CALL OF CTHULHU (2018) is a roleplaying survival horror game developed by Cyanide and published by Focus Home Interactive. Initially, the game was supposed to be created by Frogware Games, which created the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (including one where the Great Detective investigates the Cthulhu Mythos). They had the game taken from them and, ironically, ended up making their own Lovecraft game with the upcoming THE SINKING CITY.
The game was moved into production in 2016 and this means it had a roughly two year development cycle, probably less, which I'm going to comment on. Call of Cthulhu's roleplaying game (as well as its spin-offs) is a franchise that I am deeply in love with and have loved for literal decades. I've never been quite the fan of the tabletop RPG as some (being more a Vampire: The Masquerade and Star Wars D6 fan) but I've always appreciated its existence.
|Cat Baker is the best character in the game.|
H.P. Lovecraft only had that be true in a few of his works (THE DUNWICH HORROR, THE STRANGE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD, and THE THING ON THE DOORSTEP). You could never stop Cthulhu but you could possibly delay him from ending humanity for another day. Call of Cthulhu is ostensibly as an adaptation of the pen and paper game like the previous CALL OF CTHULHU: DARK CORNERS OF THE EARTH.
So is it any good? I very much enjoyed it but this is going to be a review with a lot of caveats. Call of Cthulhu is a good game but it's not a great game and it's disappointing because you can see this could have been a great game. It's a game which suffers from dated graphics, inconsistent gameplay, confusing storytelling, and (most of all) a complete lack of scares. Call of Cthulhu is a horror game that fails to achieve anything resembling creeping dread and that's a shame because it really looked like they had something here--it's just lost in a sea of other ideas.
|This guy isn't trustworthy. Shocking, I know.|
What follows is a rather predictable collection of events with the island being controlled by an evil cult, a plot to bring something dark and nasty into reality, an asylum section, and a sanity meter. There's even a shooting section which feels totally out of step with the game and hurts the narrative.
I really wanted to like this game but it jumps out and yells "SURPRISE!" way too early. It's about twenty minutes into the game that you've already found the secret temple to the world's most famous Great Old One and what his worshipers are up to. There's really nowhere to go from there and the rest of the game struggles to catch up on the fact Pierce knows the secret of the island for the majority of the game.
|Some locations are genuinely creepy.|
Gameplay wise, the game mostly consists of wandering around small levels looking for clues and talking to people. The stat sections leftover from the tabletop roleplaying game sometimes add a new line of dialogue or option but not enough really justify the EXP point section of the game. There's a number of stealth sections and the aforementioned shooting one but not so much that it really feels like a game you can honestly lose. Indeed, the most tense section of the game is where you have to play tag with the Dimensional Shambler as Sarah Hawkins (who appears via flashback) and one of the few scenes with any real edge.
|This would be terrifying if we knew who he was.|
In conclusion, I think this was a decent enough game but I believe it needed a more coherent rewrite and a focus on tension. Edward Pierce can lose SAN but it's almost impossible to die in the game save in a few locations and there's not much of a chance to play on the game's strength by talking with people. I wonder what would have happened if they'd re-written the game episodically with Edward Pierce slowly finding out about the evils of the island.