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Video Game / Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land

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Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land is a Turn-Based Tactics Indie Game with RPG Elements, released on January 30th, 2012 for the iOS and Android, and then on Microsoft Windows PCs on May 5th, 2012. The game has been developed and published by Red Wasp Design with the collaboration of Chaosium, hence it is part of the Call of Cthulhu license.

The game is set in 1915 during World War I, on the Western Front. It follows a squad of six British soldiers and investigators sent behind German lines by the MI-47, a shadowy British Intelligence agency, in order to put an end to a German plan involving dark magics to turn the tide of the war. Soon after the beginning of the mission, they begin to encounter undead abominations and unspeakable monsters...

The starting party members note  are the following:

  • Captain Hill: A British officer
  • Sid "Sapper" Brown: A British soldier serving under Captain Hill
  • Professor Brightmeer: An American scientist and occultist
  • Carlton Green: Brightmeer's bodyguard
  • Emma Gold: Psychiatrist formed by Sigmund Freud
  • A generic randomly named British soldier

Some eventually lose their Hero Must Survive status the further you go in the campaign. They can be replaced by other generic British soldiers hired between levels.

The game is turned-based, with an action points system (each character has his own action points amount which is drained by each action; moving spends less points than fighting; when it is too low, he can't do anything until the next turn). The map is divided in squares (each character fits in one square). Among the RPG elements, each characters has a sanity meter, which is slowly drained when meeting monsters or casting spells; running out of SAN has interesting effects (although it can be regain onf the field).

In the end of 2012, Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land received a DLC Expansion Pack named Kaul's Diary, which is a prequel of the game during which you play as Kaul and his German cultists.

Here is a link to the official website of the game, which also include World War One and Lovecraft-themed articles, articles about the game's creation, some tactical advices, and a walkthrough of the initial campaign.

For more tropes about the settings, see also Cthulhu Mythos, Call of Cthulhu, and World War I. The game is not supposed to be a Crossover between Cthulhu Mythos and T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land.

Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land provides examples of the following tropes:

