I got the opportunity to sit in a live demo of the upcoming Call of Cthulhu from developer Cyanide. Up until now, we had not gotten much information on how the game plays, rather we got some eerie and terrifying trailers showcasing the dark nature of the HP Lovecraft universe. I was initially under the impression that this was going to be just an interactive murder mystery, but luckily, we are getting something much more in depth. Call of Cthulhu appears to be a first-person survival horror with some RPG elements. I’m both a huge fan of a good detective story as well as Lovecraftian horror, so I was excited to get to speak with the developers.
The RPG elements in question are not what one would expect though, as there is little to no combat. Rather, there are skills to build upon for investigation. Players take on the role of Detective Pierce who is put in charge of figuring out the mysterious death of the Hawkins family. The developers presenting the demo made the remark that “like any Lovecraft story, it starts out normally and then ends up becoming something else entirely.” From a narrative perspective, the first-person point of view is required as the game is built upon Pierce’s sanity, which is put to the test as he gets closer to the truth.
Visually, the game looks surprisingly well. The gothic aesthetic of Lovecraftian horror bleeds throughout the game from the uncomfortable silence of exploration, to the expertly crafted architecture of the time-period. The impressive visuals are going to be required in order to capture the many disturbing instances the developers promise. The more detailed the game looks, the more the players will react emotionally to each situation.
I was pleasantly surprised by how deep the branching dialogue system looks to be. The more skills put into the Social tree will assist Pierce in getting information from the many NPCs throughout the game. There are multiple ways to approach each dialogue situation, as it is more than choosing what to say. Pierce can utilize Intimidation, Persuasion, and Small Talk as options. In the demo we saw a list of all the NPCs Pierce has spoken too, and depending on the impression Pierce leaves, the NPC may either be happy or angry with us, affecting the amount of information they are willing to give. Information and knowledge both help and hinder the player. Finding clues is required of course to find out what happened, however, the more disturbing things Pierce encounters will make him question his own reality and lead him closer to insanity. Clues and pieces of information are spread across the environments, with each holding their own purpose. There were also 3 skill trees to take advantage of; social, knowledgeable, and professional.
We were not able to a good look at how the sanity system is built up, but we were able to see how phobias do end up developing based the player’s actions. In this playthrough, the demo jumped further into the game and we see that Pierce now has claustrophobia. These phobias will, in fact, impact the playstyle. Pierce ended up encountering a vicious monster and was forced to escape. A closet was found in which Pierce decided to hide in, but the claustrophobia ends up having an effect on this. The longer he hides in there, the more terrified he gets, causing his heart rate to increase, which could lead to a heart attack. I got curious and asked about the consequences of failure or death, which the developers explained that the player will be set back not that far, but the catch being that all choices matter and are not able to be reset. This excites me as I love the stress of making choices in games and feeling the weight of each one. There is no trial and error, rather the player faces the consequences of each action and has to live with them the rest of the game.
Fans of the horror genre should keep an eye out for this game. We do not have an exact release date yet, but we do know it will be available for PS4, PC, and Xbox One. This will definitely not be a casual game, as I’d never expect a survival horror game to be anyways. Instead of relying on reaction time and combat, players will need to rely on their wits. I’ve been yearning for a true detective experience in a video for a long time, and I love that the game is looking to completely immerse the player in this supernatural tale.