Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics Review – PC

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It’s been a while since I’ve stepped into the realm of board and tabletop games. I do so happily once again though to dive into a PC game based upon Modiphius Entertainment’s popular Achtung! Cthulhu tabletop RPG set during World War II. Honestly the game had my achtung at the mention of Cthulhu and I’m still not sure which of the first two words of Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics for the PC is easier to misspell.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t encounter any Shoggoths the last time I ventured into the Ardennes forest digitally in a World War II setting but then again there was some creepy looking ruins. Set in the Forest of Fear, you will spend your time in the Ardennes first as two occult Special Agents are sent to find and aid the two surviving members of Allied units that were ambushed. You also have to complete your mission by investigating the two Nazi Cult factions that are planning on unleashing dark science and the occult upon the world. This is all there is as far as the story premise is concerned outside of short character bios.

Captain Harris, Sergeant Carter, Corporal Singh and Ariane Dubois are the only characters that you’ll have at your command throughout A!CT which honestly suits me just fine. While I do enjoy strategy RPGs to a point, I actually liked this tight little squad of sorts instead of whole armies. Starting off players get a taste of what sets each of these characters apart but it isn’t until you unlock new abilities they really shine against the at odds Black Sun and Nachtwolfe forces of evil. Their only agreement is that you are not wanted there.

It’s up to you to utilize each character’s unique abilities to give you an edge in combat. Harris like his rank suggests is the acting leader and many of his abilities are used to bolster damage and AP or Action Point gains for his allies. Then you have Carter who at first look didn’t seem to be all that effective but thanks to the Elder Sign medallion he carries makes him an invaluable member that can be immune to Mythos entity effects as well as shed light on enemy presences more than any member of his team.

On the slightly more bizarre side you have Corporal Singh and Ariane Dubois who actually use occult abilities largely to even the playing fields as it were. Singh is the most roguelike character of the bunch with access to a free move melee attack nearly from the start. Most of his attacks involve close quarter combat and even his Miasma abilities affect foes in his close vicinity. My personal favorite however is Ariane Dubois, the forefront French Resistance member, who reminds me a lot of Kitty Pryde with a little Raven sprinkled in. With her winged friend and the use of navigation and some support abilities, Ariane is useful in close quarter areas and hindering her foes.

Much like many strategy RPGs out that navigation and battles are carried out on isometric maps with a Lovecraftian Shroud acting as a fog of war element that plays intricately in combat. With little in the way of an actually meaningful story outside of save the world from ancient evils, the combat is make or break for a title like Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics. In this regard in think Auroch did well enough for a couple of reasons that set it apart from some of the other sRPGS that I’ve played. The two things that particularly stood out for me is the Shroud and Momentum mechanics.

The Shroud (or Fog of War) mechanic, while pretty commonplace in this genre, affects how accurate or effective you are against a foe. The game usually always lets you know that there is “something” out of view in the Shroud but until you actually get close enough and/or it’s in a character’s field of view you have no idea what it is or its capabilities. Sure you can try shooting at it but I wouldn’t recommend potentially wasting your precious Action Points. Every time you move a character unit with the Right Mouse button in combat you get to direct which way they are facing with the Left Mouse button before continuing on with attacks or abilities which is extremely crucial. You can choose to play Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is a controller if you want but I preferred the mouse option more here.

The Momentum mechanic however is what really sets A!CT apart from other titles for me. Unlike most sRPGS where carefully and tactically timed decisions make or break a battle, this title focuses on a more action fueled approach. There are no real sniper class units amidst your characters so drawn out unit-based cover fire moving situations don’t really work here. There is a useful Overwatch feature that comes close and is particularly useful in Ariane’s skillset. So instead you have Momentum which allows characters to exceed their normal limitations such as moving or pulling off special attacks. Unlike AP where it is replenished on each turn, Momentum is gained by getting kill or critical hits on enemies but is also affected by various other character stats.

The real challenge is ultimately on how far off the deep end you choose to dive when you select your difficulty, your initial hours can prove to be challenging until you earn enough abilities to streamline things a bit. Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics does a pretty good job at making the combat easy to get a hang of so even newcomers won’t suffer all that much. That doesn’t mean that the experience is shallow as far as combat is concerned either as I quite enjoyed the depth that there is as more than once I was faced with some tough and close calls in more than a few missions.

Much like any title to bear or feature the Cthulhu Mythos, there is plenty to enjoy from an atmospheric and environmental standpoint. A stress mechanic plays well into the sanity aspect of the Mythos so things like taking damage too much, a teammate dying or getting a little too close to a horror can adversely affect things for the better or the abysmally poor. If at all possible you want to do everything in your power to not let this happen. With a little Luck however risky moves can really help you out in dire moments of combat. As a mechanic Luck, acts kind of like a regenerating shield of sorts that replenishes after all enemies are cleared in any give area unlike health.

Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is an enjoyable strategy combat game that has plenty of dark eldritch charm in its design. The fact that actual Shoggoths make a visually creepy appearance as something other than an element just out of view in the shadows to tease you into insanity is a welcome touch. The dialogue is decent though some combat dialogue get a little repetitive for my tastes. I actually like that the radio music seems appropriate to the time and the music and sound effects like rustling paper throughout the game add to its immersive gameplay.

There are so few titles that feature the Cthulhu Mythos that can be found in the digital game front so any entry into this subject is a welcome one for me regardless of the genre. This makes it even harder to have a comparison point for this subgenre outside of most sRPGS as a whole. I find this to be a little limiting but after my 24 or so hour run though one of the tougher difficulties Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is easily the best Cthulhu based RPG that I’ve played in a long while. There is definitely more room to grow with this entry in the future and I hope we see more titles like this. If you like sRPGS and are a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos then you should definitely give Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics for the PC a try.