Cthon is a First Person Shooter and a call back of sorts to the genre’s roots mixed with the rouge-lite craze of today. We play as one of three classes who finds themselves stuck on a remote and seemingly abandoned mining colony. To kick things off and begin exploring this station we must pick the person to play as ranging from a Marksman, a melee specialist know as a Berserker or an explosives expert called a Sapper. They all start off with upgrades that suit their playstyle, such as the Berserker having greater speed to quickly close the distance between yourself and the enemy, while the Marksman starts off being able to carry around more ammo to name some of their quirks. You are not restricted in how you are able to upgrade your character regardless of what class you choose, so you may find yourself playing very differently to how you envisioned due to the RNG factor.
You see, you do not simply gain skills or buffs out of thin air. Instead, you must find a cybernetic module to implant into yourself and a battery upgrade to actually supply energy to it. What you find throughout your journey comes down to pure luck and considering you can equip & remove implants at will, it feels more like making do with what you have instead of a simple upgrade path to follow, which really fits the horror vibe it has going. Aside from finding a module and having enough energy to power it, you must also have enough space in your inventory to even carry it in the first place. At the start of a run, you start with a mere two slots and the only way to unlock more is to find a storage upgrade. There are multiple types of stores each having a different function such as selling and buying modules, upgrading your inventory or simply buy more ammo & health which do give you some control on how things play out provided you’ve got the cash.
It is definitely not the type of game where you just go around and shoot everything in sight. There is no benefit to killing as your foes do not drop anything, it typically just comes down to self-defense instead of actively hunting them. Wherever you go, you can rest assured that it will be dark and your vision will only unveil so far ahead of you. Nine times out of ten, you will be the one to get spotted first, and you will receive a short battle cry before they come running. I’ve never gotten enough speed upgrades as to be able to outrun them so your only choice most of the time will be to stand your ground and fight. Even if you were able to run, that is something you really should not do since the enemies only have auditory tales when they spot you or are attacking. That means that if an enemy has seen you and is now giving chase, it is completely silent while moving around, up until it pulls out your kidney. It does sound like a really cool idea to have an enemy lurking in the darkness but becomes a total pain when multiple enemies spot you. If you do not guess how many you’ve heard correctly, you won’t know there was another left until it gets in a free shot or by spotting them by sheer luck.
To make matters worse, the sound localization is nonexistent. Whenever an enemy spots you, it will always sound as if it was from directly in front of you. This plays into another odd issue this title has. The doors automatically open when you are much too far away, leading to a door opening itself while you are simply trying to walk down a hallway and it gets yourself flanked if there was an enemy behind it. It might not sound like a big deal, but it is made into a rather significant one when you keep in mind this is a rouge-lite, so finding more health to recover is not guaranteed. Aside from getting sucker punched, you taking any damage will always be of your own doing since none of the enemies have hit-scan attacks. They all either charge at you or fire a projectile that can be avoided. It is actually a pretty decent combat system and the death animations as they gib apart is a very satisfying conclusion to a battle well fought.
Combat has yet another flaw to it, unfortunately. Enemies do not wander around and simply stand in the same spot until you arrive. They have very good eyes as well so merely peeking your head into a new area will immediately alert everyone in the vicinity, making it all too easy to lead them down a hallway and clear out the room before even stepping into it. Fighting was without a doubt the least enjoyable part of the game for me. Its core is perfectly fine, but the little details bring it all down. What will likely keep you hooked is the upgrade system and the exploration. You are continually finding new gear to try out and while the goal of each level is to find a teleporter to go down one floor, exploring every inch of the map despite finding it already is irresistible. An upgrade to your health, thicker armor, and many other goodies lay in wait for you to find.
My favorite benefits of the modules have to be the ones that affect your weapons. Regardless of what class you choose in the beginning, you will have all three weapons which are the gun, a grenade launcher, and the melee tool. You can modify them to the extent that they feel like an entirely new weapon. As an example, you can give your gun an upgrade which allows it to pierce through enemies like a railgun, fire multiple projectiles at the cost of accuracy effectively making it a shotgun, or just mix & match to your heart’s content. More impressive still is that the gun is changed visually as well making it look completely badass by the end of it. Whatever you mold it into, it will only take a single round despite shooting a ton of projectiles at the pull of a trigger. Good thing too because while the earlier levels usually feature less than a dozen enemies, they will soon up the ante on your quest to go through all nine of the floors. How easy that will be depends on which of the three difficulty modes you selected for that run.
Like most of its good points, exploration comes with its fair share of faults sadly. For one, due to the randomization, the layout of the levels can be really bizarre and not flow well in the slightest. That also makes it relatively annoying that you can’t set markers on your map to mark dead ends or to allow you to locate items you couldn’t carry. Another smaller issue is that whenever you load into a new level, you’ll find yourself staring directly at a wall most of the time is a small thing that irks me whenever it occurs. As for its graphics, I like them very much. It is barely a step up from what you’d find in something like Wolfenstein 3D and renders at 640×480 from what I can tell, but it does a stellar job at creating atmosphere. Everything has a worn down and grimy kind of look, that makes it all too clear that you are the first inhabitant to wander within in an indiscernible amount of time. Not so much as a scrap of another human is to be found and whatever lurks in these halls are far from friendly. Its so incredibly immersive, and moments like finding a large health kit while you were on death’s door and had all but lost hope are the types of moments of uncertainty in your success that only rouge-lites can offer.
The music also does its part in setting the tone with its mix of ambient and moody tracks. It only gets more foreboding as you venture deeper and deeper into the colony. Every three floors there is a change of the environment’s theme, and by the end of it you will be traveling down fleshy looking corridors that have monstrous mouths as doors. At every third floor, you will also receive a few paragraphs of story which was a nice touch. There is a decent variety of enemies to encounter, all having their own methods of attacking and range from organic to mostly robotic. It also features a pretty nifty boss fight for those with enough skill and/or luck to make it past the nine floors. Cthon has its fair share of flaws, no doubt, but it has a certain charm to it that keeps you coming back. It is very different than most other shooters with its slow-paced approach to things instead of simply running and gunning your way to victory. If you are a fan of older shooters and would like a change from the norm, Cthon is well worth adding to your collection.