Lovecraft’s Untold Stories
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H.P Lovecraft. A man who drew inspiration from the likes of Edgar Allen Poe and World War One to craft all manner of horror stories that focused on fearing the unknown instead of traditional ghosts and ghouls. His influences have left a lasting impression for close to a century, applying his stories with scientific elements added a sense of plausibility that ratted the minds of many an avid reader. Chances are you have seen inspirations and references to his work in all manner of entertainment from The Thing (inspired by The Mountains of Madness) all the way through the Bloodborne.
So, what better setting to stage a survival RPG roguelike than this twisted and dark world full of mind-bending lore and insanity-inducing terror. LLC Blini Games have done just that with their intelligently designed yet punishingly executed title Lovecraft’s Untold Stories. Providing five characters to play as each with their own combat styles, you must traverse a range of worlds with procedurally generated layouts filled with all manner of malevolent monsters and bosses inspired by the spine-chilling tales of Lovecraft’s works. You will collect information on your journey which will be required to face down the five old ones, you must have sufficient knowledge on each one lest you go insane from merely being in their presence.
Taking a nod from the tried and tested Metroidvania style, uncovering the full map and layout of an area will be key to finding your way around. Each room is highlighted once you enter but thankfully you can find and use a handy amulet that will reveal the full map at any time making it easier to plan tactics and backtracking if you are to rinse each area for every piece of loot and information it has to offer.
Revealing the map also aids in gaining a heads up on where enemies may be lurking including the boss chamber, lest you repeatedly stroll into a room to be prison showered by a Davy Jones look alike! With a touch of the R button, the map will pop up highlighted with various symbols representing enemies, points of interest, loot chests and so on. Gaining information isn’t as easy as it seems, you will often find yourself investigating relics, experiments and notebooks, each contain well-written lore to build up the world. Gaining information can come with a price as certain relics may present you with choices or mind-boggling riddles and it’s the answers you give or choices you make that can gain knowledge at the expense of your sanity. If the insanity meter fills too much you die. There are ways of keeping this in check, certain items and lore will help calm you down, finding a safe place, eating chocolate (good old professor Lupin) or even petting a friendly white cat will calm the nerves. Managing this aspect is just as important as managing your physical health bar as once you die, you must restart the level losing all items and progress so far.
Combat takes the form of a twin-stick shooter, left stick to move and the right stick to fire in the desired direction. Each character has their own combat style, the Detective, for example, uses traditional firearms from shotguns to rifles with a selection of explosives to throw and a dodge roll to use defensively, whereas the scientist uses an array of experimental weapons, traps and shields respectively. General ammo is infinite though projectiles and explosives must be collected and managed. Sadly, the combat is where this title starts to fall apart like the minds of its protagonists. The premise is fine, you can equip amulets and items that provide a selection of benefits from reduced elemental damage to sanity preservation as well as a selection of health items to the quick bar to be used with directional buttons. Using health packs is just one aspect of surviving combat, if you suffer a heavy cut you may suffer bleeding damage where you will need to apply a bandage, acid damage will need ointment and so on with fire damage, poisoning and the like.
Numerous times I found myself entering a room to be completely overwhelmed with a range of enemies that inflicted several elemental effects as well as physical poundings causing me to die before I could even register what I was suffering from let alone have time to activate the right cure. This became extremely tedious and frustrating to the point where it couldn’t possibly be done by design, feeling more like poorly balanced combat that was trying to do too much at once resulted in rinse and repeat sessions that took the joy out of the combat experience, hitting buttons and hoping for the best is just sloppy for a title that has put so much hard work into every other area.
As I unlocked different characters through multiple play attempts I was impressed with how different the combat was for each one as well as the layout of the level designs. Having multiple characters on the go allows you to share collected loot and resources which was a nice touch and I did enjoy checking in on the board to see the percentage of knowledge gained for each old one increase over time. Item management plays a large part particularly with collecting keys. Various styles from bronze, silver, iron, gold, blood etc all have corresponding treasure chests scattered throughout the worlds and provide the best pay-out of resources. These keys use to take up valuable item space, but a recent patch added a separate slot for each key allowing a wider range of items to be carried.
The recent patch also added more detail to the levels such as foliage, wildlife and enemy types which were great to see and shows that the developers are continuing to support the title and clearly taking on feedback. The score provided is based on the experience we had with the game in its current state but we will continue to spend time with this title and update you to any more changes and improvements made.
There is plenty to enjoy in Lovecraft’s Untold Stories, even with the sprite-like graphics LLC Blini Games have created levels oozing with atmosphere and personality, library’s illuminate eerily with moonlight and candlelight, rainy cemeteries with cracked cobblestones and decaying coffins reek of foreboding, jungles seep with sinister danger, mines twinkle with terror and I’m running out of rhyming words but let’s just say its bloody impressive to see. Music is creepy and eerie, the opening level of the detective’s story had a goosebump-raising piano vibe reminiscent of 1998’s Resident Evil.
Story and lore have been very well implemented and if you have any source material it might be worth having it on hand to keep up with the number of references the development team has crafted into the story. Though a lack of direction made the experience a bit jarring to begin with, the lore is what kept me pushing forward though this will be a make or break depending on your feelings towards the source material. Combat, as I mentioned, has been the downfall, though a good idea on paper, leaving too much up to chance with wild flinch shooting while looking like Johnny Bravo striking a pose takes away the methodical tones from the rest of the title, at least for this reviewers taste.
TBG Score: 6.5/10
Platform: Steam, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: 10/05/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: RPG Rogue-Like
Developer: LLC Blini Games
Publisher: BLG Publishing
Download link: eShop