For every unoriginal bone in its body, it’s hard not have to give ACHTUNG! CTHULU TACTICS at least some credit. There aren’t that many pieces of media out there combining Lovecraftian horror with the Third Reich. Sure, there are plenty of great games with occult Nazis, like the underrated 2009 Wolfenstein and other weird Lovecraft titles, like 10tons‘ Tesla vs Lovecraft. As far as I recall, this is the first meeting between these two common video game foes. The fact that this might also be the most notable thing about Auroch Digital’s turn-based strategy game is a real shame indeed.
You play as a troop of four soldiers taken from the secret paranormal divisions of the U.S. and U.K. armed forces. Opposite you is the secret paranormal division of the Nazis. You’ll tactically march across forests and German bases tearing through their ranks to stop them from summoning dark forces. Or something to that effect. The story is all relayed via pre-level voiceover and in-game text blurbs between battles, and it’s not the easiest thing to put together. If anything stood out at all, it might be more memorable, but there’s just not much to any of it.
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics Review | Press end turn to continue
Regrettably, this sentiment also applies to gameplay. Missions play out like stages in an arcade brawler. Placed in generic locales, your team trudges along until you find another group of enemies to wallop. There’s no momentum to any of it, and the only source of tension is the rare enemy bullet that lands its target. Most battles consisted of me charging enemies while they ran away to their own detriment. Even on higher difficulties, the foes were more Hogan’s Heroes than Band of Brothers.
At least there were a few gameplay tricks that were unexpected. Cthulhu Tactics characters move and attack using a novel points system. Traveling a certain number of squares costs a certain number of points, as do each attack and ability you use. So, if you plan things right, you can have all four of your soldiers moving and attacking all in a single turn. It’s quite satisfying to pull off, especially on the rare occasions when the AI is firing on all cylinders.
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics Review | Tactical errors
Even in these best-case scenarios, Cthulhu Tactics has some rather unfortunate tendencies. It’s got a bad case of “Look at all that juice!” syndrome, otherwise known as repetitive voice lines that will drive you insane. Each character has a single voice line for common actions and the game seems determined to play those lines at every possible occasion. You’ll probably hear “Next time Charlie! Next time!” approximately 50 times before you make it out of the second level.
Of course, reviewing on Switch, sound issues aren’t too much of a bother. You’ll want to be out and about while slaying the paranormal Nazis. However, it’s here where Cthulhu Tactics is ultimately at its worst, at least on this platform. It seems that no one in the porting process accounted for the Switch’s smaller screen in portable mode. The tiny text and small menus and controls read worse than games transitioning into HD at the dawn of the Xbox 360. It’s downright unplayable, as you need to keep track of plenty of status effects and new abilities throughout the campaign
Despite the unreadable text, at least Cthulhu Tactics runs fine no matter what mode you’re using on Switch. Unfortunately, this is due to a rather drab and unimpressive presentation rather than any technical wizardry. On a big TV, Cthulhu Tactics looks like an early PS2 game, even if it doesn’t play like one. The controls work well enough on a Pro Controller, especially considering how many actions you’re taking on the battlefield. Still, between the constant character chirps and the drab visuals, it was hard to get through level after level of standard tactics.
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics Review | Down into the depths
The game also seemingly betrays at least one important word in its title. Early on in Achtung!, the lack of Lovecraft was a lot lower than what was initially promised. You’d think a game with Cthulhu in the title would have at least a few creatures mixed into the rank and file Nazi soldiers. It turns out that, outside of the occasional Shoggoth, you’ll be fighting nothing but Nazis. Even if they do have some fancy otherworldy weaponry, it’s the perfect last straw to break the Deep One’s back.
At the end of the day, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is perfectly functional. If you’ve got a solid chunk of free time and any interest in the subject matter, this game will fit the bill. However, the little issues stack up so high that it’s hard to really recommend playing this over any other game in the genre. Especially on Switch, where the portable mode is beyond broken. If you were hoping to have a fun time on the go with some Nazi tactics, I just have one phrase for you: Next time Charlie. Next time.
GameRevolution reviewed Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher.