Gaming

Call of Cthulhu – Path to Madness

Welcome to my first game review of 2022! Another game beat, it seems that I’ve spent the last few months clearing the horror games on my backlog the most since I’ve started to enjoy survival horror games more! This one I had to play since I’m a Lovecraft fan, it’s inspired by his most famous piece The Call of Cthulhu.

The story is different from the original book, revolving around Detective Edward Pierce who is called to investigate a case on the Hawkins family living on the island Darkwater. Edward, as a former war veteran frequently suffers from nightmares and self-medicates with sedatives and alcohol but accepts the job nonetheless.

Upon arriving Darkwater, he discovers that there is a lot more at stake on the island and that the Hawkins case, may not have been a fire. He soon discovers there is a secret cult at work underneath the island and a “Miraculous Catch”. As the story progressed, I found Edward’s sanity slipping. The game’s environment is great though, it’s dark and terrifying, some parts are disturbing too but I went into this game expecting to see all of that.

This is where gameplay has its part. It is kind of all over the place though, and I had to deal with some lag here and there, lowering the resolution didn’t always fix this and there were certain parts of the game where it was better or worse. Some chapters and areas weren’t greatly designed and I’ll get into that detail in a moment, but the game is like an RPG with a dialogue wheel, some responses are only unlockable if you have a skill at a certain level, and certain choices have dire consequences for the game’s ending and Edward’s sanity.

Speaking of sanity, there is also an emphasis on that, which also affects the game’s ending and your perception of reality. Since this is Lovecraft we are talking here, I wanted a situation as if I were reading my Necronomicon again seeing characters going mad, so I let Edward’s sanity break hahaha!

Other than that, gameplay is also walking through creepy hallucinations, searching for clues (one way through entering what is called a reconstruction scene), and there are some stealth elements as well. So a mixture of different things. If this were a shooter, a lot of Lovecraft fans would be disappointed.

How do I talk about characters? Well, Edward Pierce is slightly bland but not to the point where he’s annoying me. He does have recurring nightmares from his experience in the last war. In the game, you can choose to make him excel in things like investigation, or persuasion. There are even parts where you can make him an alcoholic but in my playthrough, I got an achievement for never making him drink!

There’s also officer Ethan Bradley who helps out on the investigation a few times, and Sarah Hawkins was not what I thought she was when I found out she was still alive. Ha, I just realized that’s the same name as Jim’s mother in Treasure Planet!

I also thought Cat was an interesting character, she’s like a gang leader who warns Edward not to meddle too much into Darkwater’s problems, but he can’t help himself as it’s his job to solve mysteries. Charles Hawkins also gives us the first exposure to the cult operating underneath the island to show there’s a lot more happening than you think. So, yeah decent characters, but that was also the point where I realized this is a completely different story than the book.

I have to say the first epic moment of this game was discovering the cult underneath the Hawkins mansion. Several clues led me to the strange paintings Sarah created and a strange room with a glyph on the floor for some kind of ritual. Then there was the passage I had to follow that led to me discovering that Charles was still alive and the cause of the fire was definitely not an accident.

I didn’t enjoy sneaking around the asylum afterward, but what was even more scary and frustrating was in the Sanders household, the Shambler monster that came to life out of its painting and I had to banish it somehow. The game isn’t always clear on objectives and I recall this part being vividly well done even if I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Many other players said I should just sneak around the creature, but the AI’s movements were different every time. The only thing that made me succeed was sneaking to the back, smashing a display case with a false dagger as a diversion, running over to grab the real one, and then making a beeline for the painting to stab and banish the creature.

Banishing it again later on as Sarah was no different with me turning around every two seconds to blind it with the lantern to stop it from catching up to me. At least I got two achievements from surviving both encounters!

This is where it all comes together once I discover Sarah is part of the cult and the Leviathan is the Miraculous catch that was causing all the insanity on the island. At this point in the game, Edward had become psychotic from all his encounters both real and hallucinations. So I made the choice for him to participate in the ritual where he gave in to the madness and the Great Old One Cthulhu was summoned, driving everyone mad to attack each other.

This is just one of the few endings in the game, but as a Lovecraft fan, I’d want to see the one that was true to the nature of his work and that was just it. Cthulhu himself only appears in a flash at the very end that I couldn’t even get a shot of him! What I love about Cthulhu as a monster is that even in slumber and not always present, such an entity has the power to manipulate the minds of its targets through dreams, hallucinations and even aggressive actions. The monster isn’t just the physical entity, it is also all around us leading towards its actual presence being known.

So yeah, there’s no actual antagonist to write about in this game, it is all based on the choices you make throughout the game. Other than that, I really enjoyed this game’s environment, it was well done, really emphasizing the themes Lovecraft has always used. I don’t want to make the occasional lag responsible for me not giving this game a perfect score, but I think it has to do with the fact that even though it gave me a variety of different gameplay scenarios, some of them were poorly designed, like the first encounter with the Shambler then there was sneaking around the institute in the previous chapter that was really stressful.

Still a fun game, I could probably try to get all the achievements, but maybe some other time. Definitely recommend it if you are a Lovecraft fan.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

👽Emily

2 thoughts on “Call of Cthulhu – Path to Madness”

    1. I did not find this one clumsy, just a different approach to the telling his classic story. Yes some places could have been designed better but I enjoyed the experience.

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