It seems more games are coming out that are inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. I think within a year’s time I have played three total. The last one I tried out was Conarium. There is always the theme of a person sinking deeper into madness. Horror is blended with light science fiction. With a handful of characters to unlock, you must seek out and hunt difficult monsters while trying to stay sane. In Lovecraft’s Untold Stories, each level is a maze with plenty of dangers in almost every room. Traps, monsters, and curses seem unavoidable. The game relies heavily on combat and using items to stay alive. The levels are the same, but randomly generated each time you start it. Death is going to happen frequently. There is a “base” of operations you will eventually find, and here you can stock items for different attempts at running through the Hell that awaits you. It’s not easy and you will have your patience tested.
Here’s what I liked:
Insane in the Brain — Of course I have to mention the madness, being an H.P. Lovecraft inspired story. There are set choices you make when finding relics or extremely strange things. When you stumble upon them, you are given a choice on how to interact with it. If you choose the wrong option, you will start to become mad. Luckily you can eat chocolate or choose the right choice somewhere else to gain your sanity back. The meter is terrible, but I liked everything else about it. Should you just skip these to be safe? You could if you wanted to, but the reward is usually information which is a currency. With the risk of your sanity, you can actually help your character by being able to purchase items with your knowledge. It’s really all about balance and knowing when to take the chance. I’m crazy about this game mechanic!
If You’re a Fan — There seems to be quite a cult following (pun intended) for H.P. Lovecraft stories. It’s sort of like its own genre. It’s horror, but at the same time it’s mythological science fiction that has a huge psychology-based influence. I’ve actually never read any of the stories myself, but the fact that they lay Easter eggs everywhere for people who do is awesome. I’ve read around and it appears there are a huge amount of references in the game. There is an original story but it’s flooded with Lovecraftian ideas.
Managing Inventory — If you don’t loot, you’ll fail. There are too many items you need to keep you surviving. It’s so important to maintain healing products that if you’re not finding them, you’ll meet a quick end. Looting is going to take up a huge chunk of your attention. You’re limited on space, so sometimes you’ll have to drop something you would otherwise have sold. It’s a sense of relief when you finally find a store that can help you rid your hoarding. Not that they sell for much, but it does give you a sense of accomplishment. I absolutely love the treasure chest system. Finding keys and then needing to use those keys with specific loot boxes was thrilling. What am I going to get this time!? If you’re close enough to purchase something at a store, the keys seem to be worth a hefty amount and you then sacrifice a chance at something you know you’ll need. There is a place where you can store these items and it is accessible in all playhroughs with every character. Just make sure you leave something good for another person.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Damage Over Time — When you get hit, typically you get some type of damage over time status effect. There are a lot, including fire, acid, poison, and bleeding. It’s never constant, sometimes it goes away quickly and other times you watch your life slowly deplete. There are items that take these away, but sometimes it happens so often you won’t have enough remedies. It gets worse as you progress. You’ll find it rare to finish an encounter with enemies that leave you unscathed. There are a few items to counter some of it, but of course, it’s luck-based to find these. After hours of playing, I had three of the same ring that cut out electric damage. I would like to mention that electric damage seems the rarest of the effects. Either I am severely unlucky or the balance of the game is ridiculously unfair.
Expensive Stores — Two different stores exist (randomly) within the chapters. There are also two different currencies. You can pay one clerk with money and the other with information. Selling items to these two characters nets you whatever currency they use. This all works well, but the items they sell are extremely overpriced. Most of the time, you can’t buy anything special because of the cost. You also don’t even know exactly what they do. There are brief descriptions that give you an idea, but it’s hard to fathom spending that much just to test it out. There needs to be a huge price cut on the items, maybe more than 25%. The currencies also don’t transfer in new games, so there’s no fun way to grind it out. You also lose all items if you die. It’s a miserable time at the store.
Death Ruins Momentum — Sometimes you can have a really good run, slaying beasts and acquiring items. Then you die, randomly. This could be because you chose to examine an item and had not realized your madness meter was already too high. It’s actually quite difficult to tell how close you are to this state of mind, the purple stuff that indicates it is hard to figure out. One chapter I felt invincible. I actually think it might have been because my health kept increasing and there was nothing that could stop me. I was running inside a seemingly empty room, and a parasite enemy (a green worm) came out of nowhere and I died in one hit. I had to start all the way over. It shocked me because another time, at half of my health, I had broken open some eggs and was attacked by probably around 50 of them. They were all over me and I was easily able to overcome the situation. Why now, did this one enemy of the exact same type, kill me in one mere hit? This had to have been a glitch of some sort. Death will really make you want to quit. When you reset the chapter, you actually lose everything on the map since it’s randomly generated. This means everything you found is now at a new location and you have to suffer (yes, it’s what it starts to feel like) through it all over again. If you want to take a break and throw all your loot at your little hideout, you can’t! You lose it all too. There is just way too much of a downside to dying to completely enjoy the game in its entirety.
It’s not that I didn’t like what I played, but that I couldn’t enjoy it more. You’re forced to abide by randomness. The less control I have in a game, the less I want to continue on with it. I liked the style and theme. The mazes were great and shooting monsters is always a pleasure. But then you die. That powerful new rifle you bought is no longer in your inventory. The shop that sold it might not have it in stock anymore. And they are overpriced anyway. Damage over time seems to ruin the combat. Everything I liked was overshadowed by exactly what H.P. Lovecraft was all about. Madness. If Untold Stories was meant to create that feeling in real life, then it sure succeeded.
Score: Limited Appeal
Lovecraft’s Untold Stories was published by BadLand Publishing and developed by LLC Blini Games on Xbox One. It was released on May 10, 2019, for $14.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.