Despite being a deeply flawed game, we greatly enjoyed Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. It was a deeply unsettling game with some good ideas, such as some neat investigations and and almost first-person adventure game feel. Sadly it leaned a little too hard into combat and stopped being satisfying about halfway through.
Now developer Cyanide and Focus Home Interactive are having another go with the simply titled Call of Cthulhu, and we’ve played the first couple of hours. Read on for all our hands-on impressions in our special Call of Cthulhu preview! Just don’t stare at that painting for too long.
You play Edward Pierce, a WW1 veteran now drowning his sorrows as a private detective. He takes a case to investigate the mysterious deaths of the wealthy Hawkins family on the equally mysterious island of Darkwater. He’ll soon hit opposition: from the locals, the police, the gangsters using the place to get around prohibition, and that’s before he meets a strange cult and the twisted forces holding Darkwater in its grip.
Unlike Dark Corners of the Earth, the new Call of Cthulhu is very much a first-person adventure game. There are action scenes, and I believe there is supposed to be some combat later, but otherwise all we experienced was investigation. And we’re very happy about that, but it’s not just “find the right object, use it in the right way”, there are multiple ways to solve every puzzle and every situation.
For example, the first major objective in the game is to get into Warehouse 36, a place by the docks owned by the Hawkins family, where shady deals seem to be going on. The cops are steering you away from it, gangsters guard the front entrance, and the back entrance is seemingly blocked. What do you do?
The answer depends entirely on the stats you chose at the beginning of the game. While you may have upgraded them a little by now, it won’t be much, and if you’ve gone jack-of-all-trades you’ll struggle to do most. Basically, Pierce has seven Skills that he can upgrade: Eloquence (charisma), Spot Hidden (find objects), Strength, Investigation, Psychology, Occultism and Medicine. All can be upgraded so you can get more information, and even access different areas and conversations.
I could persuade some folk to distract the gangsters if my Eloquence was high enough. I could pull up a grate leading to a back entrance to the Warehouse if my Strength was high enough. I didn’t have either, so I had to make a deal with the local crime boss to let me in, for a “favour” that will undoubtedly be claimed back later.
Things were a bit weird in the warehouse, and it introduced a cool feature of Call of Cthulhu that was used a few times in the preview build: investigations. These recreate crime scenes, a little similar to how Batman does it in Batman: Arkham Knight, by searching the scene and examining key pieces of evidence to put it all together. They are quite fun, and quite haunting too - there’s a nice ghostly quality to them.
Then I headed to the creepy Hawkins mansion, partially devastated by a fire. After persuading the loyal and axe-wielding doorman, which you can do in several ways - from being nice to him to just grabbing the axe out of his hand - I made my way in, with the nice Officer Bradley keeping me company. I could’ve chosen to have him stay outside. I was glad I didn’t, but I’m interested to see what would’ve happened if I hadn’t.
After a few investigations in several rooms, and a lot of searching, I was attacked by a mysterious assailant who fled into a strange passageway behind a secret door that led under the manor. There seemed to be a mysterious cult worshipping one of the Old Ones, Cthulhu in fact, and Pierce soon found himself in the horrible room from his nightmare at the beginning of the game. Then there was a surprising reveal and the preview build ended, with me desperate for more.
Call of Cthulhu is available on PC, Xbox One and PS4 on October 30. Not long to go now...
In many ways Call of Cthulhu is the typical choice-based adventure like The Walking Dead or Life Is Strange, except you have more freedom of movement. It reminded me a lot of Focus Home Interactive’s other recent adventure The Council, with a good range of choice and more than a little investigation, except Call of Cthulhu is more free-roaming in its areas. There were some actual puzzles here too, which could even be bypassed if you had the right stats and didn’t feel like solving them.
Call of Cthulhu is a tense and engaging first-person adventure game, with choice in how to proceed, and a deeply sinister atmosphere. We’ve been looking forward to it for a while, now hopefully at the end of the month will prove worth the wait. If it continues to build, have consequences to your actions, and generally get better following the portion we played, we’re certain it will. We already can’t wait to play more, and we barely even touched the sanity mechanic...
Most Anticipated Feature
We only encountered one sanity-draining moment in the preview build and it was gloriously unnerving. We want to see more of these… hopefully we’ll reach Eternal Darkness-levels of seeing things.