Rich Games for Poor Players, Finale: Loving Lovecraft (a.k.a. Cthulu Saves the World)
Today’s will be the final installment of the non-wow related material, at least for a while. The break from writing WoW-based articles has given me time to think up a few new WoW topics I’d like to discuss, such as rushing, teaching (that’s not a new one, but I certainly can offer some new perspectives), and versatility. More on those in the future, though. Today’s correspondence is centered around what may be the biggest steal for all the video game cheapies we’ve been discussing: Cthulu Saves the World.
For those of you familiar with Lovecraftian lore (and for the benefit of those of you who aren’t), Cthulu is the supreme baddie. He’s the oldest of the old gods and would like nothing more than to devour the sanity of the world and, in the process, destroy it. It logically caught my eye, then, that in this title, Cthulu wants to flip sides. Since the game is bundled with another title, Breath of Death VII, for a grand price of 1.99, I figured there was no way I could afford to pass this up. Even if I ended up hating the game and not playing it, I was only out the cost of a jumbo milky way bar.
The game gave me about seven hours of game play for about a dollar in cost (since it’s bundled, I’m dividing by two), which was a fantastic deal. The game itself plays like an old SNES Rpg, such as Final Fantasy 3, where you have a ragtag team of characters working together for various purposes towards some grand goal. In this game, Cthulu has lost all his world-destroying powers due to a curse, and he cannot regain them without first becoming a hero. Following that thought, Cthulu’s main goal is to save the world so he can have the power to destroy it himself. Along with him comes a talking sword, a starry-eyed groupie, an emo sorceress, an incoherent old man, and an alien cat.
The word for the game, then, dear reader, is silly. It’s a very, very silly game (and I normally try to avoid using very – check my other posts). For what it aims to accomplish, it’s a fantastic, fun game with hundreds of one-liners, a “touching” story (in the after-school special sense), lots of Lovecraft references, and a joke on every bookshelf. I mean that literally. The game designers wrote a gag line for every bookshelf, chest of drawers, and gravestone in the game. Just reading them all is worth a dollar.
If you’re okay with the silliness, then this is an excellent game. The character leveling system is simple but allows for a good amount of customization. When you get a level, you’re given automatic stat increases and a choice between two other upgrades; it may be 20 magic stat or 10 magic and 10 willpower, or it could be a choice between a high damage single target spell or a lower damage AoE. It makes leveling quick and efficient without losing the type of customization many of us have become… uh… accustomed to.
The game play is also pretty genre-related. You walk around outside on a large world map on which are dungeons. You have random encounters. Each battle is turn-based, and order is based on the character’s speed (from the agility stat). You’re given menus from which you choose your action, be it attack, defend, cast a spell, or a variety of other things. You then choose a target from the enemies in front of you. It’s nothing new or innovative, but the bizarre variety of enemies in the game certainly adds to the fun of combat. In one battle you may be fighting Zombie Cheerleaders and in the next an evil space mirror. Additionally, the game is heavily based around the Cthulu-centric “insanity” effect (centric in the lore, not in the game; many characters can cause insanity). Each baddie has a “sane” and an “insane” look, and many of the insane graphics are quite funny.
There were two “newish” elements to the game. One change was how the special attack system worked. You have, typically, HP and MP, but in this game, you don’t regen full MP at the end of every battle. Instead, you get a small amount back depending on how quickly you dispatch the baddies. This leads to resource conservation, something that’s frequently lacking in this genre since the invention and broadened uses of mana potions. I really liked the added challenge of figuring out how to most efficiently kill enemies as quickly as possible using the least amount of MP. It added a strategic level to even trash encounters.
The other somewhat innovative feature is the addition of a fight counter. In any particular area, you can eventually have enough random fights to run the counter to its max, at which point the random encounters stop. This is to prevent the typical anti-exploring approach that prevents people from wanting to go down every corridor. Additionally, the MP atrophying fights would eventually overcome the players if there was an indefinite number of baddies, so it was a thoughtful design decision on the developers part.
Lastly, the game comes with “director commentary,” which are small nodes throughout the game world with which you can interact. They provide insight in the game designer’s thought process and often have humorous anecdotes about the making of the game. To be frank, I would have liked to see a lot more of them; usually there’s only one per board or so.
Overall, then, I would highly recommend this game for people who enjoy the old console RPG genre. It’s extraordinarily cheap, it packs a good play time per dollar ratio, it’s very funny, and on top of all those benefits it’s a very solid game. If you were a fan of the old Final Fantasy series (prior to 7, for example), or if you like campy, tongue-in-cheek games, then Cthulu Saves the World is a steal.
Stubborn (who played every final fantasy up until 11, then gave up in disgust. Like Dollhouse, some things we do more out of loyalty than actual enjoyment.)