By Michael Fontanini / November 21st, 2018
|Title||Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics|
|Release Date||October 4th, 2018|
|Genre||Action, Indie, RPG, Strategy|
|Platform||PC (Steam), Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4|
It’s up to you to lead a squad of four soldiers against a dark Nazi plot for world domination, built upon a mix of science and the occult. This classified mission is all that stands between the world and the dark weapons the Nazis are researching in their quest to conquer all. Can you defeat your enemies and stop their dark research in Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics?
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is a single player, turn based strategy game. Each character has their pros and cons in a given engagement, as they have different weapons like shotguns, SMGs, and pistols. Unfortunately, you don’t get new weapons as you progress, though. You can move your team as a single unit when not in combat, but as soon as you encounter enemies you’ll be able to move your squad members individually.
In between missions, you can customize each character’s loadout by equipping items like grenades, med kits, and more once you have them. Some items that boost your weapons (like stocks, scopes, or special ammo) have advanced versions with bigger buffs that you get later. You can also spend each character’s accrued skill points in their respective skill tree to unlock new abilities or buffs for them.
Your squad is headed by Captain Eric Harris, who uses a carbine and is pretty good with ranged attacks, though not quite as good with melee. Ariane Dubois is the only woman in the squad, but she is the most proficient member at long range attacks. She uses an Ithaca 37 Shotgun. Corporal Akhee Singh has the same shotgun, but he excels at melee combat. Finally, Sergeant Carter uses an SMG. He ends up with a couple guns to choose in his loadout, allowing him to do short or long range attacks depending on which one is equipped.
Each character has a certain number of AP (action points) at the start of each turn. How far they can move depends on how many AP they have. Action points are also spent when you do certain attacks. You’ll need to be sure you’re spending them well, as you cannot cancel your last action. Once spent, action points are gone permanently until the next turn. You can control your characters in whatever order you want during each turn, and even switch back and forth between them as long as they can still perform at least one action.
There is also a momentum system that can help you turn the tide of battle. MP (momentum points) can be earned by racking up kills and getting critical hits. A character’s chances of landing a critical hit can be improved via their skill tree between missions. There are quite a few actions that consume momentum points. The most common one you may use is to attack with the current character’s secondary weapon (a pistol). This consumes one MP each time. Some actions, like reviving a fallen teammate, can consume two or more MP each time you do them.
The momentum system adds more depth to the combat, because this is what allows you to do things other than your standard attack. This includes throwing items like grenades or charges if your character has such an item equipped. Some abilities that require momentum points to use can apply buffs to you or your teammates, or debuffs to your targeted enemy. Each character has their own unique momentum abilities, many of which are unlocked via their skill tree. For example, Sergeant Carter has a skill called Inspirational Shot, which buffs your team if his shot hits its mark. It gives all other squad members a 10% higher chance to hit that enemy, if they choose to subsequently attack it in the same turn. This particular skill is a passive one, meaning that it is always active so you don’t have to use MP to use it. Most momentum skills are not passive, but each character has a few passive ones in their skill tree.
Your turn ends when you choose to end it, or when your team has exhausted all AP and MP. Then you get to watch the enemies make their moves. This can take a long while in some later levels, and sometimes you can’t even see what’s happening because of the fog of war. Often, games that use fog of war let you see the terrain you’ve already explored, but not enemies that are too far away. In Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics, you can’t see terrain that is too far away, even if you’ve already explored it. Enemies that haven’t been uncovered yet are visible as dark blotchy figures in the mist so you can’t make them out. Once a member of your squad moves close enough and reveals an enemy from the mist, that enemy will be easier to hit for that character and for any other squad member you tell to shoot at it.
The gameplay in Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is enjoyable, though the levels start to feel too similar. As you move into the later part of the game, you’ll notice you’re seeing the same large rooms from previous missions getting reused in many cases. Selecting which enemy you want the current character to attack can be annoying, because for some very strange reason you are not allowed to move or rotate the camera while selecting an enemy. One other issue involving the camera is that it constantly zooms back in to the maximum zoom level at the end of turns.
Lastly, there is one more significant combat issue. In cases where you choose not to spend any AP to move a character, they may have enough AP to use their main attack twice in one turn. The thing is, if you decide to attack the same enemy twice, you have to reselect it before the second attack. This is because the game selects its default choice again (usually the closest enemy unit), rather than remembering who you attacked five seconds ago if they are still alive. This problem also applies to using MP to attack with your secondary weapon, which can see you doing this a lot more than twice in one turn. There also always seems to be a one to two second pause where the game seems to temporarily freeze when switching from player turn to enemy turn, or vice versa.
The graphics are not bad at all. The developers went with a gritty, dark, and fairly realistic visual style here. The textures and objects are nicely detailed. The game isn’t too scary overall, though. It’s trying more to tell a dark story than be a horror game. The enemies are nicely detailed too, but there are only a handful of different types. They range from basic Nazi soldiers with guns, to guys with more powerful weapons that can stun or stress your characters, giving them a greater chance to miss their mark, and even worse it gives them a random chance to hit one of their own squad mates! There is also one main type of monster, which is a black blob with suction cup covered tentacles that can swipe at you. These guys are fairly common but tend to be one of the enemies with the most health, and they tend to come in groups.
The music in Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is moody and adds a lot of atmosphere. However, there are very few music tracks in the game, so you’ll hear the same music a lot. The sound effects are good quality, but the short voice clips for characters are small in number. This can cause them to become repetitive or even annoying at times when a character says the same thing repeatedly. Both your squad members, and enemy units have these sound effects where they make quick comments or taunts about an attack they just did, or a hit they just took.
Overall, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is an interesting, though fairly short game. The campaign took me 12 or so hours to complete, however, the game has a number of difficulty levels, with the highest being Mythic mode. You could spend a lot more time in the game working your way up to, and trying to beat that mode. For the Steam version (which this review is based on), there are 31 achievements as well. Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is also available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. You can get the game for $24.99 on Steam. Can you outwit the Nazis on the battlefield, and put a stop to their insidious plans?
Review copy provided by publisher.
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