A mere 8 months after their first title, Zeboyd brought forth one of the most improved sequels over the amount of time, that I can recall, Cthulhu Saves The World! Armed with an improved engine, which is still not that unlike an advanced RPG maker, a full soundtrack by an indie game composer, Gordon McNeil, and a development time 3 times larger than the first game’s, this behemoth launched near the end of 2010, and is probably one of the best RPGs of that year. Enough fluff, let’s dive into a game about the Elder God who grants insanity upon anyone who glances at him.
Cthulhu Saves The World Review
Release Date: 30/12/2010
Platforms: XBIG (Reviewed), PC
Price I Paid: $2.99
Now, let me just say that I know little about the Cthulhu mythos. I’d love to know more, but asking someone to get you an H.P. Lovecraft collection is not the easiest thing for a guy who has pretty underdeveloped social skills. All I know is from this game, so let’s ignore the references that other people pointed out, and get into the game’s story, which is pretty much unrelated. About to wreck the earth into little bits and pieces, Cthulhu has his powers stripped away from him, and his stature and form brought down to that of a human. And according to a narrator who weaves his tale for the most part, the only way that he can get his powers back is by becoming a true hero. Throughout the quest, he saves individuals, villages, and yes, even the universe, because a ton of RPGs involve some schmucks beating up the super mega evil of the universe whose HP is comprised of sixes.
But Cthulhu is not alone, since a one man turn based RPG is pretty boring sounding, and he gets a far more colorful cast than the previous one. However, while I complained that some of the player characters were a bit bland, especially ERIK. Sorry, I just think he’s kinda dumb. There are two that are added near the end, are not particularly interesting, and aren’t very useful. One being a designated healer, and nothing else. But I only used a heal spell about a dozen or so times throughout the entire game, since bosses are somehow easier than a lot of random encounters. And the other has wondrous stats, but a pretty blank movesets, and the multiple hit ability that made the prior title a bit too easy to mash A to win, has been scaled down, and to the point where this character does not get the opportunity. I get it, the character only has 6 levels that you gave unique choices to choose from, but you couldn’t give them one lousy hit count upgrade?
Other than those two, I found the first five party members to be pretty well designed from the mechanics standpoint. Granted that I also liked their visual looks, even though the amazingly useful Necromancer looks like, well, a Necromancer. And there is a giant sword who itself is a great tank, but the very idea is not particularly unique. Even the names lack in creativity, the sword is called Sharpe, and the Necromancer is named October? Mr. Boyd addressed this in the newly added commentary function, which sadly makes a lot of my commentary feel moot. I had a similar problem when writing my Borderlands review, since a lot of what I complained about is going to be fixed in the sequel. And I understand that breaking it down and criticizing something for the consumers, is a reviewer’s job, but a developer admitting their own mistakes, tends to make me more forgiving towards them.
All and all, the main character designs are not anything to write home about, but the monsters range from zombie cheerleaders, living ice cream, a man made out of belts, to cyborg trees. They are also given even more personality by a humorous little description, and a second sprite. Zeboyd decided to incorporate a series of status conditions, which I mostly ignored in their prior title, but the new main infliction is insanity, which raises the attack of enemies, but lowers their defense as well. I never found the risk worth the reward though, so I barely ever used it, since I could deal enough damage to end most boss fights before they reached the thirteenth round, and I liked having my cat’s regeneration spell do most of the healing for me. Which was boosted by the unite attacks, which I praised, but there appears to be less of them at your immediate disposal, since you now have seven party members, and therefore 21 or so unite moves, opposed to the 8 or so in the spiritual predecessor.
However, in terms of the primary mechanics, not a lot has changed, random battles are limited, stats and abilities are still gained through the wonderful level up system. Which does seem a lot looser this time around, assuming that you give October a bunch of auto restoring MP perks, and pick the melee abilities for Cthulhu and Sharpe. However, my complaint regarding the lack of visible current stats, has not been answered. I do not mind that much, but after three campaigns, I am getting tired of using a pencil and paper for my RPGs. And why yes, I did say three campaigns. Back when the Steam version of this title, which contains Breath of Death VII for free, Zeboyd added a different story, different all female characters, new bosses, and a slightly different curve to the areas in the main game. It is called Cthulhu’s Angels, and all I have to say is that you should not play it back to back with the main game, but it is more of the same good stuff with just enough new to warrant a second playthrough. I don’t mean to be rude, but Score Attack and Highlander do not seem like they’d be notably fun for an RPG like this. Maybe and action game, but the repetition would rise either way.
But the game has certainly done one thing other than polishing Breath of Death VII, and that is expanding in every way possible. The world feels much larger, there is a lot more equipment with debatable quality, and has more dungeons to explore. But the dungeons, oh boy. Now, I am fine with a world that is big, but if it is too big for its own good, and when I start considering to draw a map for an area due to its maze-like structure and scattering of items, you probably should either lower the size, or just give me an auto forming map. This was also addressed in the commentary, and the limited number of needed encounters does make backtracking more bearable, but they just feel needlessly large.
The only excuse for this that I can think of, is that the main dup wanted it to match the very bombastic tone of the soundtrack, which inspires epic scenery. But here’s the thing, epic does not always mean big, it has to do with scope, and at times a map feels about the size of a fourth of the world. Other than that, the new battle theme from Cthulhu’s Angels, sounds more like it belongs in an Earthbound-like game, not really for fighting zombies and ogres, but the rest is very well composed, and more often than not fits. In terms of writing, it is sharper, and has just as much parody, as homage within its blood. It seems corny at times, but it is like a series of jabs that cause me to grin with delight as a god is drinking a cool foamy jug… of milk. But some of the best lines are actually very easy to forget about, since they are tied into a Chat menu, which I started to forget about near the end of the game. And considering that I entered the menu to save after nearly every battle, that could be my part, of the fact that the dialog could just appear at some point in the dungeon of the chapter.
The visuals are also improved, with what feels like a wider, or better use, of the color pallet from the prior title. But the newly included comic panel like cutscenes have a very odd art direction in terms of pixel art. While a ton of pixel art comes from manga influences, this ends up looking, just odd at times, and a bit sloppy at others. it is not bad, but I am hesitant to call it especially good pixel art. Yet, the inclusion of well designed backgrounds, emotions in the portrait boxes of characters, and just good looking enemies, makes me grant kind words to Bill Stiernberg.
As a whole, Cthulhu Saves The World has a good deal of minor issues, but none of which comes close to destroy one of the most enjoyable turn based RPGs that is not part of a franchise, that I’ve played since Radiant Historia, which also rocks by the way! If you liked Breath of Death VII, you will enjoy this, minus the annoyingly large areas, some mildly unpolished pixel art, some very essential level-up perks, and pointless characters, and you have the best game that you could buy for less than it costs to buy a decent meal. But those problems are still there, and they do detract from the experience somewhat, but the frantic fast paced and strategic battling system was nailed right on its head, the story is very enjoyable, the music simply rocks, and during gameplay, the game is as much of a throwback you can get while playing an IP that came out in 2010. Take the Dragon Quest series, pump it up until it moves as fast as it can to still include minor death animations, throw is some Cthulhu, and as much light heartedness you can get with a main character who most would consider to be the opposite of a hero, and you get this. It is a kickass title that is the only game I regret rushing through a bit too fast during a repeated playthrough. If you don’t like RPGs, you won’t like this, if you like RPGs, you have a 99% chance of liking this
An exceptional product that merely suffers from a few nagging issues that do not distract too much from this experience.