Chaosium’s venerable Call of Cthulhu RPG has been darkening tabletops for over 35 years. It’s done a lot to turn Cthulhu into a member of the horror pantheon because it flips the script on the tropes that Dungeons & Dragons established. Characters worry more about mental damage over physical damage. Magic is frightening and extracts a heavy price. Magic items are more trouble then they are worth. And most characters end up broken and in an asylum rather than resting atop a pile of riches.
Focus Home Interactive hopes to carry over this spooky experience with its recent video game that shares its name with the timeless RPG. Call of Cthulhu hopes to draw fans of the tabletop game while also introducing new players to H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, but longtime players will likely have an edge in playing the newer game. I got a chance to try out the Call of Cthulhu video game and quickly discovered that several lessons learned from the unfortunate fates of tabletop characters helped me do well in the game and got me past a few parts other reviewers found frustrating.
Spot Hidden Is Your Friend
The top skill that most Cthulhu investigators develop is Spot Hidden. The more clues an investigator can gather in the opening parts of the story, the more likely they’ll figure out what’s going on when the interdimensional beasts with infinite mouths show up. The game is a classic point-and-click adventure game despite its first-person-shooter presentation. Max out the in-game skill as soon as possible but also take the opportunity to search everywhere and click on everything.
Reading Is Fundamental
Books are important in the original game. Investigators spend a lot of time in libraries preparing for the inevitable. It pays to read as much as possible in the video game as well because the information gathered through reading often unlocks more dialogue options when talking with other characters. It’s also the only way to raise the Medicine and Occult skills in play. The more open books the more pieces of the puzzle in hand.
If You’re Fighting, You’ve Probably Lost
The Call of Cthulhu video game is primarily about investigations and stealth. (The previous attempt at a video game, Dark Corners of the Earth, had some shooter options that were…ill-advised.) There’s a Strength skill that can be built up, but any canny investigator knows that brute strength is the least efficient option. Getting caught by guards and cultists usually leads to a save point reload. Most puzzles have more cerebral solutions that manage the investigation’s limited resources better.
It’s Perfectly Okay To Run Away
The old joke amongst Call of Cthulhu players is that you don’t have to be the fastest investigator, you just have to be faster than the slowest one in the party. The video game has some great, tense chase sequences that play on this idea but keeping light footed can also help in the stealth areas. A quick dash into the area to get the lay of the land, followed by ducking into a safe spot to plan the next move can be the difference between moving the story forward and frustrating reload. Looking away from the big creatures also can spare a little sanity but the game has a lot of fun wobbling the screen and giving the creatures of the Mythos a hallucinatory sheen. Might as well get the full effect during the retreat.
What’s your best dead investigator story? Let us know in the comments!
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Images Credits: Focus Home Interactive
Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. His Twitter is here. You can watch him livestream RPGs with the Theatre of the Mind Players here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.