  • All Psychology Is Freudian:
    • Gold, the therapist of the party, was a student of Sigmund Freud.
    • Regaining Sanity requires a skill named "Psychoanalysis", which requires to use either Interpretation of Dreams or Studies in Hysteria, two books written by Freud.
  • Anyone Can Die: Starting party members lose their Hero Must Survive status while the plot progresses, although it is actually possible to finish the campaign without losing any of them.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit : No more than six party members.
  • Arbitrary Gun Power: For some reason, shooting with the Mauser C96 requires more Action Points than with the Webley, despite them being respectively a semi-automatic pistol and a revolver.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Enemies are usually hurt by mustard gas filled area, but it doesn't prevent the AI to send them through those areas (they even can kill themselves this way). Placing your soldiers in order to lure enemies through gas filled areas is actually a valid strategy.
  • Bayonet Ya: Subverted. The weapon is described as such but is used by hand and not on the tip of a rifle. It is the weakest mêlée weapon of the game.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Each firearm has unlimited ammunition with no magazines at all.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Each time the mission involves a timed objective, the dialogs (in-character) will refer to this as "x turns" instead of using more usual time units.
  • Carry a Big Stick: The Trench Club, a mêlée weapon which is basically an improvised modern version of a spiked mace. Such weapon really existed during the era.
  • Choice of Two Weapons: Each character can carry two weapons in the same time, in any combination of firearms, mêlée weapons, offensive spells, or homing pigeons.
  • Cosmetic Award: The Steam version of the game includes a whole load of achievements, including a series of achievements for finishing each mission (one achievement for each mission), another series for finishing each mission with a minimum score, one for finishing the whole campaign in the hard difficulty mode, one for finishing the campaign without losing any Investigator, etc, one for killing 25 Reanimates, etc.
  • Dark World: Hill's nightmares sequences seem to be set in a dark world variant of the front.
  • Death from Above: You can send a homing pigeon to request an artillery strike on a portion of the field. The strike is instantly triggered but you must wait four turnsnote  for the pigeon to come back and be able to request another.
  • Dieselpunk: Kaul's machines have this kind of look.
  • Easy Communication: When you request an artillery strike with an homing pigeon, the area is bombed in the very same turn in which you requested the strike, which means that the pigeon reached British lines in a few seconds (the bird actually requires to wait four turns to come back). It is justified, as having to anticipate the enemies' moves in order to request a strike which is deliver one or two turns later would make the artillery nearly useless.
  • Evil Is Visceral: The landscape of the two last levels is basically World War One classic Scenery Gorn mixed with organic growths and tentacles invading the soil.
  • Evil Only Has to Win Once: In the ending:
    Those who stand against the dark mirror of evil are trapped in an eternal conflict. Because, for the cultists, they only have to succeed once. But for the defenders of humanity, we have to prevail every single time.
  • Extra Turn: The Vitality Dose items boost the action points of the unit who benefit from them, individually granting him the equivalent of a free turn. Also, suffering from mania after losing too much Sanity has a similar effect.
  • Foreshadowing: Some mission dialogs are clues about later gameplay
    • After meeting Kaul and escaping his trap in the catacombs beneath a church, Brightmeer says that the enemy's plan is now running and that "the clock is ticking" (paraphrased). The next level is a Timed Mission, though the In-Universe justification is different (the team just emerged from the ground in the middle of a town about to be bombed by the British army).
    • Gold uses the same phrase late in the campaign, also before starting a Timed Mission.
    • Before the end of the mission which is followed by his second nightmare level, Hill states that he would need some psychoanalysis at this point. Using the related skill on him gives him an appreciable boost in his Sanity cap, which makes the next level easier.
  • Friendly Fire Proof: Party members are unable to attack each other, as using any aid item on a party member is technically the same action as attacking an enemy (right click on the target). Also, they can shoot through their comrades without being injured and can't be hurt by your artillery strikes.
  • From Bad to Worse: After being trapped by Kaul in catacombs filled with gas and monsters, the Investigators manage to escape through a secret door... and emerge in the middle of a ruined city occupied by cultists and lovecraftian monsters. Oh, and the place is about to be bombed by the British artillery.
  • Geo Effects: Bomb craters and trenches offer cover, muddy ground slows down moving units.
  • Ghost Town: Some levels are set in half destroyed deserted towns.
  • Gratuitous German: "Docktor (sic) Kaul". The proper spelling would be "Doktor".
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Among the playable characters, only the randomly created British soldier is shown with an helmet in his ingame representation. Brown, Green, and Gold are all bareheaded, Hill wears a British army officer cap, and Brightmeer wears a turban. In term of gameplay, though, any of them can equip any headgear in their inventory.
  • Heroic BSoD/Heroic RRoD: Respectively consequences of paralysis and mania. See Sanity Meter below.
    • Healing a manic party member's Sanity avoid the Heroic RRoD.
  • Hero Must Survive: Part of the objectives in each mission. The further you get into the campaign, the less starting party members are required to survive (until the last ones, in which the five named characters must survive). The accepted loss can be filled with new British soldiers hired between missions.
  • Heal Thyself: Subverted. Healing items (First Aid Kits and healing spells) can only be used to heal/reanimate another party member.
    • There is a more straight occurrence of the trope. Standing on the squares next to a Medical Station automatically heals the wounded party member after each turn.
  • Hold the Line: Mission objectives occasionally require to survive for a number of turns against waves of Germans or Mythos monsters. A variant requires to protect either Brightmeer or Gold (or both) while they are examining something.
