Cyanide Studios Offers Some Call of Cthulhu Insights
During E3, RPGamer’s Charalampos Papdimitriou had the chance to chat with a pair of developers from Cyanide Studios regarding its upcoming horror RPG Call of Cthulhu. The developers provided plenty of insights about the game, including its focus on story and investigations, as well as various other gameplay aspects.
The game is based on the Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG, with the developers stating that they were big fans of it. The game is geared towards those who like psychological, horror, and narrative-driven games as well as those who enjoy the detective and noir titles, plus fans of the tabletop game.
The game takes a slightly different approach to others that have used insanity mechanics, such as Amnesia. In Call of Cthulhu, getting close to or looking at creatures can influence the player’s sanity. If they look at some of them for too long they can even die. Rather than a shotgun (as in Amnesia), players investigate and research them, and with the right research they can try to counter the eldritch beings. Without the right information to counter them, you can try to avoid them or find a way around them. The developers declined to provide an example, however, preferring not to spoil any potential surprises for players.
Another big difference is how Call of Cthulhu is built as an RPG, including a skill system and skill specialisation, relationships with NPCs, and its focus on story. Madness is not just a game system, it also drives the story. The story is a big focus and was written by Mark Morrison, writer of many of the top-rated Call of Cthulhu RPG books and scenarios.
Players earn experience points throughout the game to develop their characters. Development and skills work just like a character sheet in the pen-and-paper RPG. For example, skills can be used in various ways to open the way. When players try to use a skill, there’s some chance it will fail the skill check. If it does, the way to that goal can be completely closed to future use of that skill, though other relevant skills may still be used to try and accomplish the goal. Skills can also be used in investigations to gather information that can then be used in choices made in the game. In addition to that, they can unlock new dialogue options.
Call of Cthulhu tries to a balance dealing with monsters and its narrative, and the balance varies by chapter. Some chapters are more focused on exploration, while others primarily involve surviving monsters and avoiding madness, with everything aimed at supporting the story. In addition to the protagonist, there are a handful of important NPCs with key roles in the story. Some of the NPCs will help players, while others may work against them. Players have the option to interact with them in different ways. For example, players can choose to be nice or sarcastic. Depending on their choices and actions they can gain or lose credibility with the NPC. These NPC relationships become important for progression, opening and closing different options available to the player. In addition to the actions taken in the game and the protagonist’s sanity, relationships with NPCs can affect which of the four different endings you get.
There are about ten to a dozen different environments in the game for players to investigate and explore. These include an asylum, caves, mansions, a jail, and various others. The game’s mechanics primarily revolve around investigation. Players find books, which they can use to get skills. There are about ten skills players can learn, allowing them to specialize on how they can approach different situations in the game. Players can also look for clues for information about the case they are investigating, and can learn about monsters and how to counter them.
In some ways, the video game is not as flexible as the pen-and-paper RPG, primarily because there isn’t a Game Master to make situational and customised decisions about how events unfold and their outcome, including killing the character with players then perhaps taking over a fresh character. In the video game, the developers wanted to keep players attached to the protagonist and NPCs, and so the game is instead focused on the madness mechanic. However, the goal is to have players of the pen-and-paper game feel right at home with the video game’s skill system, mechanics, and atmosphere.