DEVELOPED by Blini Games and published by Fulqrum Publishing, Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 is a a mixture of twin-stick shooter, action RPG, and Roguelike using the Cthulhu Mythos of American horror writer HP Lovecraft as a backdrop.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t do any of those things well. In fact, I thought there was a lot wrong with this game, starting with the combat.
For starters, if you’re going to make a twin-stick shooter game, then the Cthulhu Mythos as envisioned by HP Lovecraft and his contemporaries or immediate successors is about the worst possible setting for it.
One of the overarching themes of the Cthulhu Mythos (at least as written by Lovecraft himself, and other early writers such as August Derleth) is that guns and human weapons really aren’t all that that effective against rather a lot of the horrors of the Mythos.
I mean, Cthulhu itself had to be rammed with a freaking ship to do inflict any damage, and that still only managed to do the metaphorical equivalent of kicking it in the balls (in other words, temporarily incapacitating it long enough for the humans to escape).
Now, the TTRPG Call of Cthulhu certainly has gunplay, and its companion version Pulp Cthulhu even more so, but even they both make it very clear that (much like in the source material) bullets really can’t do much against the serious horrors from other worlds and beyond the stars, and are best kept for use against human enemies (cultists, gangsters, and the like).
The developers of Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 appear to have misinterpreted that by deciding all the enemies should be bullet sponges, and that it should take ages to reload your weapons too.
It’s not uncommon to be backed into a corner by enemies you can’t dodge past and them pummelled/shot/tentacle-whipped to death, or to shoot an enemy and set off exploding barrels and get killed in the detonation.
Each time you die, you restart the level with any gear you came in with, but this doesn’t make it any easier and the game was simply too difficult for me to get through, and not in the “challenging but rewarding when you succeed sense”.
The controls with keyboard and mouse are fine, but they are terrible with a controller – confusing and non-remappable. For example, the fire button isn’t the right trigger like you’d expect, but the right thumbstick. It’s a terrible design decision that simply doesn’t match up with the average gamer’s muscle memory/expectations.
As part of the Roguelike elements, the levels reset when you restart, and the action RPG aspect includes finding better gear (the catch is, most of it seems to harm your group’s sanity) and looting resources for crafting. Unfortunately, a lot of the crafting resources you find are things that either aren’t explained why you need them (clumps of hair? Coal?) or are things that should only exist in arcane libraries or universities under lock and key. Cthulhu idols, comet fragments, multiple pages from forbidden ancient texts, literal tentacles from cosmic monsters – you’ll find them all just laying around the levels after you loot containers to shove in your pockets and carry on your merry way.
It’s not the “reading these forbidden texts or contemplating these alien artefacts” that will do your character in, either – no, it’s the “wearing a pendant that prevents you from taking certain types of damage” that will drive you mad, apparently – as I discovered after having several attempts at a level end abruptly due to my character going insane.
The sanity mechanic is, simply, not explained at all as far as I can tell – you can work out the basic premise if you’re familiar with the TTRPG (learning Forbidden Things warps your fragile little mind, learn too much and you go insane in some form or another) but someone coming into this without that knowledge will wonder why they keep randomly dying when they equip their characters with a decent equipment loadout.
Overall I found Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 to be a frustrating, unpolished experience that didn’t seem to care that nothing made much sense. There is almost no narrative, nothing is explained, and even the main characters aren’t given any explanation beyond “Detective”, “Witch” or “Professor” until some time into the game.
There’s no tutorial (which is fine, it’s not hard to figure out twin-stick shooter controls) but there’s also basically no exposition – you wake up in Arkham Asylum (the OG one, not the one they keep The Joker in), escape, then suddenly you’re in an artists house, then depending on which character you chose, you’re transported to a cemetery or a dockyard or another asylum, and you’re battling large numbers of cultists, ghouls, human-fish hybrids, giant tentacles, and possessed inmates as you make your way through the various areas of the level. Why? No idea; the game doesn’t explain it and the best I could come up with was that those levels represented some sort of flashback/spiritual journey the character needed to undertake for reasons.
There’s more to the game but I simply couldn’t get through the first three character story levels to see it, no matter how hard I tried – the Witch was the only character I could successfully get complete the ‘backstory’ level for.
The Unknown Is More Terrifying Than You Imagine is a keystone element of Cosmic Horror, but “The Unknown” in that sense comes from discovering humans are not only alone in the comsos, but the things out there regard as little more than ants and some even actively wish to mess with us for the lulz – not the “I have no idea what’s going, why I’m here, or why I am shooting tentacles coming out of the sewers” sense.
In its original release form I thought the game was almost unplayable, and to the developer’s credit they have released a major patch overhauling several aspects of the game (and this review is based on that build).
Unfortunately, it still wasn’t enough to salvage the experience for me.
I could spend this entire review listing all the issues I experienced with the game, ranging from spelling errors to baffling controls to bullet sponge enemies to slow reload times to the constant whittling away of your health by assorted damage causes, to your character sometimes just going insane for no readily apparent reason, but I won’t (because I just mentioned them).
Instead will simply say that I found the game to be a frustrating, unenjoyable mess that failed both as an entertaining game and a Lovecraftian Horror experience, and ultimately in my view, Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 almost completely misses the mark and is, as a result, best left unplayed in its current form.