Preview: Call of Cthulhu

Before Warcraft, Starcraft and Minecraft, there was... Lovecraft.

Preview: Call of Cthulhu

Developer Cyanide Studio
Publisher Focus Home Interactive
Due Late 2017

H.P. Lovecraft’s writings were incredibly influential on the horror genre; books, films, and games all owe the man a tremendous debt for establishing many of the genre conventions we tend to take for granted. Given how well-regarded his work is, though, it’s somewhat puzzling how few games are based in the universe he helped establish. While Call of Cthulhu is based on the pen-and-paper RPG of the same name, it also marks one of the few times the Lovecraftian mythos has been embodied in game form. Going from the preview session we saw at E3, this will be a hard game to put down – and we don’t know if we’d escape with our sanity intact.

It’s the early 1920s, and you step into the shoes of private investigator Edward Pierce. You’re tasked with uncovering the mysteries of what is a mundane-seeming case on the surface: the death of a well-known artist and her son. Of course, this being a Lovecraftian horror tale, things start to become anything but mundane as you start to unravel what was really going on. Can you solve the mystery of what happened here, and, perhaps more importantly, can you do so without going mad?

The setting for the game is Darkwater Island, a dark and musty place with an unsettling air about it that’s populated by a cast of equally suspicious personalities. Early in our demo, we met with a gravekeeper who didn’t seem particularly enthused by our presence on his grounds, even coming at us with an axe. We had to negotiate our way out of potentially dangerous situation using a dialogue tree, the results of which were determined by what the developers call the “skill sheet” – statistics like Persuasion and Intimidation that can be put to use in confrontations like this. We succeeded in calming him down first by bluffing with physical threats and then going to more peaceful conversation, eventually yielding valuable investigative information.

Investigation is the heart of this game, and much of your efforts will be spent piecing clues together to discover new truths. Later in our demo, we were investigating a scene where the fire that killed the artist and her son took place. We had a police report with us, and looked at the scene to compare it to what was written down. However, we found a few inconsistencies – the stopped clock was at a different time than that listed in the filing, and the position of objects indicated some sort of foul play.

But as Pierce gets closer to the truth, he puts his sanity at risk. The finale of our demo showcased with might happen as Pierce begins to descend into madness – as he stares at a painting, an otherworldly horror seems to crawl out of it, poised to strike him down. The reality behind the horror must be uncovered – but at what cost?

After a lengthy time in development, Call of Cthulhu’s intriguing mix of investigation and light survival-horror elements is scheduled to hit the PC later this year. Keep your wits about you – you’re going to need them. 

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