Lovecraft and the Call of Cthulhu. Approach to cosmic terror

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From Call of Cthulhu, Alone in the Dark to Eternal Darkness, in Meristation we review some of the titles that have taken part in the Lovecraft universe

“The oldest and most intense emotion of humanity is fear, and the oldest and most intense of fears is fear of the unknown”

Fear of the unknown, of other forces from another dimension, of the immensity of the sea, to the point of questioning human understanding and the limits that separate sanity from madness. From this concept comes the cosmic or Lovecraftian terror, a subgenre of terror created by the teacher Howard Philips Lovecraft, who has gifted us with some of the most influential literary stories of the 20th century. Putting yourself in the role of the crazy mind of the writer is not an easy task, and in fact, if we put ourselves somewhat strict, we can say that only a few titles have managed to capture their universe successfully.

We have heard much about Lovecraft, but little about the meaning of cosmic terror that the writings of the author usually display. When we speak of cosmic terror we must understand that it is such a broad, complex and abstract concept that it is even difficult to describe. Cosmic terror tries to find those moments when the unknown collides with the known. It is that animal, existential fear that we have all felt at some time and that we have been unable to explain. It is the sensation of observing the sky and the open sea and that makes us feel powerless. That’s why a good cosmic horror story plays on that fear, leading us to a surprising encounter with the ocean – and with its unpronounceable word Cthulhu – where it forces us to confront ourselves and the vast cosmic forces that shape humanity. In fact, if we thought that having control over our natural world is easy, the cosmic horror will make us question once, twice and even three times if necessary.

One thing we can affirm is that the universe created by the native writer from Providence (Rhode Island) is still raging today. This is so. With this, he has left us great titles based directly on his stories, and many others that have been inspired only by some of them. From Call of Cthulhu, Alone in the Dark to Eternal Darkness, in Meristation we review some of the titles that have taken part of the Lovecraft universe in the sector that concerns us, what will it be if not, the video game.

Bloodborne (2015)

Our beloved Yharnam places us on a stage set in the Victorian era, and we could say that a large part of her scenery could be perfectly inspired by many of Lovecraft’s iconic stories. Although in this case precisely it goes much further than its staging, since in it we are presented with two interesting principles such as the use of mythology and the concept of frenzy. The mythology of Bloodborne thus includes its own gods, gods who act as they please and where our character is just a small piece of that puzzle. Analogy that could be likened to the author’s concept of deities with his own gods (from Azathoth, Hastu, Yog-Soggoth, Shub-Niggurath to Nyarlathotep) operating on a plane superior to that of any other race.

“Someday, our rebuilding of knowledge will open up such terrifying prospects that we will either go insane or flee to the safety of a new dark age.”

Another parallel of Bloodborne with Lovecraft is found with the use of frenzy. This makes our hunter lose consciousness or die and wake up again in sleep. It is the mere customization of the blasphemous surviving nightmares in Bloodborne that drives the hunter crazy. Doesn’t it make sense to continue if the end is the beginning and time is an infinite loop? The hunter is dead? Will our nightmare ever end? Ideas such as awakening from sleep, beasts that escape human reason, loss of consciousness, the presence of the nightmare moon (and its analogy to the “Crawling Chaos” called Nyarlathotep by the author) and being ultimately at the mercy of primal deities, makes Bloodborne very close to the universe described by the classic author. A tribute to the writer based on the Dark Souls franchise, giving rise to a brother of the saga with all the flavor of the Providence master.

The Sinking City (2019)

Lovecraft and the Call of Cthulhu. Approach to cosmic terror
If we had to mention one of the most representative titles of the Lovecraft universe, without a doubt we have to talk about The Sinking City. This in fact could be one of the most Lovecraftian games to date followed by Call of Cthulhu. Based on her work “Myths of Cthulhu” its plot takes place in England in the early 1920s.

, putting ourselves in the shoes of private detective Charles W. Reed. After a series of strange cases of disappearances in Oakmont, Massachusetts, the city has suffered a constant flood for some time that has isolated it from the rest of civilization completely. Her narrative sets foot in the religious cults habitually coined by the author, along with the presence of gods – long tentacles – ready to carry out chaos and destruction.

One of the interesting aspects of the game is how it introduces the concept of madness, a gradual mechanic accompanied by visions that our protagonist suffers. The Ukrainian studio Frogwares made sure to pay a clear tribute to the author (including his own Cthulhu) as well as draw inspiration from the town described by the author as “Innsmouth” in his original work Cthulhu Mythos, include clear references to their gods, and capture one of his most recurrent fears: “The immensity of the sea.”

“Men of the broadest mind know that there is no clear distinction between the real and the unreal; that all things seem what they seem only by virtue of the delicate psychic and mental instruments of each individual, thanks to which we come to know them ”

Darkest dungeon (2015)

Let’s take a look at the definition of insanity. See this as: “pathological disorder or disturbance of mental faculties.” The author was passionate about this medical-scientific aspect, being one of his usual themes in many of his stories. The psychiatric admission of his father marked the writer’s childhood, he turned to the concept and its study practically all his life. In this case, Darkest Dungeon treats insanity from another usual perspective. The title is a gothic aesthetic RPG with enough maddening moments where we lose our characters’ sanity as we move through the darkness. The game begins when our character inherits the mansion of a distant relative who had supposedly gone mad in it, and our mission will be to visit the dungeons. Darkest Dungeon is not only “Lovecraftian” in appearance, it goes beyond that. The mechanics of the game itself are based on themes that are integral to Lovecraft’s particular type of horror: fear, madness, and the evil forces that reside in darkness. Although not only his mechanics alluded to Lovecraft, but also his enemies, making direct mention of the creatures that we found in his works “Herbert West-Reanimator”, “The Dunwich Horror” and “The outsider”. The result of the title is an experience that can be highly rewarding and disturbing at the same time, and something that the author would be more than proud of.


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