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E3 2018: Lose Your Mind Over CALL OF CTHULHU

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The year was 2017. E3 was in full swing, and in usual fashion I was trudging from appointment to appointment in an attempt to power my way through the morning hangover. I had booked a number of appointments with the good people at Focus Home Interactive, relishing the opportunity to spend several hours utterly immobile. My brain was only running at 20% capacity, and the ample caffeine was doing little to rectify the mistakes of last-night Ted. As I waddled my way into the dark and humid makeshift private viewing room, I couldn’t even remember what game was first on the docket. As the developers from Cyanide Studios introduced themselves, the words “Call of Cthulhu” populated the presentation screen.

Watching the first glimpses of early gameplay, something within me awoke. The vague vapors of a professional began building inside of me. I was witnessing something truly dank. The game looked new, innovative, and most importantly really spooky. If you really need to know what yesteryear Ted thought, you can check out my full E3 2017 impressions.

So when E3 2018 rolled around, one of my top priorities was to see how Call of Cthulhu had grown in the past year. I honestly wasn’t expecting that much change, as the game already looked pretty close to complete. E3 is known for its ample use of hyperbole, but I seriously was not prepared for how much this game has improved. It went from looking fantastic to absolutely phenomenal.

There’s a certain level of visual… funkiness I’ve come to accept from Focus Home Interactive titles. The French publisher isn’t know for its massive budgets. Previous titles can be best described as the B-Films of gaming, enjoyably bold but clearly lacking the hundreds of millions of dollars afforded to the titles they strive to compete with. But boil me alive and call me dinner if Call of Cthulhu doesn’t look fucking gorgeous. Shadows stretch and dance up the macabre and decrepit halls. The level of detail put into every dusty bookshelf and burnt floorboard paints a stunning portrait of menacing dread. I’m not one to usually nerd out over graphics, but I’d be lying if I said the level of visual fidelity didn’t suck me in.

Call of Cthulhu

I knew mostly what to expect from Call of Cthulhu‘s gameplay, as the core mechanics are unchanged from what I saw last year. You play as private investigator Edward Pierce, a veteran with a dark past hired to look deeper into the tragic death of the Hawkins family. Arriving to their dilapidated manor on Darkwater Island (naturally off the shores of Boston), it becomes immediately clear that something far more sinister lurks beneath the surface. Using your deductive skills, you’ll piece together the truth. Just be careful, as the truth might be beyond your comprehension…

Call of Cthulhu

So yeah, very Cthulhu stuff. Madness lurking behind every corner, cults to uncover, minds to lose, all that jazz. None of the main concepts have changed, but all of them have been improved in some way. First off, your investigation will be aided by the skills you acquire over the course of the game. Unlike most adventure games, Call of Cthulhu sticks to its tabletop RPG roots by utilizing a leveling system. Skills like perception, occult, science, and strength will allow you to tackle puzzles in a variety of manners.

Call of Cthulhu

Coming across a locked door, you can use your perception skills to help you find the key. Or, you can use your lockpicking skill to get through without having to search around. You can also just force the door if your strength is high enough, but in the process break the lock. Search around a bit more, and you might just be able to find another way in. Each decision comes with its own benefits and consequences. I don’t really imagine just opening a door will have too many consequences, but you never know. Maybe busting the door open will leave you unable to lock it again to escape a monster. Maybe the key will be hidden within an eldritch tome that makes you lose another sliver of your sanity.

Speaking of sanity, significant changes have also been made to the special ways that Edward loses his mind. There was previously a sanity meter that would work as a pseudo health bar. That’s gone now. Call of Cthulhu opts for a  more subtle approach to insanity. As your mind slips deeper into madness, the way that you perceive the world will begin to change. As you investigate and use your imagination to recreate crime scenes, elements will begin to reflect your fractured mind. A missing painting might now depict a monstrous figure. One of the victims might appear to be a cultist. As the player, it’s unclear whether these are just the warped perception of a damaged mind, or the secret truth of a hidden world. Or maybe both. It’s Cthulhu, after all.

Call of Cthulhu

I wish I could tell you more, but the demo they showed us was very contained. What I did see though was incredibly promising. Traditionally, adventure games have been about going about things in the correct manner. Find the item, hear the dialogue line, push the button, and unlock the next sequence of events. In Call of Cthulhuright and wrong are lost in a miasma of grey. There’s plenty to uncover, but at what cost? Will you delve deeper into the dark secrets of the world if it means losing your humanity? The variety of skills offer more than just tools to accomplish your tasks, but set you on a path that will lead to one of several distinct endings.

For my two cents, I’m incredibly excited about how the game has evolved. Not only have the fundamental mechanics come into full form, but the changes they have made are incredibly promising. It speaks of a studio that knows what its doing, altering mechanics to create the best experience rather than just hit a bunch of keywords. This is a game clearly being developed by horror fans looking to make a unique and captivating horror experience. If you want to see more of how it might all pan out, I recommend you check out The Council by Cyanide’s sister studio Big Bad Wolf. Though visually very different, the variety of skills and potential paths give a good glimpse into what might be in store for Call of Cthulhu. Stay tuned for a full review with Call of Cthulhu drops later this year on Xbox, PC, and PS4.

For all our E3 coverage, make sure to follow our social media tag #DreadE3 and you can also read all our other coverage right here!

 

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