H.P. Lovecraft's World of Cosmic Terror & Existential Dread
H.P. Lovecraft has created a world of cosmic terror and existential dread. One of his most popular works was the Call of Cthulhu which spawned a mythos surrounding ancient beings that exist just out of human comprehension. The mythos of Lovecraft’s works have inspired other writers, movie makers, and video game designers whether it’s tone, creatures, and characters.
Even though there have been a lot of incredible works and media inspired by Lovecraft, actual adaptations of his work fluctuates with quality. One of these works is an old video game released for PC and the original Xbox named Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, a first person survival horror exploration game. The game is still available on PC in the Steam store and is published by Bethesda, which worked on major games like Elder scrolls and Fallout.
Based on the Cosmic Horror stories of Lovecraft
Despite the name, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth isn’t a pure adaptation of the original novella Call of Cthulhu. Instead it’s more of an adaptation of a tabletop RPG game of the same name. The RPG allows players to create their own characters and journeys along with expanding on the original mythos.
Two of the major scenarios covered from the tabletop games were Escape from Innsmouth, and the Raid on Innsmouth. Despite the dominant references of the RPG tabletop game, Dark Corners of the Earth is a great way for horror fans to be introduced to Lovecraft’s stories from Shadow of Innsmouth to Shadow over Time.
Main Plot and premise
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth follows Jack Walters, a prestigious detective that went to investigate the manor of a group of cultists and was sent to Arkham Asylum for five years after witnessing a terrible event. 6 months after his release, Jack was sent to find a missing person in Innsmouth, plagued by vague memories of the manor and asylum.
The Innsmouth incident and aftermath become the main plot of the game afterwards. After discovering the dark secrets of Innsmouth and the Esoteric Order of Dagon, Jack escaped and became enthralled in the FBI mission to stop the Order, all the while uncovering his own mysterious connections to the eldritch beings that manipulate the events at Innsmouth and the cultist manor.
What Makes The Game Scary & Fun
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth establishes many impactful moments in the town of Innsmouth. Everything about the atmosphere of the town filled the game with tension. Exploring Innsmouth immerses the player into the world of subtle horror where the dangers are shown but not encountered yet. The suspense escalates as Jack uncovers the dark secrets of Innsmouth and gets chased by the Esoteric Order of Dagon, who become hellbent to hunt him down and kill him.
The game then turns from exploration to stealth horror as Jack evades the Order of Dagon and hides in abandoned churches or the sewer areas where worse things lurk. The play-style in these sections is similar to Amnesia the Dark Descent and even has a sanity system where events or images that terrify Jack cause the screen to blur and enough exposure will cause Jack to mutter, hallucinate, and commit suicide.
What Makes The Game Tedious
By the end of the Innsmouth escape, Jack grabbed a pistol and shotgun, changing the tone of the game instantly. The game shifted from survival horror to an action shooter and it was done at the expense of the atmosphere that was established. It also wasn’t implemented very well, showing weakness in the A.I and several glitches that take the immersion out of the game. The blur effect done to simulate sanity slippage is headache inducing at best and nauseating at worst.
The sudden shift from stealth horror to action intrigue was a sign of too much being done in the game with not a lot of time developing it to be seamless. There is a clear divide and even an infamous bug in the later stages of the game that breaks the entire experience. It wasn’t patched before work on the game was done but a devoted group of fans created a patch that made the game more digestible.
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a badly aged game that was a victim of a rushed production. However, the first two hours of gameplay and the introduction of the creepy story are presented very well. For the first half of the game, players were immersed in a world of terror and mystery.
The exploration and the feeling of dread made this one of the better games to introduce horror enthusiasts to Lovecraftian horror. Since the release of Dark Corners of the Earth, several AAA games have been released that follow a similar premise from The Sinking City to another Call of Cthulhu released in 2018, both try to emulate the same kind of experience.
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (2005) Official Xbox Trailer