Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics Review

The link between Hitler’s nazi regime and the occult is a widely documented premise, although it bares no historical importance or altered the conditions of the Second World War in any way. Yes, Hitler himself had a deep fascination with the dark powers, but he in no way tried to devise a scheme to enrich his armies with the power of the dark arts, making it’s story nothing more than a myth. However, this is a concept that is explored in Auroch Digital’s Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics as it creeps a release onto the Nintendo Switch.

Primarily a turn-based tactical, strategy game, this title adds a few extra elements into the gameplay with a Second World War setting that is accompanied by the horror of H. P. Lovecraft. Loosely based on the tabeltop board game from Modiphius Entertainment, the plot of this title follows a team of specialist allied forces who are tasked with tracking down the occult divisions of the Nachtwolfe and Black Sun organisations; two nazi units that are researching the powers of the occult for their own use. The story begins after the allied landings of D-Day and the disappearance of a recon unit in the dark forests where the specialist nazi units reside.

Following an ambush, you are sent in to aid the survivors and continue the mission that went so badly wrong. However, to add a twist to the proceedings, yourself and the enemy units possess a ragne of mystical powers that leads to a battle of the dark arts, as well as a more conventional style of combat. Similar to games such as X-Com and Divinity, the game is viewed from an isometric perspective that requires you to move units within a movement grid and engage any enemies that may be discovered or come your way. Each of the maps are covered by the fog of war and can only be broken up by the line of sight, or cone of vision that each of your units possess. Any enemy movements in the distance can be seen, but only as shrouded figures; adding further to the tones of horror that run through this game.

There’s a huge emphasis on tactical and strategic placement, with the need to scan the layout of the land ahead of you, but also maintaining a degree a cover so as not to get caught out by unseen enemies or patrols who may stumble across you. In terms of turn-based strategy games, it follows a similar premise to other titles before it. In fact, its style of play follows a generic pattern without too many complications; making this an ideal entry point for people interested in taking on the genre. What the game does bring though, are some meta-features that involve stress, critical hits and supernatural powers, beings and weapons to add some variety to the foray.

Looking after your team is important; providing cover and ensuring that points are covered. Find yourself under fire or a witness to too many horrors, then stress begins to set in, making your units less effective. However, find that sweet spot in defensive and offensive movements and actions, then you can utilise a series of special powers and upgrades to help even up the playing field. The whole atmospheric feeling of the horrors that wait, as well as the uncomfortability of claustrophobia and the daunting premise of the unknown has been captured beautifully here; both in terms of emotive values and graphical presentations.

Saying that though, the game starts off distinctly bleak in its level designs and aesthetical approaches. However, with a variety of locales over its eleven or so missions, this is a premise that soon picks up as you delve deeper into the game and begin to power up your units and reveal supernatural powers. The majority of the game’s elements, from combat to strategy and character models to eeriness are nicely done here, producing a game that is fun to play, even exciting at times, despite its generic layout within the turn-based genre of gaming.

If there are any areas of the game that feel a bit lacklustre, then it would be the pacing of the adventure. Although the narrative that pushes the story along is an interesting tale, the segments of exploration through the level designs can produce long moments of not a lot happening at all. However, it can also add to the suspense at times, as you never know what may lie ahead or reveal themselves just around the corner. Despite the tedious nature of some its early levels, the game does pick up as you progress, so it’s most definitely a title worth sticking with if its early levels don’t inspire you that much.

A looseness of the control scheme, especially in movement and maintaining a field of view, can also feel a little off at times too. Cursor movements, in selecting grid spaces, can feel a little wayward, while positioning your vision cone can often feel like an uphill struggle. These features don’t necessarily break the game, but they can be a little frustrating at times; especially when your sight range moves at the last moment and enemy units stumble upon you without you seeing them first. There are some nuances here, but nothing that ruins the enjoyment of the game as a whole.

Overall, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is a solid turn-based, strategy game that adds a few nice elements to help keep things different within its genre. Saying that though, in terms of technicality or depth, then there is a generic blueprint here that sticks safely to what has been done before. However, because of this, the game is a great entry point for wannabe tacticians. Despite the dangers that lie ahead, the game largely feels safe and you rarely feel underpowered in your pursuit of the nazi occult followers. It’s also a game that takes a little while to warm up and get going, but once you begin to unlock everything that the game has to offer, its ten hour or so journey soon becomes a fulfilling experience; especially with its superb capturing of an eerie and foreboding premise of dealing with the unknown. Whether you’re a seasoned pro at turn-based games or a newbie to the genre, then there is a lot here to appreciate, making this a game that comes very highly recommended; even more so if you’re a lovecraftian fan.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics Review
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  • Graphics - 8/10
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  • Sound - 8/10
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  • Replay Value - 8/10
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Summary

The Second World War and Lovecraftian horror collide to produce a compelling turn-based strategy game, despite its generic formula.