Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth was a 2005 survival horror game from independent developers Headfirst Productions. Inspired by H P Lovecraft’s novella, The Shadow over Innsmouth, the game combined stealth with classic survival horror tropes and was generally fun to play.
Ten years later and while many games have take inspiration from and elements of Lovecraft’s work, I think it’s time that we get another game based directly on the literature of Lovecraft.
Why Lovecraft’s work?
Many elements of Lovecraft’s stories (and the tabletop RPG based on it) are compatible for adaptation to a video game format. A common feature of his work is to have creatures working for a higher power which gives a developer a basis for low level mobs and an end-game boss. Furthermore, Lovecraft’s work often takes place in a single location, allowing for an immersive experience in either a linear or semi open world environment. In addition to this, the atmosphere and tone fits nicely into the revitalised survival horror genre, matching games such as Draugen, P.T. and Kholat.
Who would make this hypothetical game and what form would it take?
In their video ‘6 tie-in games that wouldn’t suck’, British youtubers Outsidexbox argue that the best developers to make a Lovecraft inspired game would be Visceral Games, the team behind the Dead Space series. The triology shares a lot with Lovecraft’s work from some of its settings, to its exploration of the theme of induced madness and the horrific nature of its enemies. Visceral’s expereince with gore and cosmic horror would make them more than suitable candidates to hand a Lovecraft adaptation. As for the game’s format, I believe that a semi open world, where the player character could visit a number of interconnected locations within an enclosed world (such as a town that has become cut off from the wider world or an Antarctic base and the surrounding snowy wastes) would allow the developers to squeeze as much Lovecraft into their work as possible. Side quests may be a possiblity, allowing for interactions with NPCs.
What would set it aside from other games in the genre?
Apart from the unique nature of Lovecraft’s monsters, several elements of his work could be incorporated into a potenial game. One of Lovecraft’s major themes is that there may be things in the universe too horrific for us to comprehend, causing us to lose our sanity. Many games have dealt with a sanity system but for a Lovecraft game, a system such as that in Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem or Amnesia would work best, with exposure to unsettling or horrific events causing gameplay to change. I would also add a mechanic that dealt varying degrees of sanity damage depending on the event, allowing for a varied horror experience. Lovecraft’s work is also full of interesting characters and the inclusion of optional side quests that affected the game world would be interesting- do no side quests and the NPCs are unwilling to help later in the game or are downright hostile to you or, as we see in Skyrim, certain side quests alienate you from certain NPCs. This would give the game something of the atmosphere of the tabletop RPG based on Lovecraft’s work, with player actions dictating how their game turned out.
Which of Lovecraft’s works could provide the basis or inspiration?
The answer most people would give is Lovecraft’s Antarctic epic, At the Mountains of Madness, with the isolation and small group setting giving a game a feel reminsecent to Alien: Isolation. Any of his stories set in the Dreamlands, a fantastical plane of reality, would make for an unsual game but a perfect setting for a more open world game. However, I would opt to leave it up to the development team to create their own story. I love running games of Call of Cthulhu, the tabletop RPG based on Lovecraft’s work and I relish creating my own plots with Lovecraft’s monsters and tone and this is something the developers could very easily do.
Which Lovecraftian monsters would make good content?
One of my favourite Lovecraftian deities is Ithaqua, the Wind-Walker. He is essentially a living blizzard and would make for a great boss fight, with the player either stopping his cultists from summoning him OR having to dash between spots of covers, using magic and weapons to try and defeat him as he uses powerful ranged attacks to inflict damage or to pull the player closer to inflict melee damage. Many of Lovecraft’s lesser creatures, such as the four armed Gugs or vaguely repitlian winged Byakhee would make for formidable mobs during the course of the game, each styled to provide a different challenge.
Any crazy suggestions that might just work?
Hell, Telltale might just be able to pull off an episodic Lovecraftian adventure! As well as the obligatory choices per episode, the player’s actions could directly affect their sanity, creating a truly unique playing experience. We know that Telltale can deal with horror after their Walking Dead series and after showing they can handle The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Borderlands, I think that Lovecraft’s work would be in very safe hands.
So there it is! This is the how, the who and the what of the Lovecraftian inspired video game I would like to see be created!