helping them with something will earn you a reward later on that may get you to a different area or give you a new piece of lore.
I’m a huge fan of pen and paper roleplaying games and Call of Cthulhu plays out exactly like one. That’s excellent seeing as it is based on the same mechanics as the RPG of the same name. The choices matter and make you think about future decisions. However, there are also some negatives about the design and gameplay as well. There were many times I was left completely lost on what to do and where to go. While the quest prompted me to head to a specific area or banish a creature, I was left stunned on how to complete the task presented to me. While this only happened a handful of times, each time it was an annoyance I could do nothing about. I felt as if I were going insane along with Pierce.
Another great aspect of Call of Cthulhu surrounds Pierce’s sanity, which is something featured heavily in the RPG. The world isn’t fully open-world but gives the player the opportunity to explore expansive environments. From a shipyard, mansion, insane asylum, and caverns, the game features a wide variety of stunning locations to investigate.
Exploring can lead to finding occult objects that impact Pierce’s sanity level. The more sanity points Pierce gains the more likely he is to go insane. This can add and change dialogue options and how you interact with characters. You can play through the game without losing any sanity at all if you’re careful in your choices.
Call of Cthulhu focuses heavily on stealth mechanics and I’d say they are decent at best. Pierce can crouch behind barrels and peek around corners but his movement is clunky and heavy. As long as he stays out of sight, he’s fine but if an enemy catches a glimpse of him, they will investigate until they lose sight of him. You can easily run away and hide until they go away but they forget you exist and go about their business. At first, the stealth was intense and felt good but after being spotted and hiding again it became lackluster. The only time I felt scared was during chases with the creature known as the Shambler: a cryptid with the movements of a feral beast and the features of a human blended with a spider.
As you work your way throughout each mission, Pierce is able to upgrade his skills and abilities. These range from studying the occult, finding hidden clues, and perceiving a character’s motives or emotions. It works like a typical skill tree and after completing an event or finding a clue you can upgrade one of Pierce’s five stats a certain number of times.
Call of Cthulhu looks and sounds fantastic on the Switch as well. The graphics are sharp and clear during gameplay but during cutscenes, there were times when characters and backdrops became blurry. I also noticed a few glitches during character animations but they weren’t consistent. Again, the world isn’t open but the areas you explore are vast and detailed. However, the load times between each area can take a bit but you are able to read a short paragraph that sums up what you just witnessed.
The sound design is excellent and amps up the creep factor with hissing pipes, echoing footsteps, gruesome growls, and dissonant chants. It’s the noises that pulled me into the world and made me feel as if I were actually trapped inside the insane asylum or surrounded by hooded cultists ready to perform a pagan ritual to The Old Ones. I often got lost in the world and ended up staring at the ocean waves and mountainous terrain listening to echoing chants or the crashing of waves.
H.P. Lovecraft knows horror and myth. Focus Home Interactive and Cyanide translated his story beautifully to the Switch.
Verdict: Call of Cthulhu is a deep dive into madness and the human psyche. The narrative is impressive and full of lore covering the Cthulhu Mythos. It’s stunning to look at but could use a bit more explanation in certain situations.
- Masterful storytelling
- Stunning art
- Too short
- Blurry animations
- Long load times