Call of Cthulhu’s latest trailer practically drips with cliche

Call of Cthulhu

Maybe it’s because we’ve done this dance a hundred times already, or maybe because it’s based directly on the pen-and-paper RPG that brought Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos into the gaming sphere, but the E3 trailer for Cyanide’s Call of Cthulhu feels very familiar. Dire prophecies, flickering torchlight, lots of sickly blue-greens in its palette are all present and correct, and while on some level I feel I’ve seen it all before now, it’s almost a little comforting. Take a peek at it for yourself within.

While there have been plenty of other games to bear the Call of Cthulhu name in the past, this one bills itself as the official game adaptation of Chaosium’s famous tabletop RPG, or at least a combination of its most readily recognisable elements. A cult in a seaside town, grisly murders, a fragile WW1 veteran protagonist who prefers evasion and investigation to combat and the ever-looming threat of losing your marbles from over-exposure to cosmic weirdness.

I do notice that rather than shoot for photorealism, Cyanide have settled for a slightly stylised aesthetic. While not quite as stark as Dishonored’s world of grimly angular faces, there feels like a little bit of exaggeration applied to everything, from the lighting to the characters, although Beardly McProtagonist could have fallen out of almost any action game of the past decade. Hopefully this also means that there won’t be quite so much pixel-hunting required when examining scenes for clues.

While I’ve not had a chance to see the game in action, Adam’s preview last year echoes many of my concerns, going as far as saying that it ‘felt a bit Scooby Doo’. I guess that after years of exposure, fishmen, their alien ocean-gods and the cults that worship them seem positively quaint. Perhaps a Bloodborne-inspired genre fakeout would work better? Still, this is mostly speculation, and I’m looking forward to giving the game a spin when it arrives later this year.

Call of Cthulhu

Call of Cthulhu also has some direct competition on the horizon, with Frogwares’ The Sinking City following the same well-worn path with its blend of otherworldly weirdness, tentacled things, detective-work and RPG elements. Considering how familiar Call of Cthulhu is looking, perhaps not having the official license isn’t quite the weakness it might otherwise be.

Cyanide haven’t yet got a release date worked out for Call of Cthulhu (perhaps it’s too strange and unknowable for mortal minds to bear), but you can sign up for a spooky newsletter over on their official site here to get word of when the stars are due to align.

25 Comments

  1. kud13 says:

    This, the Sinking City and GreedFall (which also got a new trailer) are the 3 games I’m looking forward to in 2018.

    Maybe Biomutant or Darksiders 3 if THQ Nordic gets its act together.

    I need more of that honest, AA hanky goodness

  2. Freud says:

    Isn’t this how we want our Cthulhu games?

    The song is fine. Just have to hit the notes.

  3. Ham Solo says:

    There have been plenty of Cthulhu mythos games, and most of them got it totally wrong. When humans interact with anything remotely alien in these stories they either go insane and/or kill themselves or they go into hiding or get killed. The End. Anything else is disregarding of the source material and just stapling the “Cthulhu” theme onto itself to sell better. I am cautious about these games. There have been very few “good” cthulhu mythos games in terms of respecting the source material.

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      Drib says:

      Well sure, that’s… kind of half true. I mean some of the lovecraftian protagonists saw bits of the elder things, or the entirety, and didn’t just drop down and die. They just freak out a bit and then steel themselves, or just run away. Spoilers for Lovecraft stories, but I think they’ve been out long enough that it’s okay. But I mean, Color Out of Space? Weirded out but not crazy or dead. Shadow Over Innsmouth? Saw them, eventually joining them maybe. Dunwich Horror? Saw it kinda, freaked out, still went on to fight. That one with the underground monsters in the desert city? Freaked out, ran away, didn’t die.

      But anyway, getting a few frames of monster and then cut-to-black, game over you died? That’s not fun at all, what kind of game is that?

    • DatonKallandor says:

      That’s not entirely true, plenty of Lovecraft stories don’t end in (immediate) insanty or death. Many times the protagonist or impacted group of characters hold on to their sanity long enough to foil the supernatural danger. From ramming a boat through Cthulhus belly (and thus saving the entire damn world for a couple hundred/thousand years) to gathering a party of well-read badasses and taking the fight to the invisible horror from beyond the stars, there’s tons of successful fights against the cosmic.

      Sure most of them die later, by their own hand or through cults, but in the immediate story, they succeed.

      • Michael Fogg says:

        Some critics suggest that the tone of HP’s stories changed over time: from more pessimistic early ones, written when the author barely had enough to put food on the table, to later ones, which were closer to standard adventure stories. The later ones were written when the author was enjoying a degree of success and recognition, and featured protagonists that were more active and capable of fighting off the evil.

