We, as humans, deal with certain limitations. We can't fly on our own accord, we can't defeat the inevitability of death, and we have to remain ignorant to the mysterious forces on those other planes of existence that are bound to be out there. So sometimes an author comes along and gives us mere mortals a peephole into those other planes. Those worlds that stretch on into dark voids of infinite fear; snarling creatures of untold shapes and innumerable teeth licking their lips on the tender morsels of emotions floating through the rift between the worlds. This author that I'm referring to is the lovely Howard Philip Lovecraft (or H.P. Lovecraft as he's more commonly known).
But before we delve too far into that field, we must first understand what we're dealing with in regards to the author and that is this game: Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (or shortened to CoC:DCotE...or just CoC for laughs). Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a survival horror video game developed by Headfirst Productions and published by Bethesda Softworks, in conjunction with 2K Games, for the PC and Xbox systems. In development since 1999, the game was finally published in 2005. The game has been in development can be traced back to August 1999 and a Usenet discussion in which the Mythos fans contributed ideas for the game to Headfirst's artist designer Andrew Brazier. This and other feedback was later used to create the game. Headfirst initially used the game engine NDL NetImmerse for rendering graphics combined with the Havok physics engine but later developed its own engine. Headfirst Productions originally intended for a much larger, non-linear RPG-type storyline to be fitted within the game, including more characters and locations, as well as a co-operative gameplay system for up to four players, which would have enabled players to pick one of four characters and carry out their own investigation independently or team up with the others....but the finished product ended up quite different from that due to budget and time constraints (especially when another two CoC games were being developed at the same time by the small studio).
Now the actual story for the game is a bit of a jumble fuck of different Lovecraft stories and ideas. We take up the role of hardened detective Jack Walters as he has to deal with a number of odd circumstances that not only affect the greater world but also the smaller universe inside Walters' own mind. Now as a detective we'll have to interview people, sneak about, and if worse comes to worse we'll have to resort to violence to solve the case. We'll be assaulted by unseen forces at every corner and have to deal some many ummmm mysterious mysteries? It'll take a while to get there though; Lovecraft was never about immediate pay offs or any pay offs for that matter. As we go along though I'll make sure to point out where some good Lovecraft reading might help, but for now I think it'll be good to bask in the glow of this lovely, if flawed game and we'll get to know Lovecraft more as we head through the game.
So Lovecraft's work deals with a very fanciful and fantastical world of otherworldly being, macabre tomes, and general spooky shit. Now a lot of this is going to be brought up in the game and it'll be a good idea to get a general knowledge regarding these mythos surrounding his works. Now first we should approach the idea of the Necronomicon; a document written by a mad Arabian gentleman documenting the beasts of the other dimensions that surround our own world. This book is similar to something like The King in Yellow (which was about a play that supposedly drove people to madness) in that the knowledge contained within was dangerous knowledge to have and would inevitably cause the reader to succumb to madness or worse....to actually want to gain access to these other worlds. Now that's where the fantastical part comes in, this book does not exist. Lovecraft never wrote about it in full and instead decided to only vaguely reference it throughout his works in an interconnected series of themes and monsters known as the Old Ones. The most prominently known being Cthulhu; a massively powerful, psychic sleeping beast slumbering down in the depths controlling the minds of men that supposedly will someday wake to wash the world in terror. It will not be featured as prominently in the game and instead will merely be something of a name brand for the game. But we'll be filling this in more as we progress through the game.
The Rats in the Walls: a short story written in AugustSeptember 1923, it was first published in Weird Tales, March 1924. Deals with the rather odd job of remodeling and living in a long abandoned family estate that may have deeper and darker secrets waiting in the walls themselves.
Beyond the Wall of Sleep: a short story written in 1919 and first published in the amateur publication Pine Cones in October 1919. As a new intern comes to work at a mental institution he comes to know a crazed, hillbilly killer who seems to be having rather violent outbursts and very vivid dreams of otherworlds.
From Beyond: is a short story written in 1920 and was first published in The Fantasy Fan in June 1934 (Vol. 1, No. 10). A friend of a scientist finds himself face to face with other dimensional beings and finds that the real danger lies within his own realms of being. Also be sure to check out this rather nice claymation version of the story here:
Fungi from Yuggoth: is a sequence of 36 sonnets written between 27 December 1929 4 January 1930; thereafter individual sonnets appeared in Weird Tales and other genre magazines. The sonnets themselves involve a person harassed by otherworldly horrors and a deeper, fanciful look at these horrors left unseen by most men.
Dreams in the Witch House: written in January/February 1932, it was first published in the July 1933 issue of Weird Tales. This odd tales follows a very curious historian and his living in a house with a shady history and myths about it. But myth mixes with reality as dreams spill over into the real world and dangers come close to home.
The Lurking Fear: written in November 1922, it was first published in the January through April 1923 issues of Home Brew. For this spooky tale, Lovecraft serves up another tale of a crooked family history, a possibly evil mansion, and unseen demonic forces wishing to consume men's flesh and suck the marrow out of their bones.
The Dunwich Horror: written in 1928, it was first published in the April 1929 issue of Weird Tales (pp. 481508). Having your dad being an other dimension god can lead to rather cumbersome outcome in this story about a son trying to live up to his father's wishes, even if that means opening up a dimension to unleash hell upon the world.
The Call of Cthulhu: written in the summer of 1926, it was first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, in February 1928. This chilling tales followed a doomed vessel as it runs into a dangerous ship of Cthulhu cultists and runs a ground on a mysterious island. Also made into a rather interesting silent film.