Making a tactics-based videogame based on an award winning board game like Achtung! Cthulhu seems like a no-brainer. Turn-based actions around alternate Nazi timelines and Cthulhu-based horror/mysticism could be a great experience. Unfortunately the end result is a game with some interesting mechanics that wear thin quickly and a presentation that is too light on the Cthulhu side of the fence.
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics revolves around a small squad of four soldiers and elite operatives who are stuck behind enemy lines but are the only hope to solve a mystery fueling the Nazis’ war effort. The game very briefly introduces you to the characters and then starts in with the turn-based mechanics, which bear a striking resemblance to XCOM – including an overwatch action and icon that is identical to that game’s feature.
The tactical options are fairly similar to those in other games of the genre. Move based on action points, preferably behind cover, then engage enemies with your remaining points. Actions can be melee attacks, special abilities, or shooting with main or sidearm weapons. One of the neat additions to the formula Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics offers is a momentum system.
Regular actions use AP, but momentum points are an extra currency that builds up as you take actions or land critical hits. These points are used for special skills or actions outside of your AP. Using momentum can turn the tide when needed, but I found I often was not sure how much I had and wondered why I could pull off three shots in a row from my sidearm. It’s an interesting tweak to the formula however and came in handy quite often.
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics also has an interesting variant on thew typical fog of war used in strategy games. In this game enemies are apparent as smoky apparitions until you get closer or get them in your line of sight. This added a bit of tension as I could often see the enemies but had no idea if they were demonic or human and even what type of unit they were. This application of fog of war does create a very slow and at times boring pace to the game, as all the enemy units take time to move on their turn (whether you can see them clearly or not) and you are prone to advance slowly due to the unknown troops.
Pacing in general is an area I struggled with. The missions stretch on for too long at times, and far too many small skirmishes occur, breaking the pace. The story is also fairly minimal and told through briefings or quick story segments. I found I wasn’t overly engaged as I played through, and at times just wanted the scenario to end.
Part of this is due to the progression system and how interesting abilities are locked out till much higher levels. You’re leveling up mundane skills for quite a while before getting to the juicy bits the game should have promoted earlier. This made leveling frustrating as the great rewards seemed out of reach for too long. Once cooler skills were unlocked it was nice to try them out, but by then the shine had come off the game.
The elements of the Cthulhu mythos are also more sparse than I had hoped. You battle only a few creatures aside from the Nazis, and the feeling that some potential was wasted kept hitting me. There is nothing overly wrong with the game, but unfortunately there is also nothing terribly great either. A bit more of a stretch into the craziness of the Lovecraftian Cthulhu world and access to the mystical and odd talents earlier would have been great. As it stands Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is a wholly average experience that could have been so much more.
Developer – Auroch Digital
Platforms – PC, PS4, Xbox One (Switch in 2019)