This direct adaptation of the classic tabletop roleplaying game, which itself is a homage to H.P Lovecraft’s cult horror short stories and the ensuing mythos by other authors, landed last week to mixed reviews. However, Cyanide Studio’s latest love letter to Lovecraft is one of the best descents into the realms of madness I’ve seen in a video game.
The narrative revolves around the character of freelance detective Edward Pierce, as you investigate the death of the wealthy Hawkins family on the forgotten island of Darkwater in 1924. Though not everything is as it seems. This becomes obvious very quickly as you uncover the dark and hideous motives of almost every character you come across, whilst vying to ensure Pierce’s mind stays stable.
They certainly make you feel like you are in a true Lovecraftian horror story from the get go.
Your fight to understand what is real and what is being fed to you by some other, unknowable force is not only a struggle for Pierce, but for the player too. You will often get swept up in visions and illusions simply by looking at books filled with knowledge so horrifying they could send Pierce over the edge.
As far as the RPG elements of the game go, they stay pretty true to the genre: earning character points, or CPs in order to rank up various helpful skills such as the famous “spot hidden” from the tabletop RPG, and others such as “investigation” and “strength”.
You will often get swept up in visions and illusions simply by looking at books filled with knowledge so horrifying they could send Pierce over the edge.
These help in dialogue and when finding in-game objects to unlock more information and further unravel clues to the mystery. Though it could definitely be said that some of the skills are more important than others by a long way - “strength”, for example, is a skill rarely used whilst the detective’s “investigation” abilities are very worthwhile.
The game does, however, fall down slightly in terms of its non-cinematic graphical quality. The NPC animations, especially facial animations, during dialogue look very dated, and it’s obvious the majority of the budget was spent on the more intense and compelling cinematic moments.
However jarring the graphical quality can be at times, the game more that makes up for this in its adherence to the Lovecraftian atmosphere and canon. It combines the mystery and cosmological horror of incomprehensible entities perfectly.
The game does, however, fall down slightly in terms of its non-cinematic graphical quality.
Every slight nod to the mythos, a slight mention of Azathoth here and there, the use of cultish languages and elder signs, all signal that small details were a very important part of development. They certainly make you feel like you are in a true Lovecraftian horror story from the get go.