Call of Cthulhu

Developer: Saber3D
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platforms: PS4, Switch, Xbox one, PC
Reviewed On: Switch
Release Date: 08/10/2019
Price: £32.39/$35.99
Review Rush was supplied with a review code.

[ Introduction ]

Call of Cthulhu is set in the year 1924, Edward Pierce, a private Detective wake from a nightmare, and hits the drink. Then receiving a phone call from his employer giving him his last warning or he will lose his licence. At this point in walks Pierce’s most significant and strangest case in his life. He is shown a strange picture from the Clients Daughter and asked to go to Darkwater Island off the shore of Boston to investigate the deaths of the Hawking family. Once in Darkwater Pierce is met with a case that is far more then meets the eye, from the unfriendly locals and dubious police reports, Pierce is plunged into a terrifying world of conspiracies, cultists, and cosmic horrors. Can you survive Darkwater?

I am a massive H.P Lovecraft fan, I got into the story quickly, and it keeps to the Mythos reasonably well. The game lends heavily from the board game of the same name.

Call of Cthulhu review grounds man

[ Gameplay ]

With Call of Cthulhu, we have a mix of different types of games, RPG, First-person puzzle horror (Amnesia, Soma), detective-like mechanics (like Batman Arkham trilogy) and a bit of sanity loss (Eternal Darkness). On paper, this is a dream come true, but does come true or do we descend to a nightmare?

When the game starts, and the plot build-up is complete, it is time to add some skill points to Pierce. In the game, there are seven different skills with five requiring skill points, while two are found in the world, there are;

Eloquence – This skill allows for more information to be gained in conversations.
Strength – Effects intimidation in conversations, as well as knocking down doors or operating some mechanism.
Instinct – Allows Pierce too see an object to interact with better.
Investigation – Helps with solving the crime scene as well as lock-picking.
Psychology – Has almost the same effect as Eloquence, with an added ability to analyse objects in a reconstruction.

The next two are improved with in-game objects;

Medicine – Allows for learning more about peoples health and drugs that are present.
Occultism – This allows for the Study of occult objects as well as rituals and behaviours and enable extra lines of dialogue.

Skill points are given at set points in the game, and the amount will depend on the actions taken leading up to the in-game reward point. These points are generally at the end of an event that has occurred. Here not all stats are equal some are relatively useless in the game, some or vital and will even give Pierce unique ways of solving some puzzle elements. What ones I will let you find out. 

The Sanity meter is the most exciting mechanic within Call of Cthulhu and plays the most significant part in changing the way Pierce interacts and see the world. Throughout the game, Pierce will come across many horrors and things no man should have to endure. After his time in World War I, his mind is already weak and is more likely to break before his body does. It is possible to check the state of Pierce’s sanity in the journal. The overall sanity does affect the ending, but be warned the truth only comes to those who let it in.

As Pierce is a detective, he might as well do what he is paid to do and work out what happened at crime scenes. Reconstruction mode is used in specific locations in the world and only there. While looking around the vicinity, Pierce will find clues and put together an image of events that occurred depending on the evidence he finds. There is also a nice film noir vibe about these bits as Pierce will talk over what he sees.

I left the discussion of the first-person puzzle horror till the end as there are no real surprises here a few fun mechanics but nothing groundbreaking. For instance, Pierce has a lighter that lights a small area around him, he finds a lantern that lights up a larger area. Light is an essential factor in finding objects in the game as some are shrouded in darkness, and only light will allow for interaction of hidden objects. The lantern has an extra use of blinding enemies, this, however, used the fuel up quicker that the lantern needs to work. There are plenty of places to refuel, the lighter last indefinitely but will overheat forcing Pierce to put it away momentarily. Pierce cannot fight so avoiding any, and all confrontation is vital to surviving this twisted island. Hiding, darkness and creeping are your only allies in Darkwater.

All these elements sound incredible together, and they would be, but the developers seemed to fall short of the mark on all aspects. I am not saying it is necessarily bad, more all the mechanics are shallow and not fleshed out enough to be entertaining. I did enjoy my time with the game, but it left me wanting more depth I wanted to be drawn into the Mythos and the madness. 

When the game starts, and the plot build-up is complete, it is time to add some skill points to Pierce. In the game, there are seven different skills with five requiring skill points, while two are found in the world, there are;

Eloquence – This skill allows for more information to be gained in conversations.
Strength – Effects intimidation in conversations, as well as knocking down doors or operating some mechanism.
Instinct – Allows Pierce too see an object to interact with better.
Investigation – Helps with solving the crime scene as well as lock-picking.
Psychology – Has almost the same effect as Eloquence, with an added ability to analyse objects in a reconstruction.

