Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cthulhu Saves the World - 9 hours (14 total)

There's a lot to like about Cthulhu Saves the World. The battles are tactically interesting, the writing is funny, there are a ton of nerdy references to the life and work of HP Lovecraft. In fact, I have only one real complaint - the dungeons are way too long and winding.

After awhile, you get used to the essential pattern of gameplay, and it becomes obvious that every location, be it a sacred temple of healing water, an abandoned factory, or the risen city of R'yleh, is built on the same template - a simple maze that is several screens wide and broken up into multiple sections. And when you start to see the pattern, it also becomes clear that it exists only to pad the game's length. Now, it turns out that with my current situation, that's exactly what I need, but I can see how it might annoy someone who's not trying to reach a goal time.

The plot of the game is pretty straightforward, the better to serve as a platform for jokes, rpg-cliches, and Mythos allusions. Cthulhu is trying to become a hero, so he goes to a series of locations to solve their local problems, coincidentally these problems all involve some shady shit going on in a dungeon, monsters are thrashed for awhile, and then it's on to the next place. Eventually, he becomes a "True Hero" and rather than resume his monstrous form and consume the world, he decides he's come to like his human-scale companions and thus spares the Earth, but then his "father", Azazthoth, the dark god from beyond linear space, shows up to say he's very disappointed in Cthulhu, there's another dungeon and boss battle, and then a victorious Cthulhu boards a spaceship with a cybernetic alien cat and his "groupie," the mage with the fish fetish.

You know, boilerplate stuff.

Despite the occasional frustratingly long dungeon (and here, Breath of Death VII's limited dungeon encounter mechanic really proves its worth - navigating some of those mazes with constant random encounters would have been a nightmare), I greatly enjoyed Cthulhu Saves the World. More than any other game I've played thus far (with the possible exception of Skyborn), it feels like a "garage band" game. Which is to say, it feels like something made by a small number of people, on a shoestring budget, for the love of the craft. Of course, there's every possibility that this is a feeling that was intentionally cultivated. Because it lacks the overweening ambition of a lot of the failed and/or stalled crowdfunded games I've seen and it's not as slapdash and experimental as some of the Silver Dollar Games (creators of One Finger Death Punch) stuff. It is actually well-made and well-conceived.

I couldn't break it down and identify any individual part that felt amateurish. Yet it definitely has a wild edge about it. I think it's because the game fully commits to its absurd, almost laughable premise. This is a game about Cthulhu, the Great Old One, changing his mind and becoming a hero, and it plays that idea completely straight. There's something wonderful about that, but it's completely ridiculous. And it is that willingness to embrace the absurd that makes Cthulhu Saves the World's great as an indie game and unthinkable as a "professional" one.

Or maybe I'm just being a big, ol' fuddy-duddy.

Next up for me is the alternate game mode, "Cthulhu's Angels." On the one hand, this sounds like a lot of fun because it introduces whole new characters and dialogue. On the other hand, geez, could the name sound any more like the product of a drunken dare?

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed CSTW for several hours, but by the time I got to the last (I think) dungeon I was sick and tired of the repetitive mazes. I never finished it. Eh.