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Archive for the ‘Cthulhu’ Category

New from Fantasy Flight Games (makers of the Arkham Horror boardgame, which is great), is Mansions of Madness, another Cthulhu Mythos themed board game.

Unlike Arkham Horror where all the players collaborate, in this one, all the players team up against the Keeper, who plays the role of a traditional role playing game DM. The game seems to be trying to straddle boardgame, pen and paper RPG s and video games (it even has minigames). Maps are generated with tiles, and there are multiple endings to a number of scenarios (I predict many add-ons for this one). Here is a video interview with the developers:

Just in terms of looks it is pretty – good art, nice plastic minis, lots of cards. Plus the emphasis on storytelling sounds very nice indeed. Boardgame Geek is currently scoring it at average of 8.4/10 (which is higher than Arkham Horror). I am intrigued by the notion of putting a traditional RPG experience in a box to finish in a couple of hours. Price point is good too – Amazon has them for about $60, the same as a AAA video game release.

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Merry Final Xmas!

Happy holidays everyone. Here is an unusual Xmas story from the odd guys at Penny Arcade (read the link comic and the five that follow)

Click to read the story

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I previously blogged about this great little flash CCG based on the Cthulhu mythos. Well, the good folks at Games of Cthulhu have updated to v1.1! It is a major overhaul. New features include:

A card library, so you can plan your strategies ahead of time – note that most of the cards include original artwork now:

Challenges – apart from playing a normal oppositional game, challenges add new rules (such as when summoning a monster your taint is increased by half the monster’s attack value)

Music! the previous version had nice sound effects, but now you get spooky music too.

And more awesomeness in spades. You can download it for free form the original site (rar), or from my mirror (swf). Support excellence in Indy gaming by playing this now!

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WARNING: Some minor spoilers may lie ahead.

The ‘incognito’ part of this joke is the fact that Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth was in production for six years (Call of Cthulhu forever?), and went through three different production houses. I’m not sure why though – if I were a producer and Chris Gray (of enormous Infiltrator fame) came to my door and said, “I am making a Cthulhu game, will you publish it”, I would go out and have Heinz produce a special money flavored ketchup which would then be slathered all over him by Warren Buffet while dressed in nappies made of solid money (I hear Warren is available for such appointments, for the correct honorarium).

This investment plan endordsed by The Warren.

This investment plan endorsed by The Warren.

But I digress. My own experience with the game was difficult at first. I got the game via Patrick who had picked it up in a bargain bin, but given up on it after a while. I started playing it, and was immediately impressed by the ambiance (the sound, incidentally, is awesome). It is the 1930s on the East Coast; You are a private eye who has disturbing memories of being a subject in Yithian experiments. In trying to get your life back together after a breakdown, you take a missing person’s case in Innsmouth. Soon it turns sinister and you are hunted by the surly, xenophobic inhabitants of the run-down town. Why sinister? Because the only building in town not looking like a shack is labelled Esoteric Order of Dagon (hint hint). The environments are amazing, the voice acting is great, and the interface is simple.

….and then you are given a very silly arcade sequence where you need to run from the angry villagers. Which I played ten times in a row. And died each time. So the game languished on my drive for months. Rudy had the same experience.

Madness - it comes from the Mythos, and from the difficulty of playing this game too.

Madness – it comes from the Mythos, and from the difficulty of playing this game too.

After finishing the Awakened, I got the Cthulhu itch again, so I decided to do a little research on Dark Corners of the Earth. I discovered that you can, with a little hex editing voodoo, activate a god mode. I was still very keen to see the game and experience the rest of the story, so I thought, let’s give it a try. Best decision ever – the game is positively epic. Among the best elements of gameplay is the insanity system. Notice I don’t call it a sanity system, because you ain’t getting any saner as the game progresses. Here’s how it works: if you experience trauma of some kind (being shot point-blank, standing over a steep ledge, seeing a corpse), or if you are exposed to the Mythos (monsters, tomes, etc), your vision becomes blurred, your heart beats faster, and you begin to hear voices – at first your own tortured internal monologue, but then other voices, giving you commands…. and if you take enough sanity loss and you are carrying a loaded weapon, you will put yourself out of your own misery… Can’t recall last time a game did that! Does the Sims do that? Huh?

A Yithian experiment - are they a malevolent force, an ally, or part of your own destiny?

A Yithian experiment – are they a malevolent force, an ally, or part of your own destiny?

The story is suitably complex and conspiratorial. It is obvious at first that the residents of Innsmouth are worshiping Dagon, but the extent of the whole thing becomes incredible as you continue through the game. True to the Mythos stories, you enter a slow gradual descent into the dark corners of the earth – first in the town, then the processing plant that is the financial heart of the Marsh family (and uncover its dark secret), then to the temples beneath Devil’s Reef; and finally, the obscene sunken city which holds the unravelling of the cataclysmic cosmic struggle which you have inadvertently stumbled upon (or were you destined to play a part….?).

Have you been killing Deep Ones? Time to pay Dagon...

