Call of Cthulhu is a survival horror game that, unsurprisingly, is based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. It is similar to the story The Shadow Over Innsmouth and the movie Dagon. I think it is closer to the film than the book.
I streamed this game a while ago on Twitch, and I’ve returned to it a few times. It has a great story, but I wouldn’t say I liked the gameplay or the graphics. Mainly because it uses a first-person perspective, and I would prefer a third-person perspective.
It is a more cinematic game. Most of what you’ll be doing in this game is exploring and avoiding enemies. Call of Cthulhu is a short game. It tells you a story and keeps the gameplay to a minimum.
TLDR: A Great Story Covers for Minimal Gameplay.
The game takes place in 1920s Massachusetts. The main character, Edward Pierce, is a veteran of World War 1 and is working as a private detective. He is a functioning alcoholic and is troubled by nightmares. These nightmares will play into some of the events of the game.
Pierce takes a case to investigate the death of Sarah Hawkins, a famous painter in the game’s world. This leads him to Darkwater, a small whaling town on an island off the coast of Boston. The town has fallen on hard times since the whaling industry collapsed. A gang of bootleggers has also been set up in the town.
While on the island, Pierce learns about an event called the miraculous catch. This was the last whale caught by the fisherman and saved the citizens of Darkwater from starvation. There is some indication that they caught Dagon, but it isn’t clear to me.
While investigating the Hawkin’s Mansion, Pierce finds some hidden caves and a cult. He sees a police officer, Bradley, get killed, and the cult leader causes a cave-in. Pierce tries to flee but gets crushed by rocks.
From here, Pierce wakes up in the Darkwater hospital. He gets transferred to the lower levels of the hospital, where the doctor is conducting experiments on the patients. A nurse helps Pierce escape the hospital.
While escaping the hospital, Pierce meets Francis Sanders and learns about The Shambler Painting and the entity released from it. The Shambler becomes a recurring villain in the game, and you spend some time banishing it from the real world.
Pierce travels to the Sanders home and fights The Shambler. This leads Pierce to Algernon Drake and the Necronomicon. More of the island’s secrets are revealed, explicitly referring to the Miraculous Catch, a creature called Leviathan. I think this is supposed to be Dagon from the Cthulhu Mythos, but it isn’t clear in the game.
From here, you learn that Sarah Hawkings is alive. She is an ally at first and then turns into a willing part of the cult at the end. Pierce learns he is destined to come to the island and is called “The Truth Seeker.”
This all leads to a ritual being performed on Alabaster Point. There are four possible endings. They depend on the choices you’ve made during the game and how Pierce’s sanity has been affected during the game. Here are the endings:
- Pierce is still sane and refuses to participate in the ritual. Sarah Hawkins kills herself, and Pierce returns to his alcoholic ways in Boston. He also has a painting that depicts Sarah’s suicide.
- Pierce goes insane and commits suicide. Later, his office is cleared out, and a painting depicting his suicide is seen there.
- If Drake survived the battle with the Shambler, Pierce can free him, and he’ll perform a counter ritual. Later, Pierce is in an asylum.
- Pierce can always perform the ritual. This summons Cthulhu, which causes everyone present to go mad and start killing each other. In this ending, Pierce kills Sarah.
Call of Cthulhu has minimal gameplay. It mainly consists of exploring, gathering clues, and solving puzzles. You spend most of your time avoiding enemies when there are enemies, as you don’t usually have a weapon.
The puzzles involve putting things together, finding keys, and conducting investigations. At times, you’ll enter this investigation mode. In this mode, you’ll reconstruct what happened in a particular location and develop a theory of what is going on.
This is a detective game. It is all about clues and discovering what is happening in this little town. There is also your character’s connection to the events.
Throughout the game, you’ll gain experience points that can be used in a skill tree. It is a simple RPG system that could’ve been better. It does offer you some chances to get better at some of the puzzles, but I didn’t notice that much of a difference.
Several of the puzzles lead you to improve occult or medical knowledge. This comes into play later in the game. It unlocks some dialogue options and can make other things a little easier.
Your other stats, such as investigation and psychology, also unlock dialogue options. There is only one time that I can remember where you might need strength. While it is nice that this skill tree exists, I don’t think it has much impact on the gameplay.
Near the end of the game, you’re given a pistol and can shoot enemies. This is a small part of the game, and you still have the option to avoid them. It feels out of place, but it is an excellent way to break up the gameplay briefly.
The game will give you visual clues at times. This is supposed to help you recognize items you’ll need to use in some spots. These are key items that you’ll need to advance. The only instance I can think of is when you fight a shamble that crosses over to the real world from one of Sarah Hawkins’s paintings. You encounter this creature twice, but the first time, you need to pick the correct sacrificial dagger to banish the creature.
The dagger is briefly shown once, and you need to remember it or luck into it as you scramble around a room. It can be one of the frustrating parts of the game.
I do want to talk about the enemy AI for a second. It doesn’t happen much, but there are some parts of the game where you need to sneak around. The enemies will walk past you without acknowledging or chasing after you. It is very strange.
You can hide from enemies when they do decide to chase you. But I’ve never found this to be helpful. They always find me, no matter what I do.
Overall, I think the gameplay is okay. I like the idea of a detective story, but it isn’t as well developed. The RPG element isn’t all that great and doesn’t seem to be necessary. It is a little more involved than a walking simulator but feels half-baked.
At times, the game looks terrific. Then, the characters start talking, and things look off. The graphics aren’t bad, but the character’s facial expressions can look strange.
The town of Darkwater looks very good! It looks like a rundown fishing town that has fallen on hard times. It reminds me of some old logging and mining towns I’ve visited. The industry leaves the town, and the town slowly dies.
When the game is trying to be scary or creepy, it does a good job. The mental hospital is weird and feels like a place that would’ve ended up in a new expose for abuse. It is a dark, dirty, and frightening place.
The caves you travel through look like they’ve been there for hundreds of years. The cave paintings look like they’ve been there for a long time, and it is creepy. The cultists also look scary until they start talking.
I’m going to say some bad things about the character models here. I don’t think they are always terrible, but things fall apart when they are trying to convey an emotion other than madness or fear. They look awkward when they aren’t trying to. They also seem to move their lips for no reason. When talking, they flail their hands about awkwardly.
Overall, I think the graphics are good. The cutscenes are great, the game has a creepy atmosphere, and it mostly looks great. The character animations sometimes look odd, but I don’t think it is bad enough to drag the game’s score down.
Verdict: This is a game that I probably like more than most people. It has minor issues and isn’t on par with some of the bigger-budget games. However, it tells a great story and does a great job with the atmosphere of a small town with a secret.
- Great Story
- Good Controls
- Good Atmosphere
- Underdeveloped RPG System
- Awkward Facial Animations
Call of Cthulhu is one of those games that you either love or hate. I love the setting, the story, and the gameplay. It has issues, but none are serious enough to make this a bad game.
I like the detective story that the game is telling. You’re trying to solve a case and discover the secrets of this place, only to learn that you were fated to arrive on the island. It is a nice spin on the town with a secret trope of horror stories.
These shorter horror games are a lot of fun to play. I like them more than the larger ones that try to do too much or try to be more of an action-adventure game. The psychological horror games are scarier for me. This is one of the better horror games I’ve played recently.