The next two are improved with in-game objects;

Medicine – Allows for learning more about peoples health and drugs that are present.
Occultism – This allows for the Study of occult objects as well as rituals and behaviours and enable extra lines of dialogue.

Skill points are given at set points in the game, and the amount will depend on the actions taken leading up to the reward point. These points are generally at the end of an event that has occurred. Here not all stats are equal some are relatively useless in the game, some or vital and will even give Pierce unique ways of solving some puzzle elements. What ones I will let you find out. 

The Sanity meter is the most exciting mechanic within Call of Cthulhu and plays the most significant part in changing the way Pierce interacts and see the world. Throughout the game, Pierce will come across many horrors and things no man should have to endure. After his time in World War I, his mind is already weak and is more likely to break before his body does. It is possible to check the state of Pierce’s sanity in the journal. The overall sanity does affect the ending, but be warned the truth only comes to those who let it in.

As Pierce is a detective, he might as well do what he is paid to do and work out what happened at crime scenes. Reconstruction mode is used in specific locations in the world and only there. While looking around the vicinity, Pierce will find clues and put together an image of events that occurred depending on the evidence he finds. There is also a nice film noir vibe about these bits as Pierce will talk over what he sees.

I left the discussion of the first-person puzzle horror till the end as there are no real surprises here a few fun mechanics but nothing groundbreaking. For instance, Pierce has a lighter that lights a small area around him, he finds a lantern that lights up a larger area. Light is an essential factor in finding objects in the game as some are shrouded in darkness, and only light will allow for interaction of hidden objects. The lantern has an extra use of blinding enemies, this, however, used the fuel up quicker that the lantern needs to work. There are plenty of places to refuel, the lighter last indefinitely but will overheat forcing Pierce to put it away momentarily. Pierce cannot fight so avoiding any, and all confrontation is vital to surviving this twisted island. Hiding, darkness and creeping are your only allies in Darkwater.

All these elements sound incredible together, and they would be, but the developers seemed to fall short of the mark on all aspects. I am not saying it is necessarily bad, more all the mechanics are shallow and not fleshed out enough to be entertaining. I did enjoy my time with the game, but it left me wanting more depth I wanted to be drawn into the Mythos and the madness. 

Call of Cthulhu review summon circle

[ Visual and Perfomance ]

The visuals in Call of Cthulhu is on the whole disappointing on the Switch version. For starters the textures are really hit and miss, some look ‘OK’, some are just plain horrid. The parts that look ‘OK’ still look relatively bad compared to most other games that are ported on to the switch. This is a massive shame as it loses much of the horror factor due to how bad it looks. 

In some of the cutscenes the video stutter and it is really off-putting. Textures tend to load in after some time. This is, however, not the whole game is like that, some parts as I said look ‘OK’, and there are no texture popping or stuttering. These issues seem to improve as the game went on. One thing that really annoys me is the eyes of the NPC and Pierce are just weird looking tiny things on a lot of the characters.

The one thing the game got right a lot of the time was the lighting, from the strangely green-tinged lights to the crashing of lightening these added to the horror factor and at points unnerving.

There where not many other bugs within the game apart from the ones mentioned above. There are a few levels that have particularly long loading times.
I really wanted to like the graphics here, but as much as this is about cosmic horror, the graphics were just horrible. The long load times also dragged down the immersion.

Call of Cthulhu review magic

[ Sound ]

Call of Cthulhu is fully voiced throughout, and some voices sound really ‘tinny’ sounding as if the fidelity of the sound had been dropped so much the voice actors seemed as they wherein a tin can. This was not every voice in the game, and it could have been the headphones I where using in the playthrough, but this shouldn’t be happening.

The music and background noise (or lack of at times) was the saving grace for the sound department, the feeling of dread and mystic happenings along with the sense that something is really wrong here. Music would kick in at the right time to build up the tension. The foreboding silence in much of the game really added to the fear.

The sound was good on the whole, just need to sort out some voices.

Call of Cthulhu review cthulhu

[ Conclusion ]

Call of Cthulhu has so much potential with the story it’s setting and the in-depth lore but falls short on every other turn.
The gameplay is simple and straight forward and basically, leads you by the hand. The RPG mechanics are shallow and could have been explored more. Visual and sound issues are also a plague to the game.

I would recommend waiting for a sale unless you are a massive H.P Lovecraft fan.

For something a ‘little’ different check out our review of Omega Labyrinth Life HERE!