Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics Game Poster Image
Occult WWII game has limited tactics, big difficulty spikes.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Set during World War II, international agents join forces to defeat the Nazis' paranormal weapons program.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The four controllable agents are presented as heroes, but kill other humans in trying to complete their tasks and missions.

Ease of Play

This is a strategy game that focuses on solid tactical deployment to be successful, but an early difficulty spike makes progress on Normal difficulty quite challenging.

Violence

Characters are small onscreen but fairly realistic. When enemies are shot, they bleed. When killed, they sometimes explode into bits.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters can carry brandy to heal injuries; an American soldier fights with a cigarette in his mouth.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is a downloadable turn-based strategy game for Windows PCs. It's based on a combination of historical references from World War II and the gothic writings of H.P. Lovecraft. It's a take on the hit table-top role-playing game, Achtung! Cthulhu. Though the visuals are shown on a small, simplistic scale, it contains realistic blood and gore when characters are shot, and when enemies are killed, they occasionally explode. There are also references to alcohol and smoking; brandy can be used to heal injuries, while one character fights battles with a cigarette in his mouth.

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What's it about?

ACHTUNG! CTHULHU TACTICS is a turn-based strategy game set during World War II. Drawing on the writings of horror author H.P. Lovecraft, it focuses on the movements of an international squad of special forces agents investigating the theory that the Nazis are experimenting with the occult. Players control this team individually, crossing woodland terrain, infiltrating Nazi compounds, and engaging enemies in turn-based combat. Squad members draw upon a pool of Action Points (or AP) that limits their movement, item usage, and attacks; the player's turn ends when their AP pool is depleted. Your soldiers can be incapacitated and even captured, but their teammates can revive them. As the squad completes story missions and optional side missions, they gain experience, weapons, items, and skill points that can be spent on useful active and passive abilities.

Is it any good?

Despite a strong concept and some nice audio, this plays like a prototype for a better, more finished strategy game. Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics has a number of gameplay features that actually work very well. The tutorial does a good job of teaching you how to play, the setting is cool, squad members are varied and interesting, and the controls are simple. Still, there's much to be desired when it comes to exploration and strategy. The game levels are also fairly extensive and invite you to explore them. Considering the game's richly narrative source -- Lovecraft's horrific stories -- you'd expect to find all kinds of interesting clues scattered around them. You won't though, so don't waste your time searching empty rooms and hidden corners. That's disappointing, since the levels don't pay off in atmosphere either. (Unless you expect to meet an Elder God in a well-lit forest or army building.) Worse than the lackluster set dressing, though, is the lack of strategic options. Combat starts when enemies come into range and stops when they're all dead. That means you can't sneak up on them or stage a retreat. And prepare to lose camera control; during your enemies' turn, the camera's likely to zip to a big area of black where (you guess) enemies are scuttling around in the shadows. Wild difficulty swings don't help matters either. The developer admits it's still tweaking the game's balance, and it shows, since an easy mission will be followed by one you'd swear is impossible. These issues are unfortunate, because Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics does have good things scattered through the tale: interesting characters (the female fighter is awesome -- she's possibly the strongest hero in the game), satisfying base combat, and a cool paranormal context. As a result, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics's offering a fair measure of fun right now. Here's hoping that the developer wants to do better than fair and releases an update that bumps up the fun factor.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about historical fact and creative license. Do you think that it's true or possible that the Nazis were developing occult weapons?

  • Have you read H.P. Lovecraft? Does knowing the content of the books change your appreciation of the game?

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