Some H.P. Lovecraft fans might be concerned that Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land is merely a generic iphone screen-tapping game with the Call of Cthulhu trademark slapped on it. Luckily, they can rest assured that The Wasted Land is both authentically Lovecraftian, and a solid tactical RPG. It arrived for PC and iOS earlier this year, but it’s currently vying for Steam approval through Greenlight, and a new set levels arrived for the iPhone edition recently too. We took a look at this app that Man was not meant to know!
It set in the Call of Cthulhu game world that is used by the Chaosium tabletop RPG games, however The Wasted Land is not a standard RPG. Rather, it’s a turn-based strategy/tactical RPG.
Fans of the tabletop game might balk at the shift in gameplay mechanics, but it has plenty of nods to its source material (Just who could be re-animating the walking corpses that the Player fights) and the developers are clearly Lovecraft fans themselves. Likewise, gamers who like the tactical RPG genre will definitely enjoy The Wasted Land, even if they aren’t Lovecraft fans.
The player controls a team of monster hunters and soldiers who fight the cult of Cthulhu during World War I. The characters in the party are a diverse lot, with skills ranging from various period-appropriate weapons to more unusual skills like psychotherapy and expertise in Cthulhu lore. They gain XP and increase their skills in RPG fashion, but the mechanics are based around a grid map on a battlefield.
Each character has a number of Action Points that determine how far that character can move, and how many attacks they can make in a turn. Characters with enough points left over at the end of their turn will automatically attack any enemies they can during the opposing team’s turn.
Positioning, range and cover affect accuracy, and the World War I setting often utilizes trench warfare, and chemical weapons to force players to think about the layout of the map and how to take advantage of the terrain. Early levels focus on traditional ranged combat, but the game soon throws in the supernatural while progressing away from typical WWI battlefield maneuvers.
Between missions, players can build up their characters, and buy equipment. There’s a variety of weapons and armor, plus special equipment, such as gasmasks that help characters resist the deadly clouds that cover parts of the battlefield.
There is also some cheeky humor about the nature of WWI technology, including the use of homing pigeons, plus characters speculating on the sort of technological advances that might come in the decades ahead.
While the gameplay is a satisfying piece of strategy, the story is excellent too. It’s written with World War I period dialog. And it’s rather a bit British too, I say! Even the expository dialog about how to play is written in authentic British gibberish – a capitol idea!
There are also some very serious, horror sequences that require the Player to ponder the portentous clues hidden within the dialog.
To keep the game feeling appropriately Lovecraftian, the characters augment their Hit Points and Action Points with Sanity Points. When they witness unknowable terrors from beyond, they begin to lose their sanity and once they’ve gone completely barmy, they’ll either become paralyzed with horror, or fly into a super-powered fit of mania.
Even a couple of turns in combat with a cosmic terror can drive some characters mad, and this will result in death if left to run its course unimpeded. The aforementioned “Psychoanalysis” skill serves to preserve sanity, much like a healing skill does hit points. The proper management of the team’s mental health is key to surviving the second half of the game.
It’s no slouch in the graphics department either. Screenshots give the appearance of a 2D isometric view, but it’s actually a fully 3D world, and players can rotate their view as they like. This is especially helpful with while fighting in trenches.
The basic version of the game runs five dollars, and will keep players entertained for a couple of afternoons, but a new set of missions was just released which can be downloaded for an additional three dollars. These are a prequel story and the DLC pack has six new missions.
Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land is out now for mobile devices and PC. The PC version is currently on the Intel App Center, but a Steam version is up for votes through the Greenlight community choice program.