Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land – PC
Developer: Red Wasp Design Ltd.
Publisher: Red Wasp Design Ltd.
Release Date: May 5, 2012
ESRB Rating: N/A
Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Reviewed by Malefico
I love the Cthulhu Mythos, and I’m not ashamed to say it. From the first time I picked up a book by H.P. Lovecraft, I was hooked- not only on the subject matter, but his use of extensive, ponderous and often repetitive adjectives to describe the nameless things that prance and cavort mercifully just beyond the limits of our perception, always watching us and waiting for dead Cthulhu to wake. Surely the Cthulhu Mythos is the very embodiment of the bacony goodness.
So it was with no small measure of excitement that I installed and launched Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land. Developed by Red Wasp Design in conjunction with Chaosium, Inc. Given that I’m also a fan of turn-based strategy games, I figured this would be a guaranteed nerdgasm. After launch, I was treated to the haunting strains of “Long Way To Tipperary”, distorted and scratchy as if played on an old phonograph to set the mood. This game is a port from mobile platforms, and that figures in to its overall quality and length.
In Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land the player assumes the role of Professor Brightmeer, occult expert from, you guessed it, Miskatonic University- perhaps the most famous fictional school in literature. Sit your five dollar ass down, Hogwarts, before I make change. Anyway, the year is 1915 and World War I rages across Europe. But beneath the horrific carnage of the war, another, darker plot is brewing. It’s up to you, the intrepid professor to stop the evil machinations of Der Kult der Erwachten (The Cult of the Awakened) and its leader, Doctor Kaul.
Upon starting a new game, you can take advantage of a Basic Training mission to familiarize yourself with movement, melee and ranged attacks, and the use of various pieces of equipment. The in-game menu contains all the info you need to make informed decisions – you can scroll through your team members and view their weapons, equipment and armor as well as the number of points they have to spend each turn moving, firing or swinging weapons, using items, and wearing various pieces of armor all cost AP, or attack points. If your characters have sufficient AP left when you end a turn, they will perform an Overwatch attack against the closest enemy. In addition to AP, Sanity Points also come into play as the game progresses. In true Call of Cthulhu fashion, facing the spawn of Chaos takes its toll on the mental states of your characters. Once Sanity reaches zero, bad things happen unless you intervene. When a mission is successfully completed, Experience Points (XP) are awarded to the team.
Between missions, the player has an opportunity to spend XP to improve fighting skills, character stats, and secondary skills that grant protection or special abilities. Some of the more useful skills are Artillery Spotter, First Aid, and Psychoanalysis which allows you to heal Sanity damage and cast some offensive spells, which also cost Sanity. Characters can carry two weapons, two items, and two pieces of armor at any time, and upgrades can be purchased through a Quartermaster option. During and between missions, players can swap items at no AP cost.
The Bottom Line
Anyone who has played turn-based strategy games will get up to speed quickly in Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land. The menus and gameplay are straightforward. The characters and enemies are well-animated for a turn-based game, and the sound effects, while minimal, are adequate to represent the action on-screen. The “music” is very minimalist and is more ambiance than actual melodies, although a few notes do drift through the air here and there.
The graphics look sharp until the zoom feature is used, and then the relatively simplistic textures become apparent. The good news is you could easily play this game with integrated graphics. The mission maps are detailed, but the objects therein can be repetitive, and the terrain is sometimes confusing. The only real cover to be found is in trenches or foxholes; partially destroyed buildings and walls may appear to offer safety but do not. Intact buildings and walls restrict line of sight, and therefore the ability to attack for both sides. Obstacles like tree stumps and barbed wire restrict movement, and as in many such games different terrain types sap more AP for movement.
The game offers a steady, linear increase in difficulty, both in mission objectives and hostile forces. From map to map, you may find yourself assaulting an enemy position or searching catacombs for clues. The team is first opposed by standard and elite German soldiers, but the situation quickly turns nightmarish as corpses (and much worse) close in around the party of heroes. The player will face a variety of loathsome abominations while struggling to put an end to the Cult of the Awakened. If the battle goes against you, you can always start from the last completed turn or from the beginning of the mission.
Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land was an enjoyable experience, marred by a few glaring problems. I have three main gripes about the game.
First, although there are a number of available skills, the characters start with a substantial number of points in certain areas. This discouraged me from branching out much to sample the effects of other skills as the XP cost rises with the level of skill, so to get your characters maxed out in a specialty takes all the XP you get. Oddly, the game teases you by awarding additional XP after you beat the final boss but before the fanfare…
Second, it’s a fairly short game. I consider myself an average player, and the first play-through took about eight hours total. The second took less than four. Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land feels more like a chapter in a game, rather than a complete adventure. There are only about a half dozen fights and the final boss is a joke. With your characters properly leveled, you can take him down in two turns at most.
And finally, the most important problem with this game. It crashed constantly. I stopped counting after ten crashes. In the game’s defense, I never lost much progress as it seems to save after every turn of combat, and thankfully loading to main menu only takes about five seconds, but still. It was released two years ago, and shouldn’t have this kind of issue.
I liked the variety of enemies, the mechanics are solid, and the graphics decent considering its tablet origins. But its brevity, frequent crashes and rigidly pigeonholed characters make this title something that won’t hold your attention for long. You can up the difficulty or try spending XP on other skills to change the flavor of combat, but aside from that replay value is limited.
But it’s not all negative. Cthulhu is, after all, the world’s favorite undead Lord of Chaos and this game does deliver its fair share of challenge. And, it’s cheaper than going out to a movie and lasts a little longer. Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land is available on Steam for under $5.
6.5 out of 10 (would be 8.5 but for the constant crashes)
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