Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is clearly inspired by XCOM. There’s absolutely no denying that developer Auroch Digital took cues from Fireaxis’ excellent revival of the 1990s classic as they meshed together two seemingly great flavors together, a World War II side story and the eldrich fiction of H.P Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu mythos. Just seeing these two genres together in one game is enough for me to be perked about checking it out, add to that tactical turn-based combat and you’ve got me for the long run.
Unfortunately, Cthulhu Tactics doesn’t have enough going on to hold your interest for too long. Even though it nails practically every facet of controlling a squad of soldiers, be it selecting commands, moving through a grid and going bananas over ridiculous shot misses due to RNG, the sheer lack of mission and encounter variety quickly becomes apparent early on in the game’s campaign mode. There’s simply too little in this package to justify having it surpass XCOM, nor none of the other games that have since dipped on that well.
Still, Achtung! manages to be competent with the little that it does bring to the table. Albeit extremely limited, the fact that your squad of only four soldiers helps turn up the tension the further you get into the game, especially due to the fact that you’re often outnumbered as you make your way through missions. Each mission encompasses a series of combat encounters as you explore fairly large maps as you make your way towards an objective. Fights break out as soon as you come into contact with enemy units, and they’re usually unknown in type until they get close enough to one of your squaddie’s line of sight.
Sight plays a huge role in Cthulhu Tactics, not only in how far they can aim, or for simply identifying foes, but it also comes into play in whether or not they can cover more ground when in overwatch. Overwatch, like XCOM’s, works as a single shot that can be fired during the enemy’s turn as their units move within range. It quickly becomes your bread and butter that helps you thin the opposition and turn the odds to your favor.
Even if those odds don’t happen to be that bad. Even with twice the number of enemies going against my plucky team, I never felt like I was very close to losing. That’s because the opposition’s A.I isn’t very good in this game. They often make stupid movement decisions, putting them in range for getting flanked, or simply getting out of cover and standing right next to one of my strongest melee units. I lost count the amount of times a grunt who had my team dead to rights and completely in cover just left it in baffling fashion. Damage in the game only takes place after your unit’s luck ‘barrier’ is taken out, only then exposing their hit points. That stat varies from soldier to soldier, and as I made my way through missions, it quickly became apparent that I didn’t have much to worry about, especially if I played more intelligently than the computer-controlled opposition, was easy enough.
In terms of customization, the game does offer a skill tree system that allows you to pick from a host of skills in order to make your team members stand apart from each other, but the options themselves take quite a long time to really branch out, and for most of my time playing — I took part in five or six missions, tops — I mostly stuck with using my team members pretty much the same way, with the sole exception of a special shot that one of them came in packed with that’s able to take out a bunch of enemies in a single line. Outside of that, I saw no reason to really compartmentalize my team outside of having one of them carry a medkit or a grenade. It grew boring very quickly.
It’s a shame that Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics lacks the oomph and content, because its theme would otherwise make for an extremely exciting game. It’s silly enough to make it for a fun premise, and starting out, Achtung feels like it might be going places, but sadly it never quite takes off. The aesthetics are quite well developed, cartoony and extremely charismatic, but outside of that, the handful of enemy unit types and the drab missions only make the whole thing more and more repetitive the further you play it.
Even as a Switch title, it doesn’t manage to be better than the other Enemy Unknown-influenced title already out there, Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. As a PC game, things get even worse for Cthulhu Tactics. There’s little to justify picking it up over say, a deep game like Phantom Doctrine, which also borrows from XCOM, but builds something bigger from it, to name a better investment. I can imagine Achtung! being a worthwhile pick up at a discount, but as it stands, there are much better alternatives out there that make better use of the mechanics that have made playing these games so great in the first place.