  • Improvised Armour: The Tank Helmet, which include scale mails hanging in front of the face for more protection. Such headgears really existed.
  • Informed Equipment: Helmets, gasmasks, and body armours aren't shown ingame on the characters. It can be confusing at the beginning of the game, as Captain Hill, Sid "Sapper" Brown and the generic British soldier (two of the playable characters you begin the game with) both starts the campaign while equiped with a Brodie helmet, but Sid Brown's ingame unit is always bareheaded, Captain Hill wears an officer cap, while the generic British soldier is always shown with such a headgear. And the whole team isn't shown wearing gasmaks. The Heavily Armored Mooks have gasmasks as part of their appearance and inventory, but Cultists doesn't seem to have one, even when it is part of their inventory.
  • Instant Expert: Downplayed with spells. There efficiency is linked to the Cthulhu Mythos skill and the Power stat, but casting them only requires to have them in an inventory slot, and they can be swapped between characters like the other items.
  • Instant-Win Condition: The campaign is instantly won when you deal the final blow to the final boss. Even if your units are badly wounded, manic, or paralyzed, while other monsters are still around you and would probably kill your whole team in the next turn.
  • Interface Spoiler: A pretty minor one. In the mission objectives screen, the games displays the current objective and the one which has been completed before (in gray letters). The spoiler is that the objective goes with a mention like "1/3" (depending on where you are in the mission and the number of different objectives in the game).
    • It spoils that there would be another boss fight after Kaul's death, has killing him was the 1/3 of the final mission.
  • Loading Screen: They show a Cthulhu-like drawing with some text. If the loading screen introduces to a new mission you just unlocked in the campaign, it gives the mission's name and an excerpt of Hill's diary. If you just restarted the mission or loaded a saved game, it will just be a random line like "still struggling against the insanity", followed by a random H. P. Lovecraft quote.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Swapping items between two Investigators is a free action (of course, they need to stand on contiguous tiles). With enough careful micromanagement, you can move this way your full team through mustard gas clouds with only two gasmasks, as wearing-removing it is a free action two and standing in gas unprotected only inflicts damages when moving or at the end of a turn.
    • The game allows to swap item with a dying Investigator. So, it isn't an issue if the only guy carrying First Aid Kits is lying in a pool of his own blood, as he can be revived by another party member after giving him the medical stuff.
    • Whether those examples are actual Loophole Abuses in spirit is debatable, as both appear on the game official website on a page dedicated to strategies and tactics.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Shoot and kill Flying Polyps and Dark Youngs with World War One era weaponry, hack them to pieces with shovels or bayonets, and eventually blast a Star-Spawn (basically a smaller Cthulhu) with rifles designed for elephant hunting.
    • With enough luck (having your Lightning Bruiser in manic state while the final boss is close enough and already damaged), it is possible to kill the Star-Spawn with mêlée attacks.
  • Made of Iron: Any unprotected units (enemies and squad members) can move through mustard gas clouds without suffering more than losing easily regained hit points. In Real Life, it would have inflicted very severe burns (and not fully curable) to the skin, the eyes, and the lungs.
  • Mucking in the Mud: There are occasional muddy patches on the ground. Crossing them requires more action points than walking on solid ground, simulating slower movement.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked/No Canon for the Wicked: Both are averted. The German cultists are playable in Kaul's Diary. Its events are canonical since it's a prequel.
  • Non-Entity General: Averted.
    • There are clues that Hill is supposed to be the player. Loading screens when starting a level for the first time are quotes from his diary. There is a special short level which takes place in a nightmare he is currently making. Hill is forcibly selected at the beginning of a new turn.
    • In Kaul's Diary, the player is Kaul.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: "Wait for it..." variant. There's a mission which requires to cross a deserted and half destroyed village, while a British artillery strike on the area is imminent. There are occasional cultists and monsters which appear in the area through scripted events, but not much. Making your team slowly progress in the ruins in order to reach the other side before using a specific number of turns, without knowing when the next Eldritch Abomination's ambush will pop and if you'll have enough time left then is quite stressful.
  • Notice This: Mission objectives usually requires to move the team (or a specific member) to a specific area of the current level, indicated by a red square on the ground.
  • One-Hit Polykill: Can happen with the Lancaster (the most powerful handgun), which bullets hit several targets if they are standing in a row.
  • Prequel: The Kaul's Diary DLC campaign.
  • Public Domain Character: The World War One arc of Herbert West, Reanimator plays an important role in the game's backstory, including explicit mentions of the character.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The trailer begins with the chorus of "It's A Long Way To Tipperary", a song from this era which was very famous in British ranks. The main menu's theme is a loop of this chorus; both version are accompanied by some subtle creepy sound effects in background. The ending credits are also set to this chorus, but without the creepy sound effects.
    • The game's official soundtrack included a cover of the full song.
  • Recurring Location: The identical area in which both Hill's nightmares happen.
  • Remixed Level: The town of Saint Chernay is one level in both the original campaign and Kaul's Diary. In the latter, it is actually the setting of the first mission, which this time requires to clean it from Britisn presence.
  • RPG Elements: The game is inspired by the Call of Cthulhu rules. Each playable character has several stats (hitpoints, strength, dexterity, intelligence, willpower, etc) and various skills. When completing each level, you gain an amount of experience points stored in a pool common for the whole team. Stats and skills can be freely upgraded by spending experience points. Also, using weapons during actual missions sometimes increase the skill related to the relevant weapon by one point.
