Sunday, 13 November 2016

HALLOWEEN 2016: Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

Happy Hallomidnovember, folks. As always, we figured we would pick a spoopy game to start on Halloween, and just bask in the atmosphere of the holiday. 

For this year’s Halloween, Tobi and I had a bet going on circa some time late last year. The bet was ‘Which cult dinosaur-related game series will appear in game news first with rumours of a remake/port/sequel, Turok or Dino Crisis?’ I won the bet, so I picked the game. It was a tough decision, we seem to have acquired quite a lot of good potential crazy scary games to pick from. Having finally read some of HP Lovecraft’s best known works a year or two ago, why not that game people have gushed about to me, that supposedly captures all that Cthulhu stuff perfectly, in the form of an atmospheric FPS?

Heh! Gilman. Get it? That's foreshadowing.

Things immediately started getting an unsettling mood, as the process of borrowing a copy of the game came with a warning. ‘I hope that game runs better in 2016 than it did when I played it’. I went online and saw just a near endless list of common glitches, bugs, patches, and aimless troubleshooting. Since knowing is half the battle, we felt sufficiently prepared for what was about to come.


We sure weren’t!

^ This game, WEYYYYYYY

We both booted the game up, picked the standard difficulty, and went on our way. As soon as the intro movie stopped, my game hard-quit to the desktop. Weird. I try again, tab out to say that it might be better now, and the game crashed once more. I guess tabbing out was not allowed in this one. Since I was playing on a retail copy, and Allie on Steam, we were starting to worry that one version might have been significantly more problematic than the other.

Behold!! Tobi has broken blog formatting to bring you snippets of the authentic chatlogs from us playing the game.
Nope! I was getting the same problems. It turns out I would have to play the game at 640x480 resolution, with the process affinity set to 1 core. That would at least stop some of the unsurmountable tech hangs and crashes. The game would still collapse like a jenga tower if I so much as breathed on it a bit hard too, of course. Staggered saves, ahoy!

Sadly enough, fixing the majority of the crashes was just the tip of the iceberg. At that point, we were dealing with vague objectives, something that I think was supposed to pass for “stealth gameplay”, and multiple chase sequences, all of which still had the potential to crash or glitch out. I really wish I had listened to Allie’s staggered saves suggestion, since when I booted the game back up the second session, my progress was gone. I had to replay the entire thing all over again, just with less patience for all of its bullshit. 

Is this like, a steampunk letsplay?
It was all up to me again. I was going to have to do the investingatin’ for the both of us, and report to Tobi just how deep this Cult of Dagon thing goes, and what unimaginable horrors lie in wait below the surface of Innsmouth Harbour. Oh, and what monsters there were in the game, too.

While monsters were present, throughout most of the game you’re just shooting dudes with distractingly terrible cartoony accents anyway. I’m not proud that I bailed two years in a row, but things are hard enough to stomach when you’re playing first person games with narrow fields of view, shaky cameras, and scripted insta-kill sequences. All the glitches were a step too far. At least you can take on the torch, and I can live vicariously through your Steam Broadcast.

Nope! That’s IT! I’m done!!! I can’t do this! After a 20 minute long timed sequence i repeated about 10 times, eventually figuring out how exactly to do everything in the game AND researching a way around a tech hang and I finally did it and surprise! The game crashes right before a save checkpoint. I’m not a quitter, but this game has quit *me* for the last time.

You can’t quit too! You can do it! I believe in you! Power of friendship, love, believing in yourself, hearts and all that other anime stuff. 

We can't just succumb and sleep with the fishes, that's how we got here!
YOU’RE RIGHT! COME HELL OR HIGH WATER, WHICH IS LITERALLY WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW, I CAN BEAT THIS GAME!! TOBI BELIEVES IN ME!!! Redoing that whole segment actually went by quite quickly after having perfected it so many times before. I’m shooting so many fishmen. I’m jumping all the chasms. Am I… am I starting to… have fu-oops there I go, I just flew out of the gameworld and died again. Nevermind. 

Allie's spot on impersonation of the game's protagonist.
This game was a heck of a lot longer than I expected. Every chapter felt like the final chapter, for the last like… 5… chapters?? But here I was, with Tobi assisting me with a few of the insanely impossible bugs.

Armed with the power of the internet, we sought high and low for one problem after another. Sometimes we had to seemingly break collision and jump over clear obstacles that the game used to communicate that you shouldn’t go this way. Sometimes we had to look up vague markers and coordinates to fire a cannon, since the targets and the game world wouldn’t render. Sometimes we’d have to do highly specific obtuse puzzles that are not communicated until you were already doing it correctly. Other times we had to simply redo what we tried 10 times already, in the hope that it would register.

Adventure games: where everyone makes you do their job.
Aaaand oh no. I can’t do this bit. Something’s wrong. I die every single time, I’ve tried it 20 times. Tobi’s looking at letsplays, and I’m doing it right. We tried the patch. It’s not helping. This is it. I’m done. I’m fucking done. I’m beyond done, I’m a charred husk that no longer even resembles beef. We were close, but I’m fucking DONE.

Seriously, T, you leave Metroid Prime out of this!

Come on, Allie. Do it for the poorly acted, weird-faced, stilted children.


You can imagine a thrilling 80s montage of Allie trying to power through the most tedious nonsense, while I look up suggestions of how to pass through this utterly broken section. Since everyone was giving different hypotheses and potential solutions (none of which worked, I might add), we started to think this might have been actually it. One last ditch effort was the theory that this timed section was not actually using seconds to count, but frames.

I have a lot of hands.
FUCK IT. FUCK. I HAVE A GOD DAMNED PLAN!!! Let’s reverse everything we’ve done to make this game work. Let’s crank it up to the game’s maximum display settings for this final section. IF THAT DOESN’T WORK IM LIGHTING MY PC ON FIRE AND SACRIFICING A GOAT. LETSSSSSSS FINISHHH THISSSSSSSSSS!!!

Holy shit! This is how the game was meant to look this whole time?
Let me just cut through all the BS right now, Al. Sure, the game one of the most unstable we’ve ever played. Would you think this game is any good if none of the frequent (!!!) crashes and glitches were present though? Because I don’t think so.

Wellllllllll *deep breath* so actually… having somehow soldiered through the whole entire thing… I actually kinda do get why people like it. I mean, it’s got so many problems besides the glitches. The tedious cliche noir dialogue, the voice acting and animation, the ugly dark brown everything, the poorly explained puzzles and mechanics, the plot being just a mess of lovecraftian monster highlights smushed together into a bunch of nonsensical encounters with AI that’s far too rudimentary to even qualify this as a ‘stealth’ game... BUT!! This game has a few things going for it. It’s got momentum. It’s got variety. It’s got atmosphere. It’s got really big tentacle monsters.


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