Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Completed: Cthulhu Saves the World

Cthulhu Saves The World is an 8/16-bit RPG parody by Zeboyd Games. It is available from Steam for an amazingly low price. I picked it up on launch but it took me quite a while to finish it.

It is built to be a very silly game, it has no respect at all for the fourth wall with Cthulhu only learning what is going on and determining his end goal by listening in on the narrator's opening spiel. Cthulhu has awoken ready to destroy the world, unfortunately (for him) an unknown holy cleric strips him of his powers. The only way Cthulhu can get them back is to become a True Hero.

Mechanically and graphically it looks and feels like an old SNES jRPG title, you have fixed characters interacting in a party, a limit of 3 characters at a time can be used in fights and it has random encounters and turn based combat. It seems pretty clear that the makers wanted to keep this old game feel, but didn't want to actually get bogged down in the flaws of these systems.

Random map encounters discourages exploration, so each location has a maximum number of random encounters, when that number expires you stop being interrupted. Not only that but you can trigger the fights by pausing and selecting fight from the menu at any time, meaning you can get all of the required fights out of the way when you are in a nice convenient location. You can also continue to have fights after the counter has expired as a way to grind XP if you want an easier time later on.

Similarly, whilst characters are fixed, their equipment types and abilities have a fairly linear progression to them, but the game lets you customise your party to your playstyle to a degree through a fairly elegant system. Whenever a character gains a level, you get a choice. Typically it will be between two variants of the same skill, or two different stat ups, you can gear your characters towards high damage single target spells over AOE, high defense and health over speed. I mostly aimed my party at doing high damage area attacks all the better to get the random encounters quickly finished, though at a hefty MP cost and leaving me in a more difficult position against bosses.

The game encourages quick and strategic combat in two different ways, monsters get more powerful the longer a fight lasts, and the player recovers MP based on how quickly a fight lasts, if you can throw a few heavy hits and finish a fight in one round, you may recover most of the MP you used. The game heals you up at the end of every combat, so MP is the resource that slowly dwindles as you explore a dungeon hoping you will find a save point to recover it rather than teleport back to town.

I really liked the use of the theme, I have to admit I haven't read deeply into the lovecraft mythos but I do enjoy it where it crops up in horror elements and it was good to see them parodied so thoroughly during the course of this game. It features all manner of lovecraftian names and locations taking advantage of the parodic nature to include them even though they don't make complete sense.

One of the key uses of the theme is insanity, here it is a condition that can be inflicted and removed upon your enemies. Insane enemies deal out and take more damage, it can be a good tradeoff to have a fast character use a move that inflicts insanity if the extra damage will let a move by a slower character to finish them off.

Overall, I think that the entertainment and length of this game are amazing for the price, I am not exactly nostalgic for 8/16-bit RPGs, I never really played them since my first home console was an N64, but this game is a bargain at the RRP.

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