E3 2017 Impressions: Call of Cthulhu tells a deeper horror story

E3 2017 Impressions: Call of Cthulhu
Call of Cthulhu is currently scheduled to release late in 2017

Another game I sat behind closed doors to take a look at was Call of Cthulhu. Call of Cthulhu, as you might guess, is a survival-horror role-playing game taking place in a world established by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. It’s being developed by Cyanide and published by Focus Home Interactive.

A small note: This preview piece contains bits of information that some might consider spoilers. While I personally believe that due to the nature and title of the game what I’m writing about will not spoil your experience, it’s still a call that you should make personally.

E3 2017 Impressions: Call of Cthulhu

A brief set-up of the plot: You play as Edward Pierce, an investigator who is looking for clues and insight into the death of a woman named Sarah Hawkins. Like in all of Lovecraft’s stories, things start out fairly simple and ordinary. Throughout the game, you begin to find more and more disturbing things that may or may not be real.

Thee presentation opened in Chapter 3 of the game, as you had finally made your way onto the dreary Darkwater island where Sarah Hawkins and her family lived before their tragic deaths. As you are a detective, examining the area closely is absolutely vital. Different clues and alternate pathways will yield great benefits, granting insight into what really happened as well as informing you about who can be trusted. Your relationships with different characters you meet has to be carefully managed. Some of them are naturally suspicious, others cheery and almost all can help or hinder your journey depending on how you handle your conversation with them.

Compounding this are your various skills. The more you use your skills, the more they improve and have a greater chance of succeeding. One skill might help you check an object more closely for clues, or improve your powers of persuasion when talking your way of a problem. During the presentation, we were shown how Edward Pierce can piece together clues to form a theory, from which he will decide his next action in solving the mystery. You’ll have to be careful when using these skills however, as when you put together a crime scene from different clues, you’ll either be setting off in the right direction or have an unstable foundation for the rest of the game.

From here, the presentation skipped forward several chapters, to when you are investigating some paintings, trying to find a particular piece. Unfortunately, the world’s denizens have other ideas as a grotesque monster, with teeth and limbs entirely far too long, crawls out of one of the paintings. Obviously, taking it on in a fight isn’t an option, so you have to find more some other means of either avoiding it or banishing it. Knowledge is your greatest weapon, which brings me to another interesting aspect of the game: Sanity. The more horrific knowledge you gain, the more dark secrets you learn, the more your mind is set on edge. Is it better to stay uniformed, and thus be able to make rational decisions and deductions, or give up your logical though processes to pierce the veil of mystery? The answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

When I asked the developers about combat in the game, I was told that while you wouldn’t be completely helpless, ultimately this is a game based around Lovecraft’s works, so as a result direct confrontation would almost never work out. “We aren’t trying to make Resident Evil 7,” he explained.

All things said, I’m cautiously optimistic about Call of Cthulhu. What I saw indicates to me that the developers at Cyanide are taking the source material seriously. There are quite a few neat elements like skills, the crime scene process and handling conversations that could help separate Call of Cthulhu from other survival-horror titles. That said, I do certainly hope that this game doesn’t fall prey to many of the pitfalls that plague horror games such as a vague, unsatisfying ending or generic doomsday plot. If they can avoid those common tropes while playing up the unique elements of this world, horror fans have something great to look forward to. Call of Cthulhu is scheduled to release sometime in 2017 on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.