by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
It seems like the word Cthulhu is on everyone's lips at the moment, with Call of Cthulhu just released, you wouldn’t be blamed for having missed the slightly lower flying Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics. Just like Call of Cthulhu, it is also based on a horror roleplay tabletop game of the same name, and runs with the trend of turn-based isometric tactics games that we’ve seen a reprisal of in recent years. As the title might imply, Achtung! borrows from the classic combo of Nazi’s and the occult. During the closing days of WW2, you play as a party of Allied occult-intelligence operatives, sent to a dark corner of the Ardennes forest. Here you must investigate and stop whatever mysterious and dark dealings that the Nazi’s are undertaking.
I was initially impressed by the tabletop aesthetic that Achtung! manages to conjure. Not everyone likes it, but when it’s done well I think the model-like characters and artificial-esque scenery can be good. I also appreciate the soundtrack and general WW2 aesthetic, such as the music that plays on the character and skill screen. It occurs to me, having recently reviewed Strange Brigade, how Achtung! holds a lot in common with that game. It was initially a criticism of Strange Brigade that the characters are all sound-bytes, who say little of value or who are basically just stereotypes. But Achtung! goes too far in the opposite direction.
The characters say occasional little lines in dialogue, but they have no camaraderie, they don’t joke between missions, or chat to each other about their situation. As an example, in the first mission I was sent to find Sgt Carter and Cpt. Badger, and when the characters met up with mine, none of them said anything, or even acknowledged the event. This is a chapter by chapter journey through a scenario, a role-playing scenario, and a significant part of role-play is character and opportunity for characters to express themselves. But this component is missing from Achtung!
However, one thing to be said for Acthung! is that the combat is fairly strong. The shroud, a Lovecraftian fog which strengthens and conceals enemies, couples well with those enemies attempts to draw you back into it. The momentum metre is also good, a bar which allows you to perform extra attacks, move further and use overwatch. Overwatch is probably the most significant initial mechanic in combat, allowing you to cover enemies and necessitating your careful avoidance of enemies doing the same to you. The fact you have to reload your guns also adds an extra tactical component.
I did find the accuracy to be a little silly at points, when my character somehow managed to miss three times at point blank range, but I suppose this is always a risk with chance based accuracy. But apart from these, after the first few levels, I could already see some repetitiveness, and the enemies’ tendency to always favour retreat does get a little annoying in terms of unnecessarily prolonging combat engagements. There is also a choice of weapons and a skill tree for each character allowing you to gear them more towards melee or ranged attacks and other stats.
LACKING IN NARRATIVE
I think it’s fair to say that what Achtung! does, it does fairly well, the Lovecraftian combat mechanics take centre-stage and do add some interest to the fights. But a lot of it feels quite empty without the character dialogue. The story is only really described by the narrator in the loading screen before each mission and the characters don’t engage with each other at all. Role-playing games are based upon the strength of their characters, but they just aren’t present in Acthung! or are at least only present in the form of physical characters. I think Achtung! will probably bring you some slight joy if you are both a fan of Lovecraft and Isometric tactics games, but it’s hard to feel it fulfils the original IP when it’s so lacking in narrative.
Good isometric combat system, effective Lovecraftian mechanics
Next to no character development, slightly repetitive