Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics Review

By Kevin Tavore, 24 days ago
World War II has been the setting for many heroic adventures throughout the years. We’ve seen countless movies from Saving Private Ryan to Captain America: The First Avenger. These tales range from realistic to fantastical, but they often feature a core group of soldiers fighting and trying to make a difference against the Nazi war machine. Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is the same. You’ll take your squad through what feels like an XCOM beta, fighting Nazis and a bunch of eldritch horrors in an effort to ultimately...yes, I said eldritch horrors. There’s always a catch, isn’t there?

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I’ve just set the tone using a few of this century’s most popular war movies, so you might be wondering how Achtung! Cthulhu compares. Not favorably, that’s for sure. You’ll go on missions with the same squadmates. There are objectives. There are characters in the chain of command giving you orders. These are all the pieces you’d expect for a solid storyline, but there simply isn’t enough meat on the bones to care. Your squadmates have literally no personality to speak of beyond how they’re dressed and what abilities they can use, which isn’t much to hang your hat on in terms of connecting with them. Sure, there are twists and turns, like the Nazi’s running dangerous experiments and generally being evil, but these are so tired and worn that at this point, a good World War II story’s going to need to be about the characters, and that just doesn’t happen.

XCOM is the gold standard in the top-down tactical shooter genre, and it’s a standard which demands comparisons for Achtung! Cthulhu. A game like XCOM tells its story through tension and the customization of your soldiers. You’ll choose their names, nationalities and a bit of their specialties, and that’s enough to drive a bit of connection. Then, each mission you’ll face the threat of the permanent death of some of your storied soldiers and that tension works to ensure you begin to deeply care about them. That is the story of XCOM, and that’s why it works narratively. Achtung! Cthulhu has nothing like that and it simply doesn’t work nowadays.

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But we don’t play turn-based tactical shooters for their deep stories. We play for the gameplay. If you can jump into a battle in Achtung! Cthulhu and have a ton of fun using deep, strategic thought, the game is an unqualified success. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen here for three reasons: (1) it’s too slow, (2) the fog of war mechanic hinders your strategy and (3) the AI is outrageously and detrimentally stupid.

It takes forever to do anything in Achtung! Cthulhu. You’ll move your squad through the map searching for enemies and it’s a painful game of click, wait, click, wait, click, wait. When you finally get into a battle, the animations are a dredge to watch. If you order your squad member to shoot, there’s an extended animation that gets tiring within two battles. If your enemies make a move, you’ll need to prepare to sit through in boredom for far too long as the AI thinks about what to do. Even the game mechanics themselves slow things down, with extremely low accuracy on both sides’ parts and a constant need to reload and use other unaggressive abilities slowing the adrenaline to combat to a drip feed. I’ll be the first to admit that if the rest of the game was more enjoyable, this would perhaps feel a bit more forgivable. But it’s not, and so the snail’s pace at which the game runs is a real issue.

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The game does feature horrific monsters, so the developers tried to capture that feeling of horror using a slightly different fog of war than you might be used to. You’ll be able to control your squad’s cone of vision and you’ll need to place enemies within that cone to identify them and attack them accurately. The thing is, this cone is smaller than your actual field of view so you need to get very close to your enemies to actually "see" them even while they fire back at you the entire time. I believe this is supposed to add some sort of horror element, as you never know if the enemy you're coming up on is a Nazi grunt or a giant monster, but let's be realistic, this game is never scary or horrific. The end result is a poor mechanic that frankly isn't fun.

The game's greatest sin is the AI. In a tactics game, great artificial intelligence is sacred. The entire genre is based on tactical play — if you can't get that, you're functionally just playing a puzzle game where you figure out the best way to do something and execute it over and over again. With a real tactics game, your enemy reacts to you and you react to them, creating unique combat scenarios that add longevity and skill to the game. Here, we've got an AI so braindead that its actions almost never make any sense whatsoever. Enemies are aggressive or fearful at seemingly random intervals, often without any tactical benefit. You can see it in the video below, where an enemy runs into my Overwatch for no reason and then another enemy uses all its movement running in circles around a squad member of mine that has just a sliver of health remaining. The only tactical challenge comes from the fact that the enemy comes in hordes so thick you'll occasionally get hit by them, leaving you to fall back and defend a choke point for the enemy to run through almost every single battle.


The achievements appear to be fairly easy. You'll need to complete the campaign along with all the bonus missions, which should be no problem at all. Along the way you'll pop achievements for killing enemies and other miscellaneous stuff. Then you'll just need to wipe up all the rest of the random achievements, which have strange descriptions and often no guides. It wouldn't be too tough if not for the fact that one of the achievements appears to be broken.

Check out our Best Xbox RPGs Available in 2017 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

The turn-based tactical shooter genre is among my favorites. Games like XCOM let you connect with a squad and challenge you in each and every battle to keep them alive against an oncoming onslaught. These games feel great when you succeed and it's all thanks to their impeccable design. At least, it is in some of them. On the other hand you have Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics. This is a game with no personality despite a can't-go-wrong premise of Nazis and monsters. This is a game with poor design, little depth and artificial intelligence so catastrophically bad that it is inexcusable. I love the genre, but I couldn't recommend this title to anyone.
1.5 / 5
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics
Positives
  • You get to kill Nazis and eldritch horror monsters
Negatives
  • You won't form any connection to the squad and the story is utterly forgettable
  • Everything in the game feels soaked in molasses
  • Fog of war mechanic is annoying and not fun
  • Enemy AI is inexcusably terrible
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent four and a half hours fighting off Nazis and a monster or two, using extremely basic tactics thanks to the design of the game. He didn't have any fun. Along the way, he unlocked 9 of 30 achievements for 195 Gamerscore. The game was played on an Xbox One X. A code for the game was provided courtesy of the publisher for this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Kevin Tavore
Written by Kevin Tavore
Kevin is a lover of all types of media, especially any type of long form story. The American equivalent of Aristotle, he'll write about anything and everything and you'll usually see him as the purveyor of news, reviews and the occasional op-ed. He's happy with any game that's not point and click or puzzling, but would always rather be outdoors in nature.