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Review

Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land Review

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Aw, man. I’m going to be a little bit biased for once here – if the name ‘Cthulhu’ appears in the title of, well, anything, I’m going to drop hours of my life into it. If Cthulhu Cola was a thing and it had still-twitching tentacles marinating in the syrup I would drink it until it inevitably murdered me from the inside out.  I would wear Cthulhu condoms dripping with eldritch goo and stare on blankly as they transformed me into some squicky, mutated trans-dimensional beast. Needless to say, the strange fiction of H.P. Lovecraft is a big deal to me, to the extent that pretty much any content riffing on it will zombify me.

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If you’re not already at least vaguely familiar with the Lovecraft mythos the game’s warped plot and premise will be a sizable object to wrap your head around, and it doesn’t offer any kind of primer – which considering the unfathomable depth of its subject, seems a little off. It’s definitely doable but it doesn’t draw as fully on it’s rich subject matter as it could, which is a crying shame. It makes up for this in surprisingly rich gameplay, offering a complex, rewarding RPG with all sorts of icky atmosphere.

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Sadly the control scheme doesn’t live up to the quality RPG on offer. It feels, at the best of times, like a clunky iOS port (which it very well may be) which ends up feeling slightly like trying to watch a great movie through a guy that keeps standing up in front of you and occasionally slapping your drink out of your hand. Imagine playing X-COM with tentacles instead of aliens and controlling it through an elderly relative who has never seen, heard, or engaged with a video game before.

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Combat is turn based with grid movement – your characters must expend energy to move and attack, which is reset as your turn ends. The interface isn’t as smooth as it could be, not by a long shot, but it gets the job done from time to time, which is as reassuring a statement as “You’re pregnant!… sort of”. The tutorial is hamfisted and only offers the most basic of training before sending you off into the big, bad world. Pair that with the control issues and you have a rich and creepy RPG that’s about as hard to get into as an American airport in the wake of 9/11. Is it worth blundering through to get to the good stuff? Kinda. It depends how much you like Call of Cthulhu, really. For me, it was easy enough to wade in, but that’s because I had the benefit of pre-existing knowledge.

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If you persist, there are payoffs. The atmosphere is spectacular. The soundtrack on offer is maddening in the best possible way and the world is rife with warped, weird effects. Characters talk in that cheesy English idiom I personally refuse to believe was really that common, spouting out “Jolly good!” and the like at every possible opportunity. The combat is as deep as Rl’yeh, and genuinely captures the feel of the original tabletop game (imagine a much more squamous version of D&D). It’s grimy. It’s squelchy. Atmospherically, it’s everything a game based on Lovecraft should be, and that is a crownin

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In conclusion, great atmosphere and gameplay hindered by some outdated controls. It’s still a mobile game at heart and it shows, painfully. If you love the Call of Cthulhu games, it’s an obvious, inexpensive buy, but unfortunately much too clunky to have appeal beyond its tentacled charm. If you’re just looking for a decent RPG to pass the time, there are better options in the mobile market and most certainly in the PC realm. But if it absolutely must have tentacles, The Wasted Land just might be for you.

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Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.

Rating:
2/5
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