31 Days of Horror 2022 Presents In the Game: “Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2”

Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 is a game which is less than the sum of its parts. Despite an intriguing premise – a rogue-lite ARPG set in a world of Lovecraftian horror – the game suffers from dull gameplay, obtuse mechanics and frustrating design decisions.

The basic gameplay loop is familiar. The player first chooses a mission from a series of story and side quests. Side quests are obtained from newspapers scattered throughout the world. Once a quest is chosen, the player can teleport to a procedurally-generated zone, consisting of a number of interconnected rooms containing enemies to kill and crates to plunder. The player moves through these rooms, hoovering up items and crafting materials. Once the critical path is complete, the player can teleport back to the base, craft new items, and repeat.

The problem is that none of this is actually fun. The player is given the choice of six characters (which can be swapped out between levels) who have slightly different abilities. All of the characters are ranged fighters, and all play more or less the same.  There is some variation in builds based on gear equipped by characters, but not enough to encourage any real experimentation. One of the characters seems designed to be used as a support class in co-op, a feature cut prior to release.

Combat is dull in Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2. The only viable strategy is to kite enemies while picking them off with the main attack or occasional special move, regardless of which character is chosen. Characters move slowly and attacks lack impact. Enemies suffer from terrible AI. Several times I would stand in a corner while the entire room killed itself by repeatedly walking over floor spikes or other hazards. While this is kind of entertaining the first time it happens, “hide in the corner” is not a fun strategy. Bosses are simple bullet sponges.

Looting is a central mechanic but it is a tedious chore. Every room has several containers which must be found (I used the map, as most are hardly distinguishable from the clutter that covers every space) and opened. The actual loot is a large collection of crafting materials. On every run, the player will loot more material than can be carried, forcing the player to decide which items to abandon. This cannot be done intelligently, as there is no way to track which materials are necessary for recipes that the player wishes to build. There is no town portal equivalent allowing the player to deposit material at base and continue the run.

Of course, these materials support the crafting system, which feels more like a placeholder than a fully realized core mechanic. Players can find or purchase a handful of recipes in the world which allow them to craft better versions of existing equipment, generally improving stats and providing other benefits such as health regeneration or elemental damage. There is no randomization of item properties and no customization of items, meaning a player could easily collect every item in the game provided they were willing to grind through the lacklustre combat.

The highlight of Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 is probably its visual style. Clearly influenced by comic books, characters and backgrounds are well-drawn and distinct. Unfortunately, stages are so cluttered it can be difficult to navigate the stages, find loot boxes, or avoid environmental hazards. Music is suitably atmospheric for the setting.

Technically, Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 plays reasonably well. I did notice a recurrent bug which prevented side quests from spawning, which could prevent progress. Reloading the area seemed to solve this. The game controls reasonably well with mouse and keyboard, although there is no way to bind movement to the mouse as in Diablo. Using a controller, the game plays like a twin-stick shooter, but this is only partially supported, as some of the menus (in particular, the quest menu) are not accessible via controller at all. The game seems to run fine on the Steam Deck, but the limited controller support limits the appeal of this approach.

The game’s developer, Blini Games, seems committed to continuing development. Indeed, significant changes have already been made since launch. I have no doubt that with further patches some of the quality of life issues will be improved. I am more sceptical that combat can be sufficiently overhauled to make this actually fun. Unless you absolutely must play every Lovecraft-inspired game, I would pass on this one.

Ryan Breedon is some guy on the internet who talks about slow video games and fast cars.

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