Due to the wonderful season of giving, I have found myself in a preoccupied state. Namely a lethal combination of the Steam Winter Sale and a handful of Steam Gift Cards that has flooded my computer with a cornucopia of new games to play. Some are of a more relevant sense and will be reviewed shortly, another will include The Evil Within that I was able to play while in Roanoke, and then we have the two games that we will be talking about today. I did want to do two individual reviews on these two games. But do to their strange similarities, I have decided to combine these two together into a double header of a review.
With that being said, let’s talk about the oddity that was the mid 2000’s in video gaming. You see for some reason the pencil and paper RPGs created their own video game licenses. Not only did we have Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines. But we also had the Hunter the Reckoning series released as well as a second VtM game and finally what we are talking about today, Call of Cthulhu Dark Corners of the Earth and Shadowrun Returns. While Shadowrun had a preestablished game universe that stretched all the way back to the SNES, CoC and White Wolf had just now delved into the realms of video gaming and boy was it quite a ride to undertake. If you are a person like me who absolutely loves all three of these pencil and paper RPGs, then I am giddy as a fanboy giving a couple of these games the old college try. So today we will be taking a look at both of these games and giving my opinion on them. So with that said, on to the synopsis
Set in the creepy horrifying world made from the twisted and slightly racist mind of HP Lovecraft, in Call of Cthulhu Dark Corners of the Earth, you take on the role of Jack Walters. He is a gruff manbody style private investigator who some years ago had a run in with the occult. After sitting for a spell in Arkham Asylum as most people in Arkham are prone to do, Jack finds himself on the case of the death of Bill Burnham. He is a local shop owner who went missing after a robbery in the city of Innsmouth. When Jack arrives in Innsmouth he learns that not everything is as it should be and the people of Innsmouth look grotesque and act very odd. Jack then must dive into the realms of the occult in order to discover what is occuring in the isolated New England fishing town.
Taking the form of a top down turn based strategy game, Shadowrun Returns drops you right in the central hub of Shadowrun, the city of Seattle. In this strange mix of both Cyberpunk and D&D, your character is a Shadowrunner, basically a hired hand used to wage a sort of dark war to steal goods and information from rival businesses or countries. In this game the protagonist is the friend of Shadowrunner, Sam Watts. After the death of Sam, he activates what is called a Dead Man’s Switch. Basically a prerecorded message sent to the protagonist on the event of the death. If the protagonist is able to solve Sam’s murder, he is able to collect a substantial sum of money. Beyond this game, there are several mods that you can add to Shadowrun Returns that allows you to play different settings and missions.
One of the oddest things that I noticed when I first opened this game was the big ole Bethesda Softworks logo popping up on the opening screen. Yeah, the game that is responsible for Elder Scrolls and Fallout made Call of Cthulhu Dark Corners of the Earth. Don’t know why I find that odd I just kind of do. What an obscure game to come from the publisher/developer.
As far as the mythos is concerned, this game gets insane props for sticking to the source material in a way that is tried and true to anything that involves Lovecraft mythos. Private investigator character, the build of suspense, the build of terror, the strange fascination with New England, and the delvings of the occult, this game certainly has what it means to be a Call of Cthulhu game down. I felt as if I was playing a pencil and paper RPG with an excellent story that also included the infamous city of Innsmouth. The graphics look great to, the feel of the game is there, and the controls are well done. For a Bethesda game the glitches and bugs were few and far between as well which is a plus. Not to mention the game does not pull back when it comes to the gore which is something I expect when it comes to a Call of Cthulhu game.
However there are a few glaring cons when it comes to this game. When you first enter the town, the game doesn’t exactly give you any direction as to where to go and you will find yourself wandering the streets of Innsmouth looking for the next step. This would be okay if you had other things to do in town, but sadly you are on the linear train you just have to feel around for the starting point like a man in a dark room looking for the light switch that is on the other end of the room. Character interaction is a little odd as well as you attempt to talk to certain characters by pressing S and instead of giving a communication wheel to work with or a list you are just supposed to keep pressing S until the person is done talking to you which can make the game somewhat dull really fast.
Overall Call of Cthulhu Dark Corners of the Earth is ‘okay’. What it does, it does really well and the game comes across as a good game that represents the mythos. However there just isn’t enough of the game to make the game memorable. For hardcore fans of the mythos it is worth the pick up, but for those who do not care for it or are looking to get into the mythos you will find a decent but a little generic survival horror game.
Final Score 3/5
The second game we find on this list is the most recent of the Cyberpunk Fantasy epic that is the Shadowrun series; Shadowrun Returns. I absolutely love Shadowrun, mainly because of two reasons. One, the concept of mixing Cyberpunk and D&D is a glorious idea and two, the game even after its modernizations it is still the future looked through the eyes of the 1980’s with strange concepts of the internet, awkward slang, street gangs as far as the eye can see, corporations ruling all the things, and neon colors absolutely everywhere. So when it comes to Shadowrun, I love it. But with that said I do have a few things to say about this game that are not exactly positive.
When it comes to positives, I love the fact that there are no voice actors in the game. It allows your playable protagonist to be a protagonist instead of a damn silent protagonist. The game has the look and feel of a game of Shadowrun, complete with the cheesy dialogue, and neon 80’s feel to it. The game has a level of camp to it that you just have to sit back and enjoy. The over the top turn based combat is balanced and a lot of fun as well. There is a good level up system in place and the game has great balance to it.
But that is the problem. It is so much fun and yet there is so little of it! This game could have been something if there was an expansive open world or several campaigns to choose from. However you are stuck to the Dead Man’s Switch and a second campaign and that is it. Thankfully Steam Workshop has been able to add some expansion to the game, but you have something that could have been phenomenal and instead it comes across as nothing more than mediocre at best. The game itself is pretty well spot on if it just had a little more time and effort put into it, this game could go from an obscure title in the realms of ‘oh what is this?’ on Steam to a beloved classic. Oh what could have been.
Overall for what it is, Shadowrun Returns is okay. It could be a lot better if they added more to it but for a sweet 80’s Cyberpunk adventure it is certainly pretty good. It isn’t much without some mods on Steam, but if you have a little money to burn, I say pick this game up.
Final Score 2.5/5
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