Achtung! Cthulu Tactics plays host to an exciting premise: it's a turn-based tactical shooter that puts a Lovecraftian twist on World War 2. The title takes place in the same universe as the Achtung! Chthulu board game, with the franchise's first foray into video games borrowing its core gameplay elements from XCOM.
The game brings a few turn-based gameplay mechanics of its own to the table, but is it worth picking up in a genre highlighted by the likes of XCOM and Jagged Alliance? The answer depends on how hungry you are for new turn-based strategy content.
Related: Read Screen Rant's XCOM 2 Review
In Achtung! Cthulu Tactics, players control a squad of four elite allied soldiers. Like XCOM, turn-based combat will have soldiers use action points to move around a tile-based map and attack both Nazi and occult targets. Taking cover and flanking enemies is an important part of the game, though developer Auroch Digital has opted to use a simplified binary-based cover system rather than the full cover / half-cover system of XCOM. Between combat the squad moves as one as it progresses through the map, so players won't be able to pre-position soldiers before each segment of combat. When combat begins, each soldier's particular role becomes apparent: there's a long range attacker, a short range assault unit, an all-around leader, and a ranger.
Achthung! Cthulu Tactics expands on this core formula with a few unique ideas, and adding a great amount of depth to the typical tactical experience. The most significant of these is Momentum, a secondary class of action points. As soldiers rank up, they can unlock new specialty moves that use up Momentum. Any soldier can use each turn's allotment of Momentum, forcing players to think about who should use the extra points and when is the best time to unleash them. This adds a new layer of depth beyond standard action points, as good use of Momentum will often be the difference between success and failure.
Unlike XCOM, players in Achtung! Cthulu Tactics will also need to worry about each soldier's view cone. Instead of a 360 degree line of sight, soldiers must look in the correct direction to see enemies. Changing view direction costs action points, forcing players to think about what direction they want each soldier to look toward the end of a turn. Each soldier also has their own skill tree filled with unique attacks and bonuses. Each successful mission adds experience and can potentially level up the soldiers, providing reason for players to do the side quests. If a side quest isn't completed before the next storyline mission though, it disappears forever.
The plot is simple to follow, and will be familiar to fans of the Achtung! Cthulu board game. An elite squad of allied forces is tasked to take down the Nazi regime, with the occult being utilized by both sides. The plot never really takes root beyond this surface level, and is pushed almost exclusively through small voiceovers ahead of each mission. Given the exciting subject material, Achtung! Cthulu Tactics falls victim to an underutilized setting, and that's a shame. The storyline's faltering is exposed even more by uninspired voice acting, with any mid-mission story advancements simply being delivered by text.
The biggest misstep that Achtung! Cthulu Tactics makes is that of repetition: after the first few missions, players will have seen most of the enemies they'll encounter throughout the game. Fighting the same enemy types over and over gets stale even in the game's relatively short campaign, especially when those enemies only have a few select voice lines. Players will feel this sense of repetition in the map lineup too, with familiar forest maps feeding players into the same kinds of firefights from start to finish. There's the occasional breakup in map type, but this breath of fresh air is extremely short lived. The Lovecraftian influence is also underplayed, with the occult enemies proving to be generic and bland instead of hauntingly creepy.
Players will also witness some truly absurd AI choices when it comes to enemy movement, which is well-neigh unforgivable in a tactical game. Enemy soldiers who have flanked an allied soldier will occasionally run across the map instead of attacking, with many choices making zero tactical sense. There's a few graphical hiccups, too: even on a decent rig, enemy soldiers coming into view from the fog of war seems to cause some visual lag. Achtung! Cthulu Tactics has a pretty simple graphical scheme, so there's evidently some optimization issues under the hood.
The ingredients are all there for Achtung! Cthulu Tactics to be a fantastic strategy title, so it feels disappointing that the game ends up being completely average. An underutilized setting plays host to some interesting gameplay mechanics, but the entire experience is hindered by repetitive map design, a lack of variety in enemies, and some suspect AI choices. Despite its flaws, Achtung! Cthulu Tactics manages to be moderately entertaining, though it fails to be a standout entry in its own genre. For its mid-range price point, it's still a good pickup for turn-based strategy enthusiasts. For everyone else, it's hard to argue against sticking with the likes of XCOM to begin with.
Achtung! Cthulu Tactics is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, with a Nintendo Switch release coming in the future. Screen Rant was provided with a PC download code for the purposes of this review.