Previews

Enter the Madness – Call of Cthulhu — an E3 2018 preview

As you might recall, we nominated Call of Cthulhu for a Best of E3 award in 2017 (you can read our preview from last year right here).   It was time to get an update on what publisher Focus Home and Developer Cyanide Studios had in store for the Eldritch Horror tabletop tie-in title, Call of Cthulhu.

Our demo, surprisingly, took place in the same chapter as last year.  It kicked off in Chapter 3 — the investigation of the fire at the Hawkins Mansion.  The loading screen for the area described it thusly:

“Pierce and Officer Bradley explored the gardens of the Hawkins mansion.  The family lies in the graveyard of the property that is guarded by Silas Winchester.  The old caretaker, still faithful to his employers, keeps watch on the place, armed with his ax.  Pierce and Bradley managed to calm him down, and finally, get hold of the key to Hawkins mansion. They enter the building looking for the scene of the fire.”

The demo from last year focused more on mechanics that were featured in games like Sherlock Holmes.  Here, they want to focus on a new system called “Reconstruction Mode” which allows the protagonist, Edward Pierce, to reconstruct what he believes might have happened in the various scenarios in the game.  Marrying it with the pen and paper roots of the game, this mode will be heavily tied to the skills your character possesses. As a result, dice rolls in the background may determine that you “know” information that is, in fact, incorrect.  This can cause you to draw incorrect conclusions, affect your relationships with other characters in the game, and ultimately cause you to head down the wrong path. It’ll be interesting to see if you can ultimately lose by failing these dice rolls.

Welcome to Darkwater.

Heading back into the Hawkins Family mansion to investigate the death of Charles, the son Simon, and his wife, Sarah, we get to see an entirely new approach to the same material, thanks to the last year’s worth of changes to the engine.

Entering the reconstruction mode, we begin to create a mental picture of where the fire originated.  Finding clues means visualizing where a body might have fallen, causing a clue to drop and roll underneath an object.  It means ducking and actually looking things, though your skills might help clue you in with visual or auditory clues to push you in a particular direction, if your invisible dice rolls land correctly.

The mansion is full of dark, dark secrets.

Finding blood we know the lamp was thrown in a fight, causing the fire.  We found burned hand marks on the entryway as a person who was on fire fled the room. As we also have uncovered a tin soldier, we turn to talk to Officer Bradley, getting a look at the revamped conversation system.  We can choose from several dialogue options which affect our relationships with the people we work with, and ultimately the ending we receive. The dialogue choices (symbolized with a lock, naturally) are often opened to us by uncovering clues in the Reconstruction Mode, but it quickly became clear that we would never be able to pursue all options in a single playthrough.

Beyond just choosing between conversation trees, there is a whole slew of skills in Call of Cthulhu that power every aspect of the game.  Psychology, forensics, eloquence, occultism, athleticism, strength, and more to help you find hidden objects, understanding mystic symbols, having the strength to force a lock, and more.  We found a book on medicine that improved our forensic skills, which suggests that there’s a whole progression engine in the game, but a quick event in the game that didn’t go our way illustrated that failing a skill roll can sometimes lock out that path entirely.  The way the team put it, you’ll have many ways to choose free will in Call of Cthulhu, but at every point you deviate from the pre-chosen path, there is always a cost.

The skill system determines your outcomes as much as your dialogue choices.

Entering the room of Simon Hawkins, we find disturbing drawing of horrible creatures, and wooden soldiers set up in a defensive formation as if to protect him…but from what?  Further inspection uncovered sleeping pills and a copy of Tom Sawyer – a little odd for an 11 year old boy. Of course, looking back at the drawings of what are clearly nightmare-fueled mythos creatures, it’s easy to understand.

Entering Sarah’s room, we use our lockpicking skill to break into an adjacent antichamber.  On the floor is a shocking scene with candles, a pentagram, and a whole lot of blood. We use our Occultism skill which reveals that what we see on the ground is actually a “revocation” symbol.  We look further and find claw marks along the walls, leading upstairs. We also hear some scuffling sounds coming from above. Thinking that it might be Officer Bradley, we head upstairs and find…a painting of us.  Before we can do any investigating, a masked and robed person bashes us on the head and escapes with the painting. Bradley, of course, didn’t catch the guy, and he escaped.

The fisherman in this town are not exactly what they seem.

Chasing this masked person down into a library (where they vanished), we find a bookcase that has been moved many times.  Using a nearby globe to unlock a puzzle is a possibility, but instead we find the mechanism behind a panel. We decide to use a crowbar that we uncovered earlier instead to force the gear train. We could also use our strength check if we didn’t find the crowbar earlier.  Options abound.

Visually, Call of Cthulhu has received a large overhaul.  As you’ll see in the screenshots and video, it’s “the right kind of green”.  The lighting engine dances across the landscape, it’s dark, dust motes dance across the burned landscapes, and gas lamps bathe the entire place in a very eerie glow.  As our character descends into the bowels of the mansion, he also begins to descend into the depths of madness. As his sanity slips, his mental picture is more and more corrupted, and this madness begins to cause audio and visual corruption.

Look closer…if you dare.

We didn’t get to see this in our demo, but the team even described one area where the character looks down a hallway and it stretches into infinity.  They start to walk down the hall and look into the room, but find themselves already inside the room looking back at ourselves. Reaching for the door, suddenly the door is gone.  Looking down, the floor is suddenly gone, and we begin to fall, further into madness.  I cannot wait to go insane!

This quick look at Call of Cthulhu was a breath of fresh air, and clearly the team is working hard to ensure that they are adhering to the pen and paper roots of the game.  While the game doesn’t yet have a release date, it is coming near the end of 2018 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Look for our continued coverage of E3 2018 here at GamingTrend.com

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