A couple months late to the party, I started playing Call of Cthulhu over the weekend.
This article contains spoilers for Call of Cthulhu
My first few hours with the game were great. Put in the shoes of private investigator Edward Pierce, I was sent to a mysterious, run-down and overall pretty depressing island, Darkwater, to investigate the death of my client’s daughter, grandson and son-in-law.
Call of Cthulhu‘s first few chapters play out like a good old-fashioned mystery. I’m left to my own devices – with limits, of course – to explore Darkwater, talk to the residents, and gather clues and useful pieces of information for my case. Things really heat up when I’m let loose in the house of the dead family. A dark, partially-dilapidated mansion, there’s a myriad of rooms to explore, all packed with interesting period features and snippets of information.
Coming across the room where the family came to their grizzly demise, Pierce uses his detective skills to recreate his interpretation of their death – and all is not what it originally seemed. Their tragic end might not have been such an accident.
By this point, I’m utterly gripped to Call of Cthulhu, desperate to find out what’s going on. An hour or so further into the game and I’ve discovered dark and mysterious things beyond my wildest dreams. Hidden passages, underwater caves… mysterious cults? Woah! Shit just got real!
Naturally, as a private investigator, it’s Pierce’s job to shove his nose where it probably shouldn’t belong. And so wandering through a hidden passage and following a series of winding caverns leads him to stumble upon said mysterious cult. Here’s where things start to go downhill for him. His stealth game isn’t great and, after getting seen by a cult member, he ends up getting caught. Damn.
That’s where I left the game on Sunday night, thoroughly on the edge of my seat. I was excited to pick it back up yesterday – but it didn’t take long for my enthusiasm to turn to chagrin. I came across my videogame nemesis: stealth sections.
As Pierce, I found myself in a mental institution. He’s as confused as to why he’s there as I am, but it’s cool – we’ll figure it out together with some more good old-fashioned detective work, right? Not so. Call of Cthulhu has a different idea. At least for the time being, that old-school investigation work is over. Here, the game tasks me with escaping from the institution. You know what that means: crouching, sneaking, and hiding from NPCs.
I hate stealth. I can’t help it; I just do. I’m a clumsy person in real life. I’m not very good at being quiet and sneaky, and I don’t want to have to do it in a video game, either. In a video game I just want to be able to barge around, explore an environment to its fullest, and get from A to B in peace without fear of a computer-controlled character sneaking up on me.
I get tense and nervous when I know I’m not supposed to get spotted. Sneaking around the maze-like corridors of the institution, trying to figure out where to go, my heart was racing and my palms were sweating. All part of the ambience, you might think. No! I want to enjoy the game I’m playing, god damn it. Yay, heart palpitations, what fun!
I got caught four times in Call of Cthulhu before I just couldn’t take any more. True, a couple of those were stupid mistakes on my part for not even trying to stay hidden. Another time I tried to close the door to a room I’d just sneaked into just as an NPC was walking through it. Whoops. Another time I turned a corner and literally crashed into a patrolling guard. I can’t take the pressure.
Perhaps I’m a wuss – no, I know I’m a wuss. The fear of getting caught and knowing someone could be right behind me is just too much to cope with. It’s like my fingers betray me, becoming detached from my control; I end up making stupid mistakes, moving in weird and confusing ways just because I’m nervous. Just let me explore without being at the mercy of a group of angry NPCs, god dammit.
I will try to persevere through the stealth section of Call of Cthulhu. I’m invested in the game’s story; I want to find out more about Darkwater Island and what really happened to the dead family. I’ve just got to overcome my hatred of stealth sections first. Or at the very least get someone else to play through that part for me…