Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is a game that tells you all you need to know in the title: it’s a tactical simulator set in World War II Germany, fighting Nazis and occult forces culled from the world of H. P. Lovecraft. Play as a squad of four special fighters making their way through exceedingly hostile territory, with some of their own eldritch powers and plenty of guns. Fighting Nazis! What a strong start! If only it stayed that way.
For those who may be unfamiliar with such an unusual pairing, Achtung! originated as a tabletop RPG, but the creators say the video game version will fill out more about the original game, not act as a “side quest.” In fact, it’s suggested that new players dive into the new video game first. There are eleven books in the original Achtung! Cthulhu role-playing series, along with card games, graphic novels, and audio books; this is clearly a successful series. Which, of course, makes it unfortunate that it doesn’t translate well into its new medium.
While the UI is well done and skill trees and loadout screens make a lot of sense, the music is repetitive and the visuals are bland. Actually, bland is how you could describe most of the game. While the tutorial level has a few interactive tiles in which to find notes about the state of the battle, the regular stages have about one interactive tile each, and any incentive to explore is taken away by the constant fighting. Walk ten yards from the end of your last battle, and find yourself suddenly in another round of combat.
I have a lot of complaints about the combat. For one, it’s too slow, and doesn’t allow you to switch characters while moving one to a new position, which makes everything feel about five seconds too long, removing the delicious feeling of multitasking that I’m used to from other games. AI difficulty is laughable, although the difficulty jumps wildly depending on how many combatants they throw at you. During the tutorial, you are introduced to the Stress mechanic, which… does something? It goes up when one of your people is shot or incapacitated; what it does once it reaches critical levels wasn’t clear; I was just told by the tutorial to watch out for it.
My biggest issue with the gameplay was the inability to position characters behind cover before combat began. This is probably a result of the shrouding system that keeps you from seeing too far ahead of yourself in the map, which not only hampers the previously mentioned combat, but further makes exploration tedious and not worth your time. The only way to move is point-and-click, and you must manually switch soldiers during your turn once their AP runs out.
There were a few positives to Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics; several of your playable characters of people of color, and one is a woman from the French Resistance. It’s a diverse cast, and I’ll give it points for that as well as the Action Point system, which gives you 12 AP at the beginning of every round. This is often more than enough to get done what you want to, and the added Momentum mechanic allows you to perform even more attacks and abilities as combat progresses.
Despite promising an intriguing mix of Lovecraftian horror with Nazi destruction there’s really nothing in Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics to hook me, to keep me playing. The combat is repetitive and too frequent, the story (!) nearly nonexistent, and I frankly don’t believe the game deserves the word Cthulhu in its title. If you’re looking for another generic tactics game, this is it! But if you want something with more substance, I would open your wallet for something else.