Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (2006 game) impressions…

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (2006 game) impressions after the break…

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (2006 game) impressions…

I’ve commented about the author H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu mythos previously on this blog. In brief, H.P. Lovecraft fell upon the tragic hero overwhelmed by an all-powerful evil god and its minions. Is that an oversimplification? Perhaps. However, the “dark and gritty” nature of Lovecraftian lore makes it a favorite for the moody teenager in all of us and his writings have since gone on to influence generations of writers hoping to recapture that type of success.

Honestly, beyond the actual specifics of the lore itself, I don’t see the attraction or why it persists. I find it more then a little ironic that, while H.P. Lovecraft wrote the stories in his present day, Lovecraftian lore tends to stick to that time frame (1900s – 1920s) regardless of when it was actually written. Like Flash Gordon, Lovecraft can’t seem to get much traction beyond the decades when it first premiered.

“Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth” (DCE for short) is one of those labor of love games that was years in the making and ultimately bankrupted the company (Headfirst Productions) who made it. I’m always hesitant to criticize such labor-intensive games and such productions merely emphasize that game developers are more associated to garage rock bands then anyone cares to admit: Both organizations mostly live hand-to-mouth and are hit-based business models – If people like you, you get to make more and if people don’t like you, you dissolve.

Since I’m only faintly familiar with Lovecraftian lore (the Yith, the Flying Polyps, Innsmouth, etc. so forth), I can’t comment on how faithful the game is to the stories. Therefore, I’ll only judge the game on it’s own merits.

Playing the game on the PC (the game was originally made for the Xbox console), I must start by saying that anyone who desires to play this game ought to play it with the unofficial “Tahionic” patch which, quite frankly, takes this game from a console game and attempts to turn it into an actual PC game.

DCE is set in the 1920s where you play a police detective turned private detective. Your latest assignment leads you to the peculiar town of Innsmouth where you promptly discover that the inhabitants have developed a rather unhealthy fish fetish and the worst sense of interior decorating this side of a college fraternity house. Although played in the first-person, I hesitate to call this a “shooter,” for reasons I’ll list below.

I’ve just begun chapter 5 in the game and here are my impressions so far:

  • Too Much Brown – Innsmouth is supposed to be a depressing place but… Really? How many dull shades of brown must one use before an intervention needs to be held? Yes, I get it – These people are not well but the bludgeoning effect of such a dull color palette does not bode well for suspense.
  • Save points – Without the unofficial patch’s ability to save wherever, I can guarantee that this game might not ever have made it even to Chapter 5 for me. I have no inkling to play games that force me to save at certain points. While I still do not like the inability to save more then 6 games, it is rather tiring to still encounter console ports that demand such strict limitations on saving games.
  • Should I Shoot or Should I run? – Despite being played in the first-person, no one could convincingly call this game a “shooter.” In a lot of this game, you aren’t able to kill anyone even if you wanted to and then, when you finally receive the ability to start killing, you aren’t exactly very good at it. Most of the time, you are running away in retreat rather then face the enemy. Dodging enemies aren’t necessarily a bad thing but the game can’t decide whether you are to dodge enemies or kill them. For the most part, the wise strategy is to dodge unless you absolutely can’t help it. Also, having no cross hairs to aim does not inspire people to be trigger-happy.
  • Nice Variety of Missions – This game is more of a story game then anything else – While the game could be called as being “on rails” or “linear,” it at least attempts to tell a story through varied types of game play. Perhaps most compelling thus far is a level where you must run almost non-stop away from enemies as they will quickly overwhelm and kill you if you aren’t really fast and capable. A somewhat irritating “vehicle” shooting gallery-type level is welcome if, for no other reason, then to provide variety. Concerning the missions, despite the console origins, the mission levels look fairly huge even if only a portion of those levels are actually within the playing field (ex. there are many storefronts but you can’t enter most of them).

Despite the glitchy reputation of the game (even with the patch, there are still known bugs that could destroy an entire level’s work), I haven’t experienced any major problems yet. One flashback sequence had to be manually ended but that’s been the extent of the problems so far. The use of “invisible walls” to prevent players access from certain otherwise obtainable areas is also a nuisance. There have been plenty of times where an area was accessible but “walled off” by an invisible wall from the player to take advantage of it.

I still have enthusiasm for the game despite the now dated setting, the obsolete graphics and the poor conversion to the PC platform. The main attributes of the game is the story for now and the game’s ambitions to tell that story through a first-person, action-oriented perspective. I’m looking forward to completing this game.

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