        • DatonKallandor says:

          That doesn’t quite hold up because the successful protagonist stories are peppered throughout the chronology, not bunched up in a single spot.

    • hijuisuis says:

      which ones do you think did it right? They are really hard to find!

      I think it’s time rps did a best of Cthulhu games.

      For me:

      Conarium
      Amnesia
      Veil of Darkness
      Kairo
      Cthulhu The Wasted Land
      Chyrza

  4. milligna says:

    Probably because that would make for incredibly dull games.

  5. DatonKallandor says:

    Also it should be noted someone did the Genre fakeout once. The game was called Magrunner – it was a lovecraftian horror game disguised as a Portal clone.

    • kud13 says:

      Played it recently for the first time and it was… not very subtle with its Lovecraftian bits.

      Which makes me a tad weary about the same developer now making The Sinking City.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      It was a much less confident fakeout though, and advertised itself pretty hard as Portal Meets Lovecraft.

      Bloodborne was a surprise to many. It had always advertised itself as a Bram Stoker-ish werewolves n’ vampires and things-that-bump-in-the-night type game. It’s not until you’re a ways into the game that it begins dropping hints that there’s something even bigger and weirder behind the veil and even if it’s there, you *can’t even see it*.

  6. caff says:

    Hmmm. Dunno what vibe I’m getting from that trailer. Too early to judge, I’d say.

    I really enjoyed Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth, not sure this new title will have the oppressive darkness of that game.

    • klops says:

      Did you enjoy it after you got weapons as well?

      • N'Al says:

        I can’t speak for caff, but fwiw I did. It may not be entirely in the spirit of Lovecraft, but the game handled the transition from ‘not guns’ to ‘guns’ quite well, I thought.

        • czerro says:

          It seemed like a logical ‘game’ progression, but it definitely felt less Lovecraftian.

          I don’t blame the developers. The first third is incredible, and then it starts to get shootery at the fishery(?).

          It’s been a long time since I played the game, but did anyone else have that rope bug after the hotel chase? You couldn’t grab the rope to move down off the scaffolding?

          I nearly gave up on the game on PC release due to this, but I figured out you could kinda drop at an angle and hit the corner of a crate and survive, albeit sustaining like 99% damage.

          There was some other glitch I can’t recall the specifics of that would happen when you would arrive at the Marsh girls house, investigating the disappearance of the kid at the General Store.

          Wow, it was a frustrating game with the glitches!

  7. Jernau Gurgeh says:

    Looks quite… Cthulhu. But I somewhat think the Lovecraft boat has sailed in the fickle realms of popular culture, especially video games. Unless…

    The Mountains Of Madness: Battle Royale

    • zombiewarrior07 says:

      Would that be the “Love boat” that has sailed? 70s romantic sitcom meets Cthulhu.
      Ok, this joke is not really working, I’ll quit here..

      • jonahcutter says:

        Not a mad idea for a cross media and genre mashup whilst capitalizing on the BR era:

        A singles pleasure cruise sails deep into the South Pacific where it encounters eldritch horrors that invade the ship, driving the hookup seeking singles half-mad. As the horrors overwhelm the ship bit by bit, constantly shrinking the safe area, the crazed singles must battle it out for the last safe stateroom where the final two get the last great hookup. Therein they engage in a final duel where the game mechanics are best left to the imagination (just to contemplate them is to be driven insane), to determine who is the Last Single Standing. Winner gets a ticket to the midnight all-you-can-eat buffet and frozen yogurt bar. Loser gets eternal madness.

        Just like marriage! Baddumbum!

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        As far as bad/contrived jokes go, I was thinking more along the lines of a Lovecraft game with emphasis on crafting, e.g. Lovecrafting. A true survival game, where you don’t only have to craft things like crazy, you also have to avoid going crazy from too much knowledge.

        • Jernau Gurgeh says:

          I did actually think of that very thing as I was typing ‘Lovecraft’ in my post, but decided to go with the BR thing. Thank you for picking it up instead. I would like to just add that a Mythos Minecraft would be quite difficult to represent in a virtual 3D space on a 2D screen, what with all those impossible geometries and everything.

  8. MrBehemoth says:

    The only game I’ve played that successfully portrayed Lovecraftian cosmic horror, with a different subject matter, was SOMA.

  9. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Lovecraft isn’t all Cthulhu and fishpeople though.
    Has anyone done a game based on the Dreamlands yet?

    And how about that CoC campaign setting where the players explore a dormant “Elder Things” base on the moon, meet the beetle race in the future then witness the end of the universe. That would make a fine adventure game.

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