iPad Game Review: Call of Cthulhu: Wasted Lands (Universal)
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Call of Cthulhu is a tactical turn-based iOS adaptation of the pen and paper tabletop game of the same name. This turn-based strategy game has RPG element and is inspired by the works of cult horror writer H.P. Lovecraft.
What do you get when you combine a well-seasoned tabletop role-playing game with X-Com, and give it a touch interface? Call of Cthulhu: Wasted Lands. Is it a turn-based strategy game with RPG elements, or a role-playing game with turn-based squad combat? It's both. Enough with the questions and answers; on to the gameplay. Call of Cthulhu has a deep and intricate back story based on the novella of the same name by H.P. Lovecraft . In it, an ancient evil is using the horrors of the First World War as a means of raising an army of the undead with the intent of unleashing it on mankind. You, of course, must stop it.
Gameplay consists of turn-based combat. Because of its tabletop roots, this is a very mature game, with a complex set of rules for movement and action. Fortunately, all of this occurs below the hood, leaving you to concentrate on tactics. Every member of your party has a limited amount of points it can expend each turn. Moving burns points, firing weapons burns points, and using special skills use points. It's not that simple, though. Taking careful aim will use more points than firing your weapon wildly, and so on. The trick is to make the most of the points you have each turn, being mindful not only of your ability to deal damage, but also the enemy's ability to damage you.
There is a dizzying array of skills available for your party members to develop. Refreshingly, these skills are not what you typically find in an RPG as they are themed for WWI trench warfare and not Middle Earth (Chemical Protection, Cthulhu Mythos, Psychoanalysis, Shotguns, etc.) and absolutely everything is meaningful in some way. Clearly, a lot of time and love went into designing this game and the developers have painstakingly adapted it for iOS. Thankfully, there is a tutorial to help you get your brain around the interface, which is sorely needed as it is the game's only weak link due to it being somewhat unintuitive. Also thankfully, the developers are very aggressive about addressing these concerns, and have already issued an update that helps somewhat (pinch to zoom is now available and tap/hold replaces double-tap), with further refinements to come. Lastly, if you ever need a refresher and don't feel like playing through the tutorial again, six game guides are available from within the game (Field Manual, Grimoire, Armor, Unit Guide, Weapons, Equipment).
Call of Cthulhu supports both Open Feint and Game Center Achievements.
Call of Cthulhu features high resolution iPad assets and retina graphics for the iPhone 4/4S. Visually, the game is impressive, although it takes a while to appreciate it due to the subdued and drab color palette that was presumably selected to accentuate the misery of WWI trench warfare. The interface is clean and clear, and the animation is smooth. My only complaint graphically is the lack of screen rotation. Because I use a portfolio style case, this means that I am condemned to watch my iPad slide slowly out of my case while I play, unless I lay it flat, which I don't do because I like to play in bed, because I'm lazy that way.
This is a spooky game, and a big part of the mood in any game is the sound. I'm happy to report that the in-game sounds are good, and complement the gameplay nicely. The ambient sounds, in particular, are especially creepy, according to my wife who makes me play this game with headphones. The music, however, is limited to a scratchy and ominous recording of "It's a Long Way To Tipperary," which plays when the game launches. The game doesn't suffer for lack of in-game music, however, and somehow, the decision to eschew its use seems more in-keeping with Lovecraft's understated style.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
Call of Cthulhu: Wasted Lands has no IAPs of any kind.
If you're looking for a deep RPG with turn-based, squad level gameplay set in World War I and featuring a storyline by H.P. Lovecraft, look no further; this is your game. If you’re not, somehow, in the above category, but enjoy turn-based gameplay of any kind, you should give this game a serious look. It's well-designed, unique, and seems to be well-supported by the developer. The latest patch addresses some of my interface concerns, and solved some nasty crash bugs so if you were holding off until those concerns were addressed, it's probably time to take the plunge. Highly recommended.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5): Graphics: - 4 - A good looking game as long as you don't mind the drab color palette. Sound: - 5 - Spooky and moody sounds. No music to speak of, but I didn’t miss it. Controls: - 3.5 - The interface is getting better, but can still be a bit maddening at times. A draconian save game system doesn’t help. Gameplay: - 5 - There is nothing like this on the App Store. This is an old school RPG with deep, meaty gameplay set in WWI.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Play through the tutorial and don't be afraid to turn the difficulty slider down a bit until you get the hang of the strategy. The included game guides are a great resource. Scroll around the map before you move each turn; remember the enemy is moving too…