Day 111: Cthulhu Saves the World

Posted: 2011/02/28 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and no longer appear in the top 50 downloads. Today is day #111, and today’s game is “Cthulhu Saves the World”.

Cthulhu Saves the World was part of the Indie Games Winter Uprising, as were several other games (some already reviewed, such as “radiangames Crossfire 2”, “ZP2KX: Zombies & Pterodactyls!”, and “Hypership Out of Control”; the remainder are all on my list of things to do).

Cthulhu Saves the World, CStW to its friends, was perhaps the most anticipated because it was the sequel to Zeboyd Games’ stellar first release, “Breath of Death VII”. Zeboyd’s second XBL Indie Games RPG has won a list of accolades as long as its first, and both games represent insanely good value (the first 80 Microsoft Points, the second 240 points). The first game is around 5 hours in length, the second closer to 10 hours of gameplay.

First from the developer:

“The lord of insanity, Cthulhu, has lost his powers and the only way to regain them is by becoming a true hero! Join him on an epic quest of courage, romance, redemption, and insanity! From the makers of the popular RPG, Breath of Death VII: The Beginning. Features 7 playable characters, a 6-10 hour quest, multiple modes & difficulties, branching LV-Ups, an insanity system, over 20 songs, and more!”

It’s amazing that a game with that kind of feature set can be had for a pittance, and without the constant bugs like recent major publisher RPGs like Fallout: New Vegas, and without the linearity of the maps that people criticised Final Fantasy XIII for. And keep in mind that we’re comparing a game that cost 240 Microsoft Points, to ones that cost up to $60… and that the comparison is favourable!

That doesn’t mean Cthulhu StW is a perfect game, as its not. It maybe isn’t paced even quite as well as its predecessor, in fact. However, it’s more accessible in some ways. The first one had video gaming in-joked aplenty that long time gamers would appreciate, but the second relies on the ridiculousness of its premise (Cthulhu, a Lovecraftian horror, being stripped of his darkness and finding himself in the uncomfortable situation of having to save the world, perhaps so he could destroy it himself later) and arguably has more universal appeal because of it.

Both of Zeboyd’s role-playing games (RPGs) are based on the look and feel classic 8-bit Japanese RPGs (though the first shared some thematic similarities to the classic western RPG “Wasteland”). This second game ups the ante by adding some colour flourishes that look more reminiscent of 16-bit era RPGs. Combat is fast and fluid, not the slow grind you find all too often in the modern incarnations of its type. There’s a bit more personality to the characters this time out, and you have choices of who to take with you in your party for the first time from this developer. The branching leveling-up system helps you make each member of your party your own, which helps the player really invest in the game and its characters. The ability to affect the insanity of opponents offers a unique weapon in your party’s arsenal as well, one which not every RPG player is going to have seen before.

Speaking of the characters, you now have the ability to initiate dialogue between them, making them more than sword-swinging automatons and adding a lot of flair to the game. The fact that you’re initiating it, rather than it being a simple cut-scene, adds to the experience. There are still cut-scenes as well which necessarily drive the story forward, but your ability to help both discover and tell the story around and between them works well.

It’s hard to review an RPG without giving too much away, but I hope I’ve given you enough of a taste to know if this game is worth your $3 (give or take, depending on your local currency). This game deserves consideration thanks to a lengthy campaign, a lot of humour, an extraordinarily reasonable price, and a developer who has hit the target on what they set out to do. Best of all, the game is still being updated, with several important bits of content planned for down the road that will add some replay value (including a new super-hard difficulty level) and will give you a reason to come back to Cthulhu Saves the World long after you’ve beaten it. Here is a list of additions and tweaks the developer has announced as being in the works:

“Cthulhu’s Angels game mode with a new group of playable characters (some new, some modified), new plot & dialogue, new monsters, etc.
An option menu (controls, volume adjust, turn off battle music, and so on)
New harder difficulty
Unlockable Character bromides (art)
Director’s Commentary (question marks scattered through the game that you can examine for information about the game’s creation)
Monster compendium
Text for each monster
Additional dialogue and descriptions in maps (bookshelves, tombstones, etc.)
Extra Optional Superhard dungeon
Various bug fixes
Rebalanced many character abilities & monster stats”

For me, I decided I wanted to play the critically acclaimed game both as it is now, and as it’s going to become, so I happily slapped down my 240 Microsoft Points today to make it the game for Day 111. When the update drops, I’ll get to play it again and have a different experience. Now that’s what I call value.

For a second opinion, check out Kobun’s review of Cthulhu Saves the World.

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