Game Review: 'Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land'


Before I launch into my review for Red Wasp Designs' Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land, let me give you a bit of history.  I was raised on PC gaming, from my parents' KayPro desktop computer (with 640k of RAM and a 30MB hard drive) to a later Gateway 2000 with DOS, my experience with gaming stems from the days when games could fit on a single 3.5" floppy disk and the angular corridors of DOOM were stunning approximations of reality.  Those days were spent with me hunched over a keyboard and a CRT monitor, playing whatever game demo could be downloaded over our 28.8k dialup connection and could fit on our then-spacious 540MB hard drive.  If you're reading any of this and nodding your head in nostalgic agreement, congratulations…you're old.

One of the games that consumed my DOS-based gaming days was Microprose's X-COM, a strategy game that took slow, turn-based gameplay and made it more intense and harrowing than even the fastest first-person shooter could muster.  It was one of those iconic gaming moments, a landmark in my life that still sticks with me to this day.  It's that iconic moment I kept flashing back to when huddled in my office, jabbing at my iPhone (whose horsepower trumps that old Gateway 2000), guiding my squad of soldiers against the Great Old Ones.

Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land is a turn-based strategy game for iOS that hearkens back to those wondrous days of gaming.  In it, you control a squad of soldiers in WWI who start out fighting Germany, but quickly uncover a far more sinister plot: a cult and the ancient evil it represents are using the numerous corpses of the Great War to build an army of the reanimated dead.

Based off of Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu RPG rules, The Wasted Land relies on a simple, turn-based mechanic.  Members of the squad are given a certain number of Action Points per turn that they can use to advance, take cover, or attack their enemies.  Once all of the actions have been queued up by the player they end the turn and watch, helplessly, as they enemy does the same.

This is the sort of gameplay that works beautifully in the world of Lovecraft's mythos.  It's slow, deliberate, and that aforementioned feeling of helplessness runs in surprising parallel to Lovecraft's own proclamations of human insignificance in his various Cthulhu mythos stories.  It may not horrify in the same way as Dead Space or Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but it does a hell of a job getting under your skin.

If there's one caveat to the game, it's that it's not really for a casual audience.  Levels can last far longer than any healthy bathroom break and the fairly in-depth rule set may turn off the less hardcore gaming crowd.  However, those looking for an in-depth strategy experience that employs Lovecraft's woefully underused mythos, Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land is a horror you want to experience.

Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land is available on iTunes for $4.99.