Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land|
I can remember when I was on a Lovecraftian kick back in high school. I read the most of the books over the years and loved his ability to create a dark and seemingly terrifying scene. I've seen a few films and most recently played a few games that deal directly with cultists and the Great Old One himself Cthulhu. The only area of Cthulhu Mythos in gaming I haven't touched however is the board game and tabletop market. Chaosism is one of the longest running publishers of paper RPGs out there and last year marked the 30th anniversary of their long running Call of Cthulhu game. It is this game that Red Wasp Designs has adapted into their own mobile version with the release of Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land for iOS on the iPhone and iPad. I'll be covering my experiences from the iPhone perspective in this review.
The story takes place during World War I in the war-torn countryside of Europe. It is during this time that an ancient cult is setting out to create an undead army from the remains of the casualities of war. It's in this hellish landscape that several investigators, war veterans and scholars must stop this atrocity and somethings that are far worse. The main objective is to get your key members such as Captain Hill, Sapper Brown and Emma Gold through the levels without dying which is a chore sometimes. Initially you only need to get one person through but when more key players are added to the levels you'll want to make sure they all survive by using every trick in the book.
The Wasted Land's gameplay is centered on tactical turn based strategy dealing with skills, statistics and item proficiency to survive. There is a lot of realism put into the tactics to make the experience enjoyable to the old school paper RPG fans. For those unsure of what that means I will explain in more detail. Unlike most modern turned based games, In The Wasted Land abilities like spells takes time to prepare and execute and will come with a very high AP(attack points) and SAN(sanity) cost. Some characters are also better at using certain weapons such as rifle and spells.
There are a lot of things to take in consideration when engaging enemies on the battlefield. Trenches and craters offer great cover against ground troops on the same level but that can quickly change if the enemies get an elevated advantage. There are even the areas of toxic gas that is deadly to your team but sometimes can be used to your advantage in the right situations. For instance itís best to use Sapper Brown to lure enemies though gas due to his ability to use a gas mask which gives him a chemical resistance bonus.
As this is a RPG meant for the iPhone the game relies entirely on a touch-based interface which is at its fundamental level is very simple. Selecting a member of your team is done by tapping on them and choosing the action you want them to do such as double tapping on an enemy to prepare to attack them. The game upon release was badly plagued with a hit detection problem that made it almost impossible to do much of anything in the game itself.
Shortly after the initial launch and while I was still reviewing the game, they released an update for the game that added some much needed features including a much better hit detection and the double tapping ability. They even added a pinch zoom feature that allows you to see the battlefield close up. That said there are a few kinks in the system most noticeably for me failing a level or two because a key character fell into the level design making reviving them impossible and extremely annoying to no end. The hit detection is better but I still think it lacks refinement on the iPhone's small screen.
I do have to say that despite Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land's technical problems it looks good with the retina display. Each level is creepy especially the further you get into the adventure. I liked the styling and mood of the levels as each are dark, brooding and covered in shadows. The graphics for the characters on both sides looks good and surprisingly detailed on the iPhone's small screen. My favorite level designs involve the tentacles seen later in the game. Add the creepy atmospheric sound effects and realistic weapons fire and you have a good horror setting that Lovecraft would approve of. I even love the old record track that plays when you load up the game.
Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land isn't without its rather annoying faults that quite frankly almost put me off playing it. After sticking with it I found an enjoyable story and a pretty good strategy RPG with plenty of crucial decision making and old school gameplay in a modern package. Lovecraft would have been proud of the atmosphere and story presented here. If you love strategy RPGs and a good horror story and don't mind dealing with a few bugs then you should check out the universal app, Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land for iPhone and iPad.