After being stuck in development for some years and being transfered to a new studio entirely, Call of Cthulhu has finally been released. The result is a pretty decent adventure game, one with an interesting storyline and a fantastic aesthetic, but also one with some really dated graphics, horrible animation, and some tacked-on gameplay mechanics that just felt unnecessary.
Interesting storyline. If there is one thing Call of Cthulhu does really well, it would have to be its overall storyline. The game starts off as a pretty average detective story, but slowly transitions into something much more than that, something full of trippy visuals and plenty of tentacles. The game’s chapters are well-linked and build on each other in a meaningful way, the characters are genuinely interesting, and the way the story evolves over the course of the game was compelling. It did not take long for me to become fully engrossed in the story, enough so that I cleared the game in just two sessions. Granted, the game barely lasts more than four or five hours, but it manages to tell a complete and engaging story within that time. I may have not read the original source material, but I felt that the game did a good job in introducing the player to the world of Lovecraft. At the very least, the game has given me a renewed interest in his works.
Fantastic aesthetic. To go along with the game’s good storyline, Call of Cthulhu also throws in a number of aesthetic elements to maintain an immersive experience. In fact, half of my enjoyment with the story came from just looking around and seeing all that was going on around me, whether that be the strange occult relics scattered about or the populace slowly going insane. In fact, the game even employs a variety of visual tricks during the story to really mess with the player’s head, bringing into question the player’s own sanity. The graphics may not be the best (more on that later), but I was really impressed with the amount of work that went into the game’s visual presentation, it provided for a really nice aesthetic to match the game’s bizarre storyline.
Dated graphics and animation. Call of Cthulhu‘s most glaring issue would have to be just how awful its graphics and animation are. Had the game come out in 2007, these graphics would have been satisfactory, but given that this is a full-fledged 2018 release, one can easily notice how dated the graphics are. Even at its highest settings, it still felt like I was looking at an Xbox 360 game. However, it gets even worse when you bring in the game’s animation. The animation is constantly shifting from stiff and lifeless to jittery and even outright broken at times. While they are bad when in regular play, the terrible quality becomes much more apparent during the game’s cutscenes, where the abysmal lip syncing is put on full display. In fact, it even gave me flashbacks to the countless videos that came out after Mass Effect: Andromeda‘s release, they are that bad. The game could have really used more budget in that department.
Tacked on gameplay mechanics. For an adventure game, the gameplay is pretty decent overall. However, there were a couple mechanics that felt like they were just thrown in there at the end of development, namely the game’s stealth and combat mechanics. As for the former, I do not usually mind stealth in adventure games, but it just felt lazy here, like it was there just to give a sense of depth to the gameplay when it really did not need it. The game’s pacing is incredibly slowed down by such segments, making them feel out of place with the rest of the story. On top of that, the game also has an incredibly basic combat system, one that felt completely unnecessary. While in combat, all the player has to do is left click in the general direction of an enemy in order to shoot them. The combat is incredibly shallow as a result and makes me wonder why such a system was even implemented in the first place. The game really should have just stuck with its adventure and RPG elements instead of shoehorning in these unnecessary ones.
Minor technical issues. On the technical side, Call of Cthulhu does a pretty decent job, but it does not come without some issues. For example, during one of the earlier chapters, I managed to run into a bug that locked up the game, preventing me from selecting a dialogue option when I needed to in order to progress. I ended up having to reload my save just to get past that one bit of dialogue. As for performance, I had a fluctuating fps issue while playing through chapter 12. Despite how low-res the graphics are, my fps kept dropping from the 60 the game usually ran at, all the way down to 20 or so. I imagine that this is due to the chapter’s heavy use of fog, but there were other heavily fogged areas in the game that did not cause such issues. Fortunately, this problem was limited to just that chapter, but is a problem nonetheless.
Call of Cthulhu may have some issues, but its storyline and aesthetic provide for a really engrossing experience. Even so, the graphics and animation are pretty bad, especially for a full-fledged 2018 release. On top of that, the game also has a couple tacked-on gameplay features that do not add anything to the experience. Despite this, I still recommend the game, as the story manages to shine through these negatives.
You can buy Call of Cthulhu on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.