Something wicked this ways comes, and it has lots of tentacles… Many moons ago, I played a game that scared the bejesus out of me. Or, at least, the first part of the game did. Full of promise, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth ticked all the right boxes for horror fans. Allowing you to explore the dank town of Innsmouth, this was everything a good survival horror should be.
Rich in atmosphere, you really did feel a grim sense of foreboding as you unravelled the mystery of the eerie fishing village. Sneaking around the town, you really did have your heart in your mouth as you hide from the shifty locals. But then, about half way through, the developers inexplicably decided to turn this promising game into a run-of-the-mill FPS. The sudden focus on combat, ruined the experience for anyone playing. Not so long after – by a strange coincidence - the studio responsible for the title, Headfirst, went bust.
Now, in an even stranger twist of fate, March 2016 marks the ten year anniversary since Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth was released on the PC. Not only that, but an all new, all improved version of Call of Cthulhu has just been announced… A coincidence, or is there some darker force at work here? A decade later, can developers Cyanide make up for Dark Corner of the Earth’s short comings? On the face of it, from what we learnt from the presentation we were treated to recently in Paris, things are looking very hopeful indeed.
Granted, the game is only in ‘pre-alpha’ state at the moment, which basically means all we could see were a few renditions of artwork and a trailer that explored some of the games gloomy environments. Not much to go on, but still, after hearing what Cyanide have planned for HP Lovecraft’s latest digital venture, hope springs eternal.
As with Dark Corners of the Earth, Call of Cthulhu is a single player game told from a first person perspective. Whereas its older sibling concentrated on combat and action, this time around the focus has shifted to stealth and exploration. Set in the 1920s, you play a detective who is sent to Dark Waters; an island full of mystery, intrigue and, it’s fair to say, home to more than one tentacled inhabitant. Investigating the death of an artist and her family, you soon uncover a far greater evil…
Based upon the tabletop RPG of the same name by Chaosium, the same basic rule structure will be followed. This means that combat will largely be perilous, and the player will have a tough time surviving any encounters that resort to fisticuffs or firepower. Your sanity will also be important to you, and as you are exposed to more horrors, you are in grave peril of going mad. The possibilities of ending up six feet under or in an insane asylum are very real indeed.
Madness has always been a key factor in any Lovecraftian game, and we are promised a multitude of horrors to drive you around the bend. What particular flavour of insanity you experience very much depends on your circumstances. For example, if you find yourself trapped underground, you will develop a phobia of confined spaces. Run out of torches whilst you are there? You can add fear of the dark to the list, and so on.
The more insane you become, the more reality will crumble away, until eventually you will not be able to function at all. This constant threat of going mad installs a cautious approach to playing the game, and will make you think twice before you go rushing off blindly into the night.
The good news for your mental health is that you aren’t alone in your adventure. A handful of companions can be called up to help your investigation. They can be sent off to research or explore areas of the island, returning to you with fresh information to help you solve the case. Each companion has a particular set of skills, and the results they come back with (if they come back at all) are very much dependant on their skillset. Send a thief to a library to research a book, and he may have no problem breaking in, but might not understand a word he has read, so it is important you send them on missions you deem they are suited to.
Along with your wits and weapons, you can also discover ancient artefacts that can be used to help you. Whilst magic is not intended to play a large part in the game - i.e. you won’t be able to cast spells or enchantments – these artefacts can be utilised to aid and assist. Assuming, that is, you are not driven mad in the process.
As things stand, Call of Cthulhu is in a pre-alpha state, so the actual game itself wasn’t ready to be shown. Cyanide certainly talked a good game though, and if all their promises turn out to be true, we will have a title that is at last worthy of the Lovecraft name.
Call of Cthulhu is set for release at some point in 2017.