I love all things Lovecraftian. This might be an odd thing to say considering that I don’t like horror but this particular mythos has something very different about it. The thing about the Cthulhu Mythos and the many stories that make it up is that they aren’t scary in a conventional way. My personal issue with horror comes with jump scares. I hate things jumping out on me when I’m gaming. I play to unwind, not sit here on edge wondering when I’m going to get booed next. Gothic horror and Lovecraftian horror, (very broadly speaking,) don’t work this way. I love dark settings and I’ve got no issue with the content. I’m a bit fan of a good psychological thriller too, and all these things are wrapped into these stories. This combination is an absolute winner for me and when I saw Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 floating about the newsdesk I just had to grab it and see what it had to offer.
As a little disclaimer, I haven’t played Lovecraft’s Untold Stories. With this being said I’m not going to be looking at comparing to the first game or seeing how faithful a sequel to that game this one is. I’m taking the second game purely on its own merits. If you’ve played the first one and think I’m missing the point, I’m not, I’m just not as clued up as you are. Put simply please give me a break, I’m not omnipotent.
Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 is a top-down action game with crafting and roguelike elements. You take on the role of one of six investigators, each with their own starting gear and unique abilities, and then have to go out killing otherworldly menaces, deranged cultists, and other Lovecraftian horrors. The concept is pretty straightforward, and mechanically everything plays like you’d expect. This is a case of making sure you have the right gear for the job and then using it to keep yourself alive. You can also make more gear with the very easy-to-use crafting system this game has. On the surface, there is a lot of action-packed fun waiting for you and this is really obvious from the off. There were, however, a few little wrinkles that, for me at least, made the experience a little more exasperating than it should have been.
I’ve said this a million times, but at the risk of repeating myself, I’m not relaying the story. This is something that needs to be drip-fed to you as you play. Plus, I can’t really tell you much without confusing you. Aside from the main plot, each character has their own individual storyline. If I start opening my mouth this title will definitely get spoiled for you, and you’ll get lost in the process. What I will say though is it’s all fairly close to the source material and in keeping with the slow, brooding madness this series is known for. I mean, you have to fight your way out of Arkham Asylum before you can do anything so that should give you a pretty good idea of what you’re dealing with. As another little word of note when exploring this nut house, watch yourself around the crates. They bite.
I didn’t think that Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 felt particularly comfortable to play. I’ve been trying to get used to The Witch. She has a teleport special, which initially I used to get trapped by things. I spent so much of my time getting stuck in corners and between objects that I was getting hacked to bits before I could orientate myself. Being hit in this title comes with more than a little hit-point damage. It feels like virtually everything is either poisonous or causes bleeding, (this isn’t when you’re being stunned senseless.) This is something that would be a brilliant addition a little way into the game once you’d gotten used to the enemies a bit, right from the start though it feels like a headache. You sit there and watch your life draining and this is on account of being hit by virtually anything. You’ll also walk across poisonous pools which I didn’t even notice initially until my life was dwindling for no apparent reason. To be fair, you’ll find gear that makes you immune to certain status ailments, and believe me, you’ll want to find it fast. That’s some ailments, you’ll protect yourself from one only to be killed off by another if you aren’t careful.
The actual character controls are fine but the hit detection isn’t the best I’ve ever seen in a game. I’ve played with all three of the starting characters now and all of them come with their issues. The Witch can lob fireballs about the place. This is brilliant but I don’t think her range is the best. The pro to this con, however, is that she doesn’t need to reload her main weapon. The Professor and The Investigator both have guns and come with their own issues. The Professor probably has the best range of the three but I found him pretty slow and easily mobbed. The Investigator uses a shotgun. This thing packs a punch and does spread damage, which is nice, but you have to reload every two shots, and getting used to this isn’t easy. I completely get that this all comes as part of the learning curve and when you get into the flow of things you’re golden, it’s not fun at the beginning of the game, though.
These are all things that make the game harder and this may well have been intentional but the game still has to feel fluid and comfy to play and this one didn’t all of the time. This isn’t to say, of course, that Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 is without its merits, it totally isn’t. Firstly the graphics are gorgeous and it’s all drawn really well. The best way I can describe these is as being a little akin to those in Darkest Dungeon. This is one of my favorite series in recent years so major props there. Everything has the gothic eeriness you want from this sort of title, without moving too far into visceral horror. There’s also lots of lore dotted about the place for those of you that like a read and the story runs through the game perfectly with just enough present to keep you hooked without spoiling the flow.
I like the fact that once you’ve unlocked the Artist’s House you can switch characters on the fly and add more to your roster as you meet them. You’ll also find the crafting table here meaning that you aren’t having to hide from ravenous monsters every time you want to make something. As levels are procedurally generated we can call this your hub world. Every roguelike has one and in my opinion, they’re incredibly important. When everything else is changing around you, you need somewhere safe and more importantly static to plan your moves from. Crafting is a massive part of this game and I’m not going to go into its nuances here. This being said, you’ll really want to keep an eye on your inventory space. There’s a lot of different crafting material out there for you to find and you won’t be able to hold it all in one run. It makes sense to have an idea of the crafting recipes at the start and focus on what you want to build, if you don’t you’ll overload yourself with disparate things that aren’t going to fit together.
The biggest thing about Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 is the difficulty. You get absolutely mobbed in small, often cramped arenas and it feels like a bit much even for seasoned players. I’m used to getting sprayed with bullets and literally having everything including the kitchen sink thrown at me but you need room to maneuver and there didn’t feel like much of this a lot of the time. The game actually tells you that you won’t be able to battle through to the end using just brute force alone. Never was a truer word written. This is a game of investigation and canny crafting. Investigation can come at the cost of your sanity. but this is Lovecraft so we wouldn’t be expecting anything else.
Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 is definitely a fun game and personally, I think I’ll be able to overlook most of the negatives I’ve mentioned thus far because I like the difficulty level and I’m still having fun with it. I think a lot of this is just a case of learning and getting used to what’s going on and once I’ve done that I’ll just settle into the usual cycle of being made a corpse until I nail whatever the level is I’m battling through. None of this mitigates the difficulty, though, so if you don’t like fiercely hard games you’ll likely want to leave this one be.
Pulling at the sanity
Scary in a good way
Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 is a mixed bag for me. The story is great and the game looks lovely, it also has all the trappings a fan would expect from a game set in Lovecraft’s world. The problems are more technical with slightly sluggish controls, dodgy hit detection, and most importantly a difficulty spike that goes through the roof. If you can get around the quality-of-life stuff and see the game for what it is you’ll really enjoy this one. I’d say some more inexperienced gamers are going to have a really tough time here though.