‘Lovecraftian’ is a buzz word being thrown around by a lot of new horror games that don’t seem to understand what Lovecraft was really about. Tentacles and asylums does not automatically Lovecraftian make. Like much of the man’s work, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth doesn’t even feature the titular monster, because what it understands is that above all else, fear of the unknown was what really informed Lovecraft’s work.
Call of Cthulhu has a lot of horrors that it puts you through, only a handful of which you actually see. The developers knew the golden rule of Lovecraft’s work: the monster in your head will always beat the monster on the page. Or in the game, as it were. Within this universe, there exists creatures so monstrous, so impossible, that looking upon them can bring no level of understanding, and drives the viewer insane. You may be unlucky enough to witness enough traumatising images that your character simply can’t go on, and, without an ounce of your control, puts his revolver to his head and pulls the trigger. It baffles the mind to think that a game would punish you to this degree for simply playing it. It’s unfathomable. And that might just be its point.
Call of Cthulhu also proves that you don’t need to remove combat to be a story-driven survival horror game. You have a gun, you just suck at using it. And, more often than not, the things you’re shooting don’t really seem to be fazed by your weaponry. They know better than you do just how out of your depth you are. A spectacular chase through a seaside town that was adapted from the Lovecraft story it draws its most inspiration from is unapologetically cruel, and surviving it doesn’t bring a feeling of victory, but panic at what might be around the corner.
Not only is Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth a true Lovecraft experience, it’s a true horror experience. There are no jump scares awaiting you here, just the overwhelming dread that comes with the knowledge of how significant you are not in this world that looks upon your self-assured notions of existence and chuckles to itself in the shadows, knowing that it could shatter your sanity with but a single step into the light.