by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
Acthung! Cthulhu TACTICS
You can say a lot of bad things about Lovecraft as a person, but you got to say, that guy knew how to emulate incomprehensible cosmic entities and produce a sense of phantasmal horror. You know what’s also scary? Nazis. Incidentally, Nazi’s were also interested in incomprehensible cosmic entities and all sorts of occult shenanigans (if those history channel shows are to be believed). And now for the age old question: if you combine two rather scary things, do they make one really scary thing? I’m not sure, but in Auroch Digital’s fantastically named Acthung! Cthulhu Tactics, we perhaps see an attempt to answer that question. Based upon the extremely successful role-play campaign game, Acthung! Cthuhlu, this game takes up the mantle of that universe in the form of a turn-based tactical strategy game. When I was at Gamescom this year, I got to see and play some for myself.
It’s World War Two; all across Europe a secret war wages as the Nazis invocate dark powers in an attempt to gain superiority for themselves. You must enter the forest of fear to face these enemies, but be warned, other twisted horrors lurk in the gloom. In the demo I saw, Corporal Singh (a British soldier) and Arianne Dubois (a French resistance fighter) were searching for a missing military expedition, but very quickly they were set upon by German soldiers. The movement seamlessly transitioned into turned based combat upon enemy troops being spotted. What I was most surprised by was how Acthung! tries to refresh the isometric combat formula. There are your typical options of movement, melee attack, and ranged attack, but there are also new stand-out mechanics such as momentum and the shroud.
Momentum was explained to me as ‘if you do cool things, we’ll let you do more cools things’- a kind of coolness karma. Effectively, by moving forward or taking the fight to the enemy, you can perform special abilities using the momentum meter, such as over-watch. This really incentivises you to take the fight to the enemy, but this also plays into the shroud. The shroud is a fog of war concealing enemy units, and the AI will actively try to draw you into the fog so they can ambush you. Also in true Lovecraftian style, the fog actually makes them stronger (similar to the light meter in Darkest Dungeon). I was really impressed by the symbiosis of these two mechanics, meaning the player will have to balance the risk and reward of aggressive behaviour. There aren’t only Nazis to worry about either, as there will also be corrupted enemies who will be more melee focused. So especially in some of the later levels, set in enclosed bunker spaces, you have to be careful not to run ahead, or you might find yourself face to face with a grumpy mutated beastie.
INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE
Acthung! also seems to have retained much of the authenticity of the original roleplaying game, the character models being designed to resemble the collectible character figures. These characters also have many distinctive features that add to their playstyle. Corporal Singh, for example, can go into berserk mode, rampaging through enemies. Arianne Dubois, on the other hand, has a pet demon on her shoulder, who has the ability to literally drain life out of enemy troops. These abilities lend a note of adaptability to party construction and will allow you to really find a way to use these characters for yourself. There is also a sanity aspect to the game that sounds quite refreshing. Rather than in Darkest Dungeon, where you have a sanity meter to keep under control, sanity is a little more fluid in Acthung!. If your characters witness a little too much, being attacked or facing phantasmal horrors, things might start going a little out of kilter. They might suddenly be surrounded by enemies and decide to empty all their bullets into the fog, or they might decide to throw away all their grenades. These insane moments can be very bad for you, but they can also prove a benefit. It all depends on the context.
Acthung! Cthulhu Tactics is an interesting isometric tactics game; it really tries very hard to push the boat out in terms of using mechanics to emulate that Lovecraftian feel, but also to keep the combat fresh. I’m excited to see what bosses and horrors from beyond await our heroes when the game comes out. Acthung! Cthulhu Tactics is set to release later this year.