With a name like Call of Cthulhu, I went into my hands-off demo session last week expecting tentacle-ridden elder gods attacking from all sides from moment one. Instead, I was shown a game that much more closely reminded me of those recent middle-tier developed Sherlock Home adventure games with dialogue choices.
Apparently that similarity isn’t an accident. The game was at one point being developed by the same studio as the Sherlock Holmes games, then it got passed off to a new studio, but the previous studio are still doing some work on it. A confusing situation, but basically it makes some sense it feels like those Sherlock Holmes games.
In Call of Cthulhu, you play a detective tasked with investigating the disappearance of a young woman, clues to which appear to exist within a very creepy and possibly elder god-ruled mansion. The idea is to gather items, clues, and information to work out what’s going on in the house, and how to survive.
Dialogue options can be unlocked by discovering items in world, like inspecting a set of graves to learn information about a family relationship that could impact dealings with another player. It’s apparently possible to hit dead ends in the game by failing to get enough information to progress, and having to go back and search for more clues before retrying a section, but the demo we were shown was on tight enough rails to prevent us really getting a feel for how that would work in practice.
The demo also suggested that if dialogue choices with NPCs were failed, players may have to go and find alternative routes to progress, like a treacherous journey to an abandoned shack to find a spare key if one can’t be talked out of a groundskeeper, but again, the pre-planned demo didn’t give us a chance to see how drastic a detour that would have entailed.
There was also talk of your player character suffering from a series of phobias that would impact gameplay choices through your adventure. The example shown was that claustrophobia would effectively put a time limit on how long you could hide in a cupboard waiting for a monster to pass. It was not made clear if these phobias could be cured, if more would accumulate, and how central they would be to the progression of gameplay challenge.
All in all, Call of Cthulhu seems interesting, but was hampered by the decision to talk a lot about choice and branching gameplay before showing press a hands-off demo that was only ever going to progress a single way. Interesting game, not a good demo for showcasing the exploration and information gathering gameplay’s intricacies.
[Disclosure – LPVG’s hotel and travel costs were covered while attending the above press event. This included travel from London to Paris and one night in a Paris hotel].