The first hour of Call of Cthulhu escapes R'lyeh

If the first Call of Cthulhu gameplay trailer left you craving more creeping horror and hardboiled detective shenanigans, you’re in luck. Publisher Focus Home Interactive hosted a stream with developer Cyanide Studio, showcasing the first hour of their tabletop-inspired RPG. If you like chatting up salty sailors, you’ll be quite happy. 

Most of the demo is conversation. Heavy-drinking detective Edward Pierce is, after an unpleasant dream, hired to find a missing person, sending him on a boat trip to the totally-not-ominous Darkwater Port, where he does more chatting, a bit of problem-solving, and then goes on a lovely jaunt through a graveyard. All in all it seems like a nice day out and emphasises that Call of Cthulhu is an atypical RPG where talking, not fighting, is the main way you’ll interact with the world. 

To get out of conflict, Pierce will need to run, hide, chat or use one of his other exclusively non-combat skills. They’re all drawn from the tabletop game—where it’s worth mentioning there is combat, but it typically ends rather badly for the players—like spot hidden, which lets you hunt down hidden objects of interest. Skills that, in another game, might have related to combat are repurposed for other tasks. Strength, for instance, can let you intimidate characters, but the only things you’ll be fighting are the doors you can smash down. 

One of the tabletop game’s defining features is its sanity system, which weaves its way through everything. Instead of making it a meter that slowly goes up when you see weird shit until you finally crack, Cyanide has made its video game counterpart a global system that runs throughout the entire game, changing the way Pierce is feeling and how he can react. Getting hammered on whisky, reading occult books and witnessing mind-bending events will eventually cause Pierce to unravel, but it will also give him a lot of helpful insight and open up new dialogue options. 

If you’d rather not talk to every sailor and cop you happen across, the chatty, slow-paced demo only represents one path, apparently. Pierce can use other skills to get what he wants, or completely ignore some characters and opportunities altogether. This is all very much my cup of eldritch tea. 

Call of Cthulhu is due out on October 30. 

Cheers, Rock Paper Shotgun.