Following our video review above, we’ve got our tentacles all over Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics for a written follow-up on Xbox One.
Our man Chris Goldthorn reviewed the PC version of Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics last month, and you’ll find his video to be a thorough piece of work, especially in context of the original table top game upon which it is based. My background is less rooted in table top experiences, but I can claim some perspective from console conversions of such games.
Most recently, I reviewed Space Hulk Tactics for Xbox One, which faithfully translated the classic board game while taking full advantage of its new medium. Immersion in its virtual environments gave that game a reason to exist beyond the cardboard, and a relevance in its own right.
Achtung! Chthulhu Tactics is a similar turn-based strategy RPG, pitting a small squad against shadowy hordes. Not in space this time, but in an alternative World War 2 timeline in which Nazis are allied with the inhuman horrors of Lovecraftian literature. Having also played the recent Call of Cthulhu on Xbox One (a first-person adventure), I had hoped for a similarly nightmarish atmosphere to be leveraged from the property here.
Sadly the game fails to take advantage of its Cthulhu licence narratively, and in terms of gameplay presents a number of issues that Space Hulk cleverly avoided. While it is mechanically functional, those mechanics are on full display – turn counts, character statuses and an abundance of UI elements that overshadow the game world itself. It’s more that the world is drab to begin with, comprised of cut and paste environmental features in varying shades of grey. It certainly feels like pieces on a board.
Rudimentary exploration is possible, though exposition is stripped back to nothing more than an icon on the map, interaction with which prompts dreary text messages such as “this part of the forest has some interesting history…” with nothing more than a broken boulder or a tree stump to support its claims of interest. These failings are conspicuous, undermining any sense of world building in a franchise that, as Chris rightly pointed out in his video, carries significant expectation in terms of narrative heft.
The lasting impression is of a game that’s simply functional. It lacks meaningful differentiation between the attack options of its protagonists, each of which can be utilised in much the same way – stand behind cover and choose one of the attack options until everything is dead, then do it again, perhaps having levelled up enough between missions to cause more damage. For a game that flirts with the horrors of imagination, there’s a distinct lack of it on display.
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics was provided to us by Auroch Digital and Ripstone Games for PC and Xbox One. It was reviewed on an Xbox One X and S.