Title: Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics
Developer: Auroch Digital
Publisher: Ripstone Games
Genre: RPG, Tactics
Platform: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)
Audience: PEGI 16 – Violence
Release Date: 23/11/2018 – Nintendo Switch edition – 24/01/19
Price: £19.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this game.
What the Developers say
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is a turn-based strategy RPG in which the player fights a desperate battle in the shadows of World War II against the Nazis and their inhuman allies. Players take control of a band of heroes trapped behind enemy lines to uncover and foil the Nazi’s plot of evil.
Achtung! Cthulhu originally debuted five years ago as a Kickstarter project from Modiphius. It smashed its original funding goal many times over and has expanded to a wide range of tabletop products including expansions to the RPG, a skirmish miniatures game, novels, audio dramas, and multiple crossovers with other licenses. It has wowed critics as well as players with its sweeping apocalyptic narrative arc and inventive monstrous creations, winning multiple awards since its release.
Auroch Digital has created a somewhat complicated beast in Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics: a turn-based tactical RPG in the same vein as another game in the genre that requires no introduction. However whilst XCOM deals with aliens, here we are treated to the horrifying spectacle of HP Lovecraft’s Cult of Cthulhu.
We are given control of an elite squad of allied troops in 1944, deep behind enemy lines following a botched operation. The four very distinct characters are each a stereotype in their own right: the gruff American Sergeant Carter; burly Brit Captain Eric Harris; Ariane Dubois of the French Resistance and, my personal favourite, Indian Corporal Akhee ‘The Eye’ Singh. Each of these characters has a set of unique and fitting abilities ranging from the above average to the mutant. Similarly, each has a short backstory whose only purpose is to justify why the four are together. This limited backstory is the first hurdle that Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics stumbles on.
For those who are unaware of the background of both Achtung! and Cthulhu should note that in wider culture, both have a cult following. Achtung! Cthulhu is a popular table top miniature game set during the Second World War in an alternate reality where the Axis power have utilised the powers of the occult to bring the infamous Cthulhu into the world in order to help them to win the war. This in turn has caused many individuals to gain powers, such as those of our four heroes in Cthulhu Tactics. Similarly, Cthulhu is a beloved monster from the warped mind of HP Lovecraft, a squid-faced demon bringer of nightmares, traditionally associated with the town of Arkham.
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics aims to bring all of the character and charm of the table top game into a digital space, and is now available on Nintendo Switch.
Audio and Visual
The soundscape of Achtung! is fantastic: an eerie score sets the tone of the game from the off. This, coupled with some fantastic voice acting, makes for a really enjoyable part of the game, with each of the four central characters having distinct accents which do not sound at all over-hammed as could so easily have been the case. This is a real win for the game given how poorly done this part of the production could have been.
Unfortunately, the game is not so visually pleasing. Whilst the game looks OK, it is far from pretty. This is especially vexing when compared to other Tactical RPG’s from smaller companies, working with similarly small budgets, for instance Hard West, which uses a pleasing cell shaded visual style. Here we are given a drab, washed-out range of greens and browns, which whilst fitting to the ideals of the legendary imagination of HP Lovecraft, does not exactly lend itself to a visually exciting experience. This is particularly evident when playing in docked mode.
Gameplay and Replayability
Gameplay here is something which certainly improves over the course of the game. The main features are the tactical strategy gameplay and between mission RPG light elements of levelling characters and selecting equipment.
The tactical element is again split into two parts, a ‘free roam’ exploration phase where players are free to explore the map with the party and a combat phase when enemies are encountered. Combat uses a dice-based system, much like the table top game, which takes into account a variety of factors to determine a hit percentage chance, which is then shown to the player before taking a shot. The game also attempts to include a cover system, which seems to work well enough, given the fact that the game is a digital table top game. One nice feature is the dynamic way in which characters jump over half cover when moving. In combat, players have two options to spend on actions. Firstly, characters have action points which can be spent on moving, melee and standard shots. However the games more interesting skills use ‘momentum’ which is earned in a variety of ways. This ‘momentum’ can be spent to revive fallen heroes, perform magical attacks or fire a secondary side arm, (this saved my bacon on more than one occasion.)
Whilst at first all four characters have simple guns and melee attacks, which is a little dull to be honest, characters go on to gain skill points which can be spent between the missions in a debrief-style section. This is where characters can learn some of the more interesting skills which have some fantastic visual effects attached to them, which, as previously mentioned, require momentum to use.
Between the RPG and Tactical sections of the game, the player is required to sit through some quite lengthy loading screens. The tedium is greatly reduced here however thanks to the clever use of the loading screen to brief the player on what is to come. This is done in both a text form (with a decent size font for hand held play) and through a very well-voiced narrative.
The main issue here can only be put down to a poor port job to the Switch, as the game suffers from some very jarring hefty frame rate drops, screen tearing and momentary freezes in movement. This is particularly noticeable during the transition between the free-roam and combat aspects of missions. This is something that happened in both docked and handheld modes.
The game is easily replayable given the different development paths that are available to each of the four central characters, however the maps and story do not change from game to game so I could imagine this being a major drawback for some.
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics tries hard to bring the joy of table top wargaming to the Nintendo Switch, and to some extent it is successful. The game is, however, heavily weighed down by its own short comings. It is a game which attempts to do everything satisfactorily which leads to failing to exceed expectations in any way. This combines with the growing number of simply fantastic Tactical RPG’s available on the Nintendo Switch at or around the £19.99 price points makes Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics a difficult game to justify purchasing at full price.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics on the Nintendo eShop at the following link: https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Achtung-Cthulhu-Tactics-1499753.html