This is the kind of game where, when you finish a level you think “man, what could they possible come up with next?” and then, boom! Gameplay itself is also fairly varied. There are logic puzzles, platform jumping elements, exploration, gunfights, and sneak-and-stab action too. The interface is not perfect, but everything is done well enough to be fun. But it is hard. If I had not had god mode turned on, I would have never been able to finish it (on ‘Boy Scout’ difficulty, mind you – hang on, does that say something about me?). Turning this on does not remove much of the experience anyway,  because it is the story which drives this game (it is mostly based on Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth). Dagon, Mother Hydra, Deep Ones, Flying Polyps… you get to see and suffer through the lot. The pacing is done well also, with the clymactic scenes being extremely tense: trapped inside a Coast Guard cutter with Deep Ones swarming aboard or escaping from a prison filled with failed human-monster hybrid experiments. As the game progresses, your madness increases and you begin to realize as a player that your character will be at the very least psychically destroyed by the experience, but the obsessive drive to learn the forbidden secrets of the horrors that haunt Innsmouth is inescapable.  The game brings across the oppressive doom filled atmosphere of the Mythos brilliantly. You will not be humming happy tunes after playing this one.

If you spot this one in a bargain bin somewhere, grab it immediately. You will not be sorry. Or rather, you wiiilllll beeeee….oh, you willll beeee…… IAI! IAI CTHULHU FATGN! IAI CHRIS GRAY FATGN!

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Every now and then another little Cthulhu mythos gem appears. This time it is a free flash game released by Games of Cthulhu – Necronomicon

save this link to grab a copy of the game

click picture to play; save the link to grab a copy of the game

It is a collectible card game style game, with simple rules, but very fun gameplay. I would say it is good for coffee breaks, but it will suck you in and keep you stuck for hours. The graphics are good, the sounds atmospheric. Definitely worth a play or two.

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Via Comics Worth Reading: Boom! Studios has released its Cthulhu Tales vol 1 as a free webcomic (interesting set of short stories here). Unlike other places releasing stuff for free , this one is not locked to any particular geographical region. Comics it seems, like Cthulhu, dream a mad dream of one dark day finally being free.

EDIT: Ross Richie of Boom! studios tells me that they are gradually releasing a page a day of this little gem, so be sure to check it periodically.

Two other free comics worth trying are Antarctic Press’s Twilight X: War and Duel.

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WARNING: Some minor spoilers may lie ahead.

I just finished Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, and I had a very good time with it. (in fact, I stopped playing the Bioware magnum opus Mass Effect in favour of it). I first heard of this game through the demo release on Steam. If you just play it for an hour or two, you won’t be impressed – it is obviously a lowish budget game, the voice acting is decidedly B grade, and the lack of budget makes the virtual environments seem a little sparse and uninhabited. The tech is also a little outdated – it uses an updated Myst engine, with some nice shader based water effects as the only real eye candy. But forget all that – to really enjoy this game you need to push through past the five or six hour mark, and look beyond the surface.  Here’s what you get for $20:

1. Play as Sherlock Holmes (and sometimes Watson too). I am not a huge Holmes fan, but I have seen a few of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on DVD (my brother has the complete set, he’s a big fan). The dialog is very believable (even if the voice acting is not so great), and there is lots of it, all spoken. The main characters are  interesting enough that it warrants a go.

Image from armchairempire.com

Holmes and Watson in a rough part of the docks (Image from armchairempire.com)

2. Play in an 1890s setting, in both Europe and the US (there is a lot of travel to exotic places in this game). How often do you get to do that these days? The environments are simple, but because you have free ,first-person navigation, they are very immersive. And the developers understand their engine (especially the lighting) well enough to give you a pretty good presence experience too – by the time you discover the first cult temple, you are definitely feeling the mythos doom.

3. The Cthulhu mythos (this is what attracted me to this game in the first place). The reason mythos stories work is because it is very complex, with hints of wierd tribes, ancient history, incomprehensible madness and bizarre conspiracies all intertwined (and glued together with some blood and guts for good measure). This game has the lot. Because it is so heavily narrative, there are lots of opportunities to dribble out the horror in small doses. For example, you pick up a lot of newspaper clippings and books which give a huge amount of detail all written in a great 1890s over-the-top sort of way. This ensures that you understand the meaning of everything, so that a simple scribble on a wall can become very ominous. I think the game fails to capture the overwhelming sense of inevitable doom that is essential to the mythos, but it does a very good job otherwise.

The pace of the story is such that by the time you discover this, you will be sweating bullets (Image from armchairempire.com)

The pace of the story is excellent - by the time you discover this, you will be sweating bullets (Image from armchairempire.com)

4. No contrived action/reflex sequences that artificially extended gameplay time at the expense of the mood and theme of the game. Sherlock Holmes stories are about the triumph of cool (almost inhuman) logic cutting through the most complex of contrived evil plans. This game remains true to that – yes, there are a couple of fight scenes, but these are shown as brief cut scenes. You spend your playing time thinking about what is happening in the game world, and not getting frustrated at the game itself (0k, the lock picking mini-game is a little contrived – last time I looked, locks were not like the Towers of Hanoi inside). But most importantly this means no having to save every half hour for fear of dying senselessly (are you listening, Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy? 😉 )

I would give this one two thumbs up.  There are some interface oddities, and the scripting logic is a little screwy sometimes, but at a budget price it delivers. Be warned, though – because of the linear story and the pre-set puzzles, the replay value is going to be similar to a movie or book.

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