To be entirely honest, this one feels like a long time coming. Cyanide Studio’s official adaption of the classic Chaosium pen and paper RPG, Call of Cthulhu, is one that has been on my radar for quite a while. Honestly, research shows that this title was originally announced in 2014, so it’s been some time, but not to the level that I would have said if asked without being checked. (I was thinking it was closer to eight to nine years). Must be some of that famed madness creeping in.
No matter the length of development, the wait appears to be worth it. Billing itself as an “investigative horror” title, players will take the role of Edward Pierce, a private dick who’s brought in to review the mysterious deaths of the entire Hawkins family. The Darkwater Island police department believes that the incident was tragic, but innocent and has closed the case. There are enough doubts from a select few to merit a second opinion. This is where the gameplay the developer showed off began.
Taking place in the first-person view, Cyanide wasn’t kidding about the “investigative” portion. Players explore the mansion, the scene of the incident, and piece together clues. A smear on a doorjamb, the location where the child’s body was found, some broken glass. Using a system similar to Arkham Knight’s crime scene reconstruction, though based more in the detective’s head than with the wiz-bang of modern technology, Pierce soon begins to piece together a theory.
What’s cool about this is that not everything depends on the player’s observation. This is based on a pen and paper RPG, and there are skill rolls going on behind the scenes that affect what the player immediately sees and can do. An example of this was when Pierce noticed a crowbar on the floor, behind a tablecloth. This comes in useful later when the player stumbles across an elevator that was mechanically locked, with the key being a globe. Because he had a the crowbar, Pierce was basically able to say “nope”, pry open a panel, and open the door with ease. If the skill check failed and the crowbar wasn’t found, players would need to solve the puzzle, which involved setting the globe so that the bronze ring was over a certain city.
Of course, this being a game based on Lovecraft mythos, Edward will soon discover a conspiracy involving cultists and other-dimensional horrors that will threaten his sanity. This will manifest onscreen in ways that will have players questioning what is actually happening and what is only perceived. The way Cyanide described it, it seems safe to expect some Eternal Darkness style tomfoolery over the course of this game, which is welcome.
The developers were absolutely playing things close to the vest in order to avoid any real spoilers. What they have shown off feels like a grim, first-person take on LA Noire with a more open dialogue system and a lingering, existential dread. Call of Cthulhu is also the product of hard work and dedication to the mythology, an obvious labor of some twisted love. The end result looks like it’ll stick with the player long after the game is over, like some toothy suction cup on a goo covered tentacle. With a PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One release date of fourth quarter 2018, the wait will be over before we know it.