Can the horror-RPG hybrid do justice to the properties it takes inspiration from?
Based on the tabletop role playing game of the same name, and inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s works, there’s a lot that Cyanide and Focus Home Interactive’s Call of Cthulhu needs to live up to, while the prospect of combining survival horror and psychological horror elements with the mechanics of a role-playing game is also an interesting prospect, but not exactly tried and true. We’re now not far away from the launch of the title, and as the day approaches, perhaps it’s time to take a look at fifteen of its most interesting sounding details, which is exactly what we’re going to do in this feature. Without further ado, let’s jump right in.
Call of Cthulhu takes place in the year 1924, as a private investigator travels to the isolated location of Darkwater Island, a few miles off the coast of Boston. The purpose of his trip is to investigate the murder of the Hawkins family, who used to reside in a large, imposing mansion that was burned down in a mysterious fire. The island is a hostile, dark place, and as the game progresses, the player becomes embroiled in a horrifying plot to for the revival of the Great Old One Cthulhu.
You play as Edward Pierce, who, as we’ve discussed, is a private investigator though. Other than, however, he’s also a veteran of World War I, dealing with post-war issues, which he copes with through an addiction to alcohol. Pierce’s PTSD and his struggles with alcoholism are going to be quite important to the game’s story (and even its mechanics) for several reasons, the chief among which is…
Call of Cthulhu will also feature sanity (or insanity) as a mechanic within the game, featuring a sanity meter that determines how much of a grip Pierce has on reality. He’s unhealthy as it is, as we’ve already mentioned, and the events of the game push him closer and closer toward insanity. The more details Pierce learns about not just the Hawkins family’s murder mystery, but also wit the larger mysteries of the island, and the closer he gets to finding out the hidden truth, the more he slowly loses his grasp on sanity.
Sanity will tie in with the game’s conclusion as well. Depending on how much Pierce knows by the time the ending rolls around, his level of sanity will vary quite a bit, and both these elements will also determine which ending players get, of which there will be more than just one. It should be interesting to see how much these endings vary, and how much the players’ actions affect the outcome of the larger story.
Sanity isn’t the only psychological thing that’s going to be instrumental to Call of Cthulhu and how it plays, with phobias also being one of the game’s mechanics. At several points in the game, depending on different situations and and what area you find yourself in, certain phobias will be triggered in Pierce. These phobias will apparently have varying impacts on gameplay- how much phobias will be tied with sanity mechanics, however, isn’t something developers Cyanide have spoken much about.
Combat won’t be a focus in the game, with Cyanide stating that even though Pierce is a World War I veteran, he won’t last in combat during gameplay very long. The developers describe it as more about surviving, escaping, or repelling combat. As such, players are encouraged to discover paths for progress themselves, which means that they are also presented with plenty of choice in gameplay, with stealth being one of the most effective paths.
The fact that Edward Pierce is a private investigator investigating the mysterious deaths of a family should have clued you into the fact that investigations are going to be a pretty important aspect of the game as well. These involve talking to NPCs, and learning new details, or gaining the trust of a local. Alternatively, players can also pick locks, steal keys, and sneak around to break into homes and buildings and learn information in other ways. What’s interesting, though, is that the more you learn, the more sanity you lose, as we’ve discussed, so it should be interesting to see how that balance is achieved.
During certain instances, players will also be able to reconstruct particular scenes to determine incidents that took place there to piece together background information and learn more details. Players find clues during these reconstruction scenes to rebuild a picture of what took place and how the incident in question happened- kind of similar to the reconstruction of crime scenes in Batman: Arkham Origins, one would assume… but, well, not exactly, since you’re not Batman.
Investigations won’t just be limited to immediate activities that you directly participate in either. Throughout the game, players will also be able to gather and recruit a team of investigators through their choices and conversations, that they can then send to different locations on the island to solve side cases. That said, what benefits this might lead to isn’t something the developers have gone a great deal into so far.
Call of Cthulhu will also feature a few levels that will be semi-open world in nature. While Cyanide have categorically stated that this is not an open world game and that it progresses in a linear fashion from one level to the next, they have confirmed that a few of these levels will have relatively more open areas. These will present branching paths, which players will have to choose between on the basis of their skills and desires, in order to make progress.
How much time of gameplay you can get out of a game has always been a very important factor when deciding whether or not to spend your money on it, but in today’s day and age of 100 hour long RPGs and games-as-a-service elements, it’s become even more pertinent. As for Call of Cthulhu, Cyanide have confirmed that the game will take roughly between twelve to fifteen hours to finish.
That 12-15 hour figure, though – at least going by the what the developers have said – only applies to the game’s critical path, which means there’s other content in there for you to sink your teeth into. Call of Cthulhu will also present players with side objectives and activities, which should kick up that number by a few more hours. One aspect of this is surely going to be sending out the other investigators you’ve recruited, which we’ve already spoken of, but it should be interesting to see what other kinds of side missions and objectives the game will feature.
Even though Call of Cthulhu is first and foremost an atmospheric survival/psychological horror title (which makes sense, considering its source material), the game’s also going to have plenty of RPG elements (which also makes sense, for the same reason). From dialogue choices to decision making elements to levelling up and unlocking new skills, there’s going to be a decent amount of role playing mechanics in there. Oh, and speaking of skills…
A large section of the game will depend on the skills you’ve unlocked. It will determine, of course, things like how successful you are at stealth or combat, but other things will also be affected. For instance, how much players are able to learn from their surroundings, such as by reading a book or looking at a painting or other instances in the environment, will depend on their skills and how much they’ve progressed in particular areas.
It seems like you can’t be an RPG these days until and unless you have dialogue choices, and of course, as you would expect, Call of Cthulhu does indeed have those. The upcoming game will have a dialogue wheel during interactions with NPCs. Encounters and conversations with characters can have different outcomes based on what choices players make, which can involve subterfuge, intimidation, trying to talk your way out, or a direct, violent approach.