  • Sanity Meter: Each character has is own meter, which is drained when casting spells or facing lovecraftian abominations. When it reaches 0, the characters either suffers from paralysis (can't do anything at all during one turn) or mania (receives a huge action points boosts, but collapses at the end of the turn and must be healed). Sanity is refilled after the end of paralysis/mania, with the use of the Psychoanalysis skill on the field, or at the end of a mission.
  • Save Scumming: The game is automatically saved when leaving the game, at the opening of a level, after completion of any mission objective, and after the end of the AI turns. It is impossible to manually save the game and go back to a previous turn, but reloading several times from the beginning of the turn allows to force chance and hope that, this time, the Random Number God will allow your attack to hit this monster.
  • Scenery Gorn: Trenches, no-man-land filled with bomb craters, ruined towns... It is a game set in World War One Western Front, so this trope is definitively expected.
    • The end of the game is set in an even more nightmarish version of the battlefield, not only with trenches, barbed wires, gas clouds, and craters, but the area seems somewhat bathed in a subtle unnatural light, craters harbours clean skeletons stripped to the bones lying in reddish water, and the grounds seems partly organic at some places.
  • Shed Armor, Gain Speed: The heavier the armour piece is, the more it gives a penalty to the amount of action points (to the speed of attack and moving). Not suffering from any penalty at all would require to wear the lightest helmet (a leather piece looking like an old aviator headgear from the beginning of the 20th century) and no chestpiece at all. It is only possible to remove armour in the merchant screen between levels, though.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Played totally straight. Shotguns are devastating at mêlée fighting range but lose most of their damage and accuracy if shot from further than this.
  • Shovel Strike: The Sharp Shovel is the strongest mêlée weapon of the game.
  • Shout-Out: The third mission ("A Handful of Dust") take its title from a line of The Waste Land.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Some seemingly weird and unrealistic inventory items of the game (Elephant Guns, Trench Clubs, Tank Helmets, Sharp Shovels as weapons) are actually Truth in Television.
    • Why does Hill start the campaign equipped with a Mauser C96 instead of the standard officer's Webley revolver? Not just for balance reasons (the Webley been ingame more powerful and less action points consuming than the Mauser C96), as a number of British officers personnally owned Mauser C96 bought before the war and used them in the conflict.
    • The official website of the game shows the developers put great effort in documentation about the era.
    • On the other hand, some levels include mustard gas as a gameplay element. The game is set in 1915, gas were already used but the infamous mustard gas was first used in 1917.
  • Skill Scores and Perks: Skill scores, with a skill cap of 99, through points earned at the completion of each level. Fighting skills also level a bit when used.
  • Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke: Artillery strikes. They deal enough damages to kill unarmored enemies in one hit, but the area of damage is quite tiny (a couple of squares around the target), and the enemies are able to dodge the shell's blast despite the animation actually shoqing the shells falling right next to the target.
  • Spiritual Sequel: According to a developer:
    "When we started out, we were aiming for something in the style of Fire Emblem or Advance Wars, but it's evolved into something more like X-COM as we've gone on. The closest parallel is probably with an old PC game called Incubation, which was more storyline-based than X-Com."
  • Take Cover!: Standing in trenches and bomb craters provides some protection against attacks. In the last mission, the deep summoning circle has the same effect to the creatures emerging from it.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The Elephant Gun, most powerful rifle of the game. It is a weapon intended for elephant hunting...
  • Timed Mission:
    • One level gives the player 35 turns to make Hill and Brown reach the exit of a German-occupied town, as a British bombing is about to begin.
    • The penultimate requires to cross a scorched and surreal no man's land and reach the exit in 25 turns, as Kaul is about to summon an abomination which would serve as a "general" for his monstruous army.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore:
    • In the inventory, spells are represented with a book (the spell being represented by an occult symbol drawn next to the book). When an offensive spell is equiped, we see the party member wielding a book in his right hand.
    • There is an implicit allusion to the Necronomicon in a dialog near the end of the campaign.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer shows the Leng Spiders, the Dark Youngs (which only appears in the middle of the campaign), magic as a weapon, and the human-Star Spawn hybrids.
  • Turn-Based Tactics: With an Action Points system.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: You are not required to keep your whole starting team alive (as some party members cease to be part of a Hero Must Survive mission objective while the plot goes on), but it's still heartwarming to keep them and make them progress further. There's actually a Steam achievement for finishing the campaign without losing any of the main investigators.
    • Averted in Kaul's Diary, in which you only manage Kaul's stats and inventory, the other player-controlled unit being expendable. Considering this is precisely how Kaul operates when he's commanding the AI in the main game, this isn't surprising.
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential: Luring enemies through mustard gas clouds, hacking them with shovels or mauling them with spiked clubs.
    • Callously expending those under you, which is the intended and canonical strategy Kaul uses.
  • War Is Hell
  • Weird Historical War: The Great War mixed with Cthulhu Mythos.
  • World War I: The setting of the game.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: No matter how good and fast you succeed in reaching Kaul's summoning circle during the last mission, he'll still succeed to summon a Star Spawn of Cthulhu, which is the final boss of the game, at the exact moment Brightmeer reaches the circle in order to stop the summoning. Even if you killed Kaul several turns before.