By Michael Fontanini / February 13th, 2019
|Title||Lovecraft’s Untold Stories|
|Developer||LLC Blini Games|
|Publisher||LLC Blini Games|
|Release Date||January 31st, 2019|
|Platform||PC (Steam, GOG)|
|Age Rating||N/A but has mature themes|
In Lovecraft’s Untold Stories, you start out as Private Eye John Murphy, who served on the New Orleans police department under Inspector Legrasse, a man who had a profound effect on you. After attending the annual American Archaeological Society meeting, Legrasse suddenly retired. Shocked by this and unwilling to work for anyone else, you set up your own P.I. firm. On your desk sits an exquisitely crafted gorgon statue given to you as a parting gift by Legrasse. Now you set out on a quest to find out what is going on and begin to uncover some rather disturbing things. Can you survive what awaits you?
At first, you can only play as Detective John Murphy and explore his story. You’ll eventually encounter and unlock more playable characters, though. You can start a new game at any time with any unlocked character, but your current run will be lost if you do. You cannot have saved progress for multiple characters at a time. When starting a new game, you can start at any level you’ve cleared with that character.
In his investigation, Detective Murphy will explore the game’s randomly generated levels, finding items and currency along the way. In each level you may find two shops, one that takes gold and another that takes info as its currency. Both shops are stocked with random items like keys for different types of locked chests, med kits of different sizes, equipment, or items that give you various buffs. Some items can be quite pricey, so you’ll have to save up.
While there is a mini map on the screen, you can always look at the map screen for a wider view. It also has a built-in key showing you what the various icons mean. As you explore room after room, your inventory will almost certainly start to get very crowded. Items can stack in limited quantities (like how large med packs can have five per stack), and you have 15 inventory slots, which is a bit limited. Fortunately, you can sell unwanted items at the shops once you find them. Some levels can be pretty big, so it might be a while before you find a shop. Some levels can take well over an hour to complete depending on how thorough you are in exploring, and how many attempts it takes you to succeed.
In each randomly generated level of Lovecraft’s Untold Stories, you’ll have to face not just lots of enemies, but also your own mind. Taking too much damage from monsters is not the only way to die, as there is also a sanity system. When you investigate interactive objects, they will cause a loss of sanity if they are too disturbing. If your sanity gets too low it’s game over, but there are a couple of ways to restore lost sanity.
As you explore, you’ll encounter interactive objects of many types, such as altars, books, statues, and more that give you lore to read. You can tell an object is interactive when a bright outline appears as you walk up to it. They give you a menu of usually two or three options, including to just leave it alone. Some characters have special choices available only to them. For example, the detective sometimes gets an extra choice that lets him investigate something in more detail. The other playable characters also get exclusive special options on certain interactive objects as well.
Often, these objects will give you info when you investigate them, but sometimes what you uncover is too disturbing, resulting in a loss of sanity. The info you earn can be spent in one of the shops, but you probably don’t want to try to get info from every object in each level, as your sanity will tank. As it lowers, your character image in the top-left gets increasingly covered with purple tendrils that look like a biomass of some sort. If your sanity gets too low you’ll die, but eating chocolate bars you find will restore it. Some interactive objects can also restore a bit of sanity, but they are rarer and it can depend on your choice in the interactions menu for that object.
Your ultimate goal is to finish each character’s story by clearing all of their levels. Along the way, you can find special information about the five ancient ones, including Cthulhu. When you do, your knowledge level will increase for two or three of them. The higher your knowledge level for an ancient one, the less likely it is that you will lose your mind when you eventually unlock and face them. They are essentially endgame bosses, but there are also regular bosses in some levels. Do not underestimate them, as even they can be difficult!
Each character has their own play style, as they each have different weapons and abilities. The detective has the special ability to see secret passages. They appear as a line of blood leading into a seemingly solid wall. He has a shotgun and can also get a tommy gun. The professor has a force field ability that uses some energy. Energy recharges over time and provides temporary protection from damage. He fires plasma balls and a closer range attack when in a pinch. However, he is more difficult as his projectiles are very slow. There are several more characters beyond these, too.
The gameplay in Lovecraft’s Untold Stories consists of exploring room after room opening every box you find for items. Health items are particularly important, but keys for locked chests are also great to have. As this is a rogue-like, death means game over. There is an item that can give you another chance, but you still have to be super careful. They also just added a checkpoint machine in each level recently in one of the very last pre-launch patches, but it is the only way to save in the middle of a level. This is very clearly not ideal if you need to quit playing and haven’t found it yet. Its location is always random, like most things in the game. It allows you to save your progress and access items you stored in the Strange Place.
If you do die, you can reload your last save, so you don’t have to start over from the beginning of the game, but rather the level you died in. In between levels you go to the Strange Place, which has odd devices. You can use them to check your knowledge level for the five ancient ones, store some items for future runs, go to the next level, or take on one of the five ancient ones that you’ve unlocked.
Sometimes you’ll enter rooms with ridiculous amounts of enemies, where you can easily be swarmed and suffer a very fast death. This can be worse in some cases, like in the graveyard environment, where one type of cultist can quickly spawn large red slimes. This can cause an already large enemy count to grow larger still. You will sometimes encounter rooms with many enemies, including multiples of these guys spawning in excessive amounts of red slimes. Then the red slimes cause a damage-over-time status effect when they hit you too, so the gameplay can feel very unfair at times. This can be true more so if playing as the professor or the witch on that level (both of whom don’t deal with that as well as the detective).
Each character’s path through the environments is different, too. For example, the professor has the hospital environment as his first level. This is nice, as it makes each character’s story feel a bit different, along with their different play styles. However, once you’ve unlocked the professor, his second level (where he explores the graveyard environment) is a huge difficulty spike. The witch is worse off, with her very low range combat style, making her very vulnerable to attack. She can teleport a short distance away, but the usefulness of that is limited when being swarmed. There is an item that transports you to a random safe room in a pinch. It is more effective at saving your butt than her teleport move, but also quite rare.
The graphics in Lovecraft’s Untold Stories consist of very nice, hand-drawn sprites that give the game a retro feel. Meanwhile, the music adds a lot of creepy atmosphere to the environments in Lovecraft’s Untold Stories. It does its job quite well, and the sound effects are simple but quite good and effective, too.
Lovecraft’s Untold Stories can be a fun game, but its brutal difficulty will turn off many players, especially after you unlock additional characters. There are three difficulty levels, but the game can be pretty brutal at times even on the lowest one. The game’s lack of any way to save at will mid-level (short of finding the new checkpoint machine) will also turn off some players. It can easily take you 10-20 hours to clear one character’s story, depending on the difficulty setting and the character you’re playing as. As the starter character the detective is the easiest, so he may well take you less than 10 hours to beat. I have spent around 30 hours so far with several different characters. There are two more that I still haven’t encountered to unlock yet. It should be noted also that the developers are planning to continue adding to the game now that it has launched (on January 31st). Lovecraft’s Untold Stories is available on Steam for $14.99 or on Gog.com for $12.99. Do you have what it takes to survive the hellish nightmares that await you in Lovecraft’s Untold Stories?
Review copy provided by